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Football Governance

By Louis Platt :  18/03/2011 :  Comments (7) :

In December, John Whittingdale MP asked football fans to answer the following questions:

  • Should football clubs in the UK be treated differently from other commercial organisations?
  • Are football governance rules in England and Wales, and the governing bodies which set and apply them, fit for purpose?
  • Is there too much debt in the professional game?
  • What are the pros and cons of the Supporter Trust share-holding model?
  • Is Government intervention justified and, if so, what form should it take?
  • Are there lessons to be learned from football governance models across the UK and abroad, and from governance models in other sports?

The reason he did this was because he was to chair a Special Committee inquiry looking at Football Governance. The first inquiry session took place on 8 February.

I don't think I was alone in not giving it much thought, I never submitted my opinions. The published Written Evidence from supporters contained no responses from Evertonians. Unsurprisingly there are many calls from fans to have leveraged buyouts outlawed after the high-profile events at Man Utd and Liverpool.

Highlights from the inquiry include Niall Quinn revealing that the Premier League have hired an American law-firm to vet potential Premier League club buyers but refused to name the firm as it exposes the Premier League to a potential lawsuit should any rejected-potential buyer find out they were vetted. Lord Mawhinney, formerly of the Football League said that the cost of this is between £300,000 and £500,000 and too expensive for lower league clubs to utilise. At one time Quinn said that he'd be run out of Sunderland if he told fans he didn't believe that Sunderland could win the title and that as Chairman of a Premier League club he can't defend the players' wages.

David Cairn MP questioning the £48million parachute payment that relegated clubs are given said: "Isn?t this parachute payment... a big fat reward for failure? You come last, so you get extra money for it. It is a Fred Goodwin model of rewarding people."

Controversially, Professor Stefan Szymanski said that the Premier League can learn from how the NFL operates as a closed league and remove the promotion and relegation. He said that NFL is successful because "32 republicans vote socialist".

Stoke City's Chief Executive Tony Scholes wants complete transparency on football agent fees to drive their prices down and his Chairman Peter Coates said they can't do the same with players for "obvious reasons".

Manchester United's David Gill said that Rooney's new contract was not "particularly outrageous" whilst Lord Mawhinney feels that the increase will ultimately drive up the wage demands of players throughout the country.

There's also an interesting debate ongoing with regards to the "Football Creditors' rule" which currently sees clubs struggling financially honour their player transfer agreement fees with clubs miles away before local businesses see a penny.

There have been four sessions so far and three of them are available to watch online:

The most recent session took place at Burnley's Turf Moor and there is no video stream available. It featured Leeds United Chairman Ken Bates telling the Committee that he doesn't know who own Leeds United!

They've been interesting to listen to (with exception of when the PFA were witnesses) but I get the impression that the net has been cast a little too wide and ultimately there will be no real benefit from the inquiry as there's too much to cover. Not everybody on the Committee seems to know what they're hoping to obtain from the inquiry and sometimes I was left feeling that the MPs are more interested in Wayne Rooney and David Beckham's personal lives. For example, Tom Watson MP seems to be more interested asking Graham Taylor about the phone hacking saga and who has been hacked rather than the governance of football.

I know it's not strictly Everton related but I hope that some others will be interested in what has been said. It's certainly been cause for debate!

Reader Comments

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Chris Bannantyne
1   Posted 18/03/2011 at 22:10:25

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Sounds really interesting though, I'm going to watch some of it. Thanks for the post, I find all this sort of stuff really interesting ? even if it's not strictly Everton related.

If someone can describe Rooneys salary as "not particularly outrageous" and keep a straight face, then it's got to be worth a watch!
Greg Anderson
2   Posted 19/03/2011 at 01:33:16

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Finally we have someone willing to look at the bigger picture ? thank you, Louis, for the enlightening post. In my humble opinion, there are only two ways our situation outlook will change dramatically:

1. We get someone buying us who has limitless wealth, the kind of wealth which can only be acquired in a country where individuals are allowed to amass personal fortunes by exploiting vast, national natural assets (see Chelsea and Man City);

2. The economy of football is changed so that the owners of top clubs do not have to be like those described in No 1 above.

The problem with football governance right now is that there is no football governance. There is just an insane, unregulated football economy that is rapidly destroying the game by allowing a handful of clubs to inflate the costs of doing business far beyond the means of all the others.

Eugene Ruane
3   Posted 19/03/2011 at 07:31:08

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A great post providing content that imo ALL football supporters need to read/see (although much of that content is depressing).

8th Feb meeting ? watch how the feller with the glasses and the blue and white striped shirt answers the question on the trickle-down of finances ? what a fucking bullshitter. Basically he goes all around the houses to defend a system that is obviously bent. He talks and talks and talks and says... nothing.

I DID like (in the article on the NFL) ? "By sharing equally the revenue from TV deals and ticket sales, not to mention instituting a hard salary cap for players, the league has maintained its ?any given Sunday? mystique. Any team from any sized market seems to have a shot on game day."

Basically, the NFL remind me of the ants in Aesop's fable, the ones who work hard through the summer to provide for a harsh winter.

The PL remind me of the crickets from the same story, dancing about in the sun and saying "ahh fuck it, it'll all be fine".
Dave Brooks
4   Posted 19/03/2011 at 09:59:01

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Thanks Louis.

Bookmarked for weekend reading / watching.
Steve Fletcher
5   Posted 19/03/2011 at 11:16:08

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Good article but sadly 'football governance' , certainly as far as the PL is concerned, is an oxymoron to rank alongside 'military intelligence' & 'compassionate conservatism'. For anyone interested in the topic, I suggest you get hold of back copies of When Saturday Comes, or read David Conn's excellent writings on the issue.
Louis Platt
6   Posted 20/03/2011 at 01:15:27

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Thanks for the comments. I'm glad that others have enjoyed it. The transcript for the 15th March session is now available but there is still no video.

Steve Fletcher (#5) You'll be pleased to know that extracts from David Conn's book The Beautiful Game? were read out during the first session.
Brian Denton
7   Posted 21/03/2011 at 14:55:26

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Just tried to access the videos... but they have decided to use Microsoft Silverlight rather than any open source platform. I use Linux as my minor protest against the Microsoft Monolith ? bit like refusing to buy Sky. Ultimately probably pointless, but there you go!

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