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28 Apr 22 09:56
Date Joined: 20 Jul 02
| Topic/replies: 45,432 | Blogger: sparrow's blog
A really good piece on the state of the game in this country.

Football needs more than a new regulator to save it from itself
Adrian Chiles.

The government has decided that the English game’s governing bodies can’t spot ‘fit and proper’ people to run football clubs. I have two questions to help the new Iref show bad owners the red card.

About 15 years ago, I made a little film about a day in the life of a postman. It was an early start. As I helped him sort out his bag, we chatted about football. He was a Chelsea fan. I asked whether he had a season ticket at Stamford Bridge. I will never forget the look he shot me. It was like I had asked what kind of Ferrari he drove. “I can’t afford to go and see Chelsea,” he said. “I’m a postman.”

So here we had a football club owned by a fantastically wealthy Russian, which was pricing out a normal working man. Here, before dawn in a sorting office, somewhere in the generous sprawl of south London, this anomaly felt stark. In football, we always have a lexicon of cliches ready to go; I reached for one now as I said to myself: dear God, the game’s gone.

This isn’t to blame Roman Abramovich for everything. However ill-gotten his gains may be, he is not directly to blame for the pricing out of many ordinary football supporters by clubs up and down the country. But his entry into the game highlights the fault line at the heart of professional football’s problem: clubs can’t find a way of living within their means. That leads to desperation, which invariably leads to desperate measures. And that entails all manner of desperadoes getting involved.

Whether you are into football or not, it won’t have escaped your attention that some of the owners of these football clubs have a certain dodginess about them. Many are morally dubious; others are plain incompetent. Some clubs have owners who are both dodgy and hopeless, a terrible combination indeed.

England’s three football authorities – the Premier League, English Football League and Football Association – each have had their own tests for owners and directors. They are designed to establish that potential owners are fit and proper for the job. It remains unclear just how unfit or improper you have had to be to fail this test. It’s a low bar indeed.

Now the government is stepping in with plans for an Independent Regulator for English Football, or Iref – see what they did there? Clever! It will now be down to Iref to keep the wrong ’uns out. I offer my suggestion for the very first question Iref should put to any prospective football club owner. It goes like this: do you want to own a football club? If the answer is yes, then I’m afraid they need to be shown the door because the chances are they are either mad or bad; neither fit nor proper.

There is no rational financial reason to own a football club. However big its income – be that from TV rights deals or other commercial activities – all of it, or usually much more than all of it, will end up in the pockets of players and their agents. How else do you explain the fantastical levels of debt even the world’s greatest clubs have accrued: Manchester United, about £500m; Barcelona, more than £1bn. What kind of person or country wants a piece of these businesses? However cleverly structured the debts may be, debt is debt.

So if you are not buying a club to make money, and will surely lose money, you must be doing it for some other reason. This could be because you’re a great person who loves the club, or football generally, and want to do the right thing. If so, great. But if you’re not, I’m not sure what Iref or anyone else will be able to do about it.

The likes of Russian and Chinese squillionaires, and oil-rich countries with sub-optimal human rights records, will always have the riches to tempt owners to sell. Fans will end up turning a blind eye to anything other than what success that money could help bring their beloved clubs.

If the owner of your club wants to sell it for, let’s say, £250m, and they have a buyer who wants to give them £250m for it, I can’t see how a whole squad of red-card-brandishing Irefs are going to stop it happening. Anyone who’s about to trouser that £250m, or who’s intent on spending £250m, will have much more to spend on lawyers than Iref, or anyone else, to get the deal over the line.

Iref’s proposals to keep out the baddies are detailed enough. They call it an “integrity test” – their quote marks, not mine. The use of the word integrity echoes the endless debate in the game regarding the laws on handball. Referees are asked to decide whether the handball was “deliberate”. How can they know? Surely, only the player on the end of the hand in question can answer that; it’s between them and their god, if they have one. We are told that a regulator will make an “overall, evidence-based judgment using expert opinion to assess whether an owner or director would be a suitable custodian of a club”.

I wish them well. Here are the two questions I seriously think they will need to ask of any prospective owners. 1) Do you appreciate that when it comes down to it, you can never really own a club? Whatever the legal documents say, morally you’re merely the club’s custodian, charged with loving and cherishing it for the next generation. 2) When you move on, do you appreciate that you can’t just sell the club as you please to the highest bidder? No, you’ll have to go with whoever can look after it as diligently as you have.

This might not make the price of a ticket affordable to your average postal worker, but it might just send an undesirable packing.
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Report lurka April 28, 2022 10:22 AM BST
United haven't accrued debt. It was foisted on them by the owners and is owed to the owners' banks. Totally different from Barcelona etc who spent beyond their means. United have never done that.

What is ridiculous is that the EU Commission ruled that the King of Spain writing off Real Madrid's debt was illegal state aid and anti-competitive, which it is. But non-EU countries like UAE and Qatar can do it at City and PSG because they are not EU member states and subject to EU law. A non-EU country can do it but an EU country can't? None of it should be allowed and given the huge sums at the top of the game nowadays, no top club should need external funds to compete. The game is corrupt from the very top.
Report sparrow April 28, 2022 12:18 PM BST
The money has ruined the game and Man Utd are no different to any other club in that respect. Nobody forced them to float the club on the stock exchange.
Report barstool April 28, 2022 1:40 PM BST
Man Utd had no debts when the Glazers took over. They bought the Club say for 800 milliom, then got the club to take out secured loans for the same amount and then took their cash back. It is common throughout business for companies to be bought in this way, it is why Debenhams went bust. Robert Maxwell raided the Pensian Fund, others simply don't pay enougth into it, leaving massive holes, eg BT.

The Cowboys are everywhere, not just in football.
Report barstool April 28, 2022 1:42 PM BST
Crooks and Fraudsters rather than Cowboys, perhaps.
Report sparrow April 28, 2022 2:13 PM BST
As I said nobody forced them to the Stock Exchange barstool. It was a policy decision made by the club to raise money.
Report barstool April 28, 2022 2:19 PM BST
No argument sparrow. Just the way of doing business these days.

Buy a Company, but not with your own money.
Report geordie1956 April 28, 2022 2:22 PM BST
capitalism at its best ... or worst depending on your point of view
Report sparrow April 28, 2022 2:30 PM BST
Either way its ruining the game with half a dozen clubs having a ridiculous advantage.
Report barstool April 28, 2022 4:20 PM BST
The tentacles have spread into the Championship. Something like a £45 million parachute payment payed to each club relegated to the Championship this year and it runs for three years. Stats show that a club receiving theses payments are three times more likely to get promoted. How is that fair? Bournmouth were able to spend millions in the January transfer window on the back of such.

Fulham and Bournemouth look certain to go up and the other club Sheff Utd are in the play offs.
Report Aspro April 28, 2022 4:33 PM BST
Fulham are already up, but I wouldn't be so certain on Bournemouth with Forest still to play. As for ruining the game sparrow, I'd say the horse has long since bolted there.
Report sparrow April 28, 2022 4:40 PM BST
Probably so, aspro. Just that I've noticed it that much more recently.
Report LoyalHoncho April 28, 2022 6:28 PM BST
Thanks for posting sparrow.  Very interesting.
I;ve always liked Chiles as he asks the wkward questions, such as this, that people don;t like.
My question is with regard to this comment: 
We are told that a regulator will make an “overall, evidence-based judgment using expert opinion
Who is learned enough to have an "expert opinion" in this matter, and how easily can he be bought off?
Report lurka April 28, 2022 7:24 PM BST
some people on here don't understand what happens when a business floats on the stock exchange.

Firstly, only a fraction of the shares are sold on the SE, usually 10% or less, the other 90% remains in the hands of the then owners who retain control of everything.

Secondly, it is the owners of the shares before the float who sell those shares. The club doesn't make any money and it's the owners who decide to float and the owners who get the money, not the club. The club is not selling an asset, the owners are selling an asset, ie shares, and they get the money. They can put some of that money back into the club if they want to but they don't have to.

The fact is United have had money sucked out of them by the Glazers, prob near 1bn, while the likes of PSG and City have had 1bn pumped in, that's a 2bn difference and United have still matched them for spending/wages. That's how big a club United is. Floating on the SE never made United money.
Report sparrow April 28, 2022 11:12 PM BST
Floating on the exchange told the world that the club was up for sale otherwise how did the Glazers get control. Dress it up how you like Lurka but the club was sold off by the previous owners and didn't have to be.
Report SontaranStratagem April 28, 2022 11:23 PM BST

Apr 28, 2022 -- 4:20PM, barstool wrote:

The tentacles have spread into the Championship. Something like a £45 million parachute payment payed to each club relegated to the Championship this year and it runs for three years. Stats show that a club receiving theses payments are three times more likely to get promoted. How is that fair? Bournmouth were able to spend millions in the January transfer window on the back of such. Fulham and Bournemouth look certain to go up and the other club Sheff Utd are in the play offs.

I hate the fact its spread into the championship and clubs have to be stupidily run to not bounce back within 2 seasons. How Sunderland mucked up is anyones guess.

But if we were to go up this season our fans will then conveiently turn a blind eye or even gloat about such riches Sad, the game is so daft that Bournemouth were allowed to spend millions in Jamuary, also increasing their wage budget by about 20% and yet Derby werent even allowed to resign a 38 year old centre back on 5k a week wages... how the fook is that “fair” ffs. And any Forest fan gloating and laughing about that isnt a football supporter in my opinion. At least give the club a fooking chance its disgusting.

Report lurka April 29, 2022 8:28 AM BST
I'm not dressing anything up. Floating on the SE doesn't tell anyone the club is up for sale. 90% or more of the shares remain privately owned. Ownership and control of the club only changes hands if those owners want to sell. The Glazers 'got control' by privately buying up the shareholdings of multiple owners like Magnier and McManus.

They didn't buy a controlling stake on the SE because there was never a controlling stake for sale on the SE. They bought it by approaching private owners privately and building their shareholding up. None of those purchases took place on the SE. They took the club off the SE and then sold a small % of their shares on the NYSE years later to raise funds. Private individuals selling their shares and making money for themselves. Not the club selling shares. Floating on the SE is done to raise funds for the owners of the shares, not to tell anyone the club is for sale.
Report mecca April 29, 2022 12:02 PM BST
The thing that got to me after reading this article was, postmen are grossly underpaid.... who gives afck what foreign billionaires want to do with their, probably ill gotten gains.... Postmen should be paid enough to be able to buy a season ticket.

Even ones that support Chelsea
Report sparrow April 29, 2022 12:43 PM BST
Agree totally mecca and yet you are the first poster to mention this.  Sums up the disgraceful position football has found itself in when the ordinary working man can't afford to watch his team.
Report mecca April 29, 2022 12:55 PM BST
People today are more concerned about (I mean people in general.. not people on here) what some celebrity or some rich guy is doing rather than what problems the bloke next door might be having...

These celebrities... billionaires don't give a fck about you.... but the bloke next door might
Report ekbalko April 29, 2022 2:12 PM BST
Just out of interest how much is it to go to see one of the top six?
Report LoyalHoncho April 29, 2022 7:09 PM BST
I like it mecca!
Report LoyalHoncho April 29, 2022 7:15 PM BST
No he isn't the first sparrow but he is spot on to mention it again.  As are you.  We have all more or less become inured to the financial despotism of top flight football now and rarely comment on it.  Apart from the likes of us old, seasoned, "football" fans who knew the game when it was actually the game itself, on the park, that mattered.
The game has long since been taken out of the hands of the fans and the local businessmen who owned it, and trousered all the dosh!.
Report ----you-have-to-laugh--- April 29, 2022 7:29 PM BST
Newcastle £417 (£86 boys, u18) [£340 conc] to £1055 [£850 conc]
Report LoyalHoncho April 29, 2022 7:36 PM BST
So £1,055 per season?  If so that;s £50 per home match and privileges/priority on ticket buying in other comps, away games etc;
On the other hand it is £20 per week through a year which is the equivalent of two packets of **** a week?!
Sounds like value to me.
Report LoyalHoncho April 29, 2022 7:37 PM BST
Report sparrow April 29, 2022 7:42 PM BST
LoyalHoncho, I just meant the first poster on this thread to mention that postman.
Report Capt__F April 29, 2022 8:55 PM BST
always delivers
Report thelatarps April 30, 2022 10:13 PM BST
As long as there has been sport there has been moneymen.
Some of them are going to be clever, nice, b#stards, dumb as fluck.
Thats just the way it is.
I guess as football supporters there will be a time when we think the game has gone.
My old grandad gave up watching football after the 66 world cup.
Couldnt stand the way the game had become so defensive..
What with VAR and these modern players more interested in their fashion acroutements than actually winning games then I am starting to go the same way.
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