Printed in the Southern League Central Division game v Burnham Tuesday 23rd
August 2011. We lost 2-1 in front of 300.
The two teams that won promotion to the football league last season perfectly illustrate the hugely different ways of running a football club. Crawley Town
outspent clubs in league one let alone league two backed by anonymous oversees investors. Meanwhile AFC Wimbledon, formed after the FA’s ludicrous decision to let the old Wimbledon move to Milton Keynes
, went from the Combined Counties to Football League in just nine seasons. They are owned and run by their supporters and their only mysterious figure is Hayden the Womble.
This issue of ownership was part of a wide ranging six month Parliamentary enquiry. And guess what? The culture, media and sport select committee's report said that footballs governing body is in serious need of reform. It has come up with 34 recommendations that in any sane environment would be an uncontroversial manifesto for change.
But this of course is football.
The report identifies the two main logjams that need to be unblocked at the FA, and they unsurprisingly revolve around money and power. Leeds United lovable chairman Ken Bates was even name checked somewhat unfavourably at the way Leeds
were owned. They heard evidence from a host of people including former FA chief executive Ian Watmore who highlighted his frustrations that during his tenure there was "nothing chief or executive about the job" and that is why he left. His proposals for reform too often "either hit the buffer" or "just (weren't) possible to do at all because we didn't have control of our money and our resources".
The report recommends a radical overhaul of the FA
to enable it to establish itself as an overarching regulator with a longer-term strategy with tougher rules on ownership and finances. The report says: "The FA, Premier League and Football League have spent too long behind the curve on ownership matters." It proposes a new licensing scheme, overseen by the FA and applying beefed-up financial controls and a tougher fit and proper persons test.
It also calls for the football creditors rule to be scrapped. This rule has meant that when clubs have gone into administration, players receive all their pay whilst local businesses and charities only receive 20 pence for each pound they were owed. It also recommends that the Financial Services and Markets Act be amended to help supporters' trusts, and that the long-term future of Supporters Direct be secured.
The sports minister, Hugh Robertson, who has called football 'the worst-run sport in the country'
immediately called on football to respond positively to the recommendations and warned that the status quo was not an option. "There is a moment here for the football authorities to respond positively and decisively to both the content and spirit of the report and we will be working with them to achieve this."
But will a Conservative coalition that loves the free market and has declared a war on red tape really want to bring in legislation? The Premier League have refused to comment so far but will no doubt be relying on behind the scenes lobbying and press briefings to their Sky/Sun News International financial bedfellows to undermine the recommendations. Hey, they could even threaten a European superleague to scare the government off.
Premier League's 20 clubs collectively lost close to half a billion pounds last year despite record income. Does that matter? Maybe ask Portsmouth
, Leeds United and a host of other lower league football fans if it does.
Successive sports ministers have urged football to sort itself out with little success. Will it be any different this time round? Have our ‘fit and proper’ MPs got the fight to take on the Premier League?
Or will they bottle it, just like they did with the bankers.