Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of Scoop.it! Football Finance

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For once, a personal note

Posted by John Beech on February 4, 2013

Apologies to regular readers for an ‘off topic’ posting, but, to be fair, this is a personal blog.  Rest assured – it will not become a habit.

The sharp-eyed may have noticed a change in the ‘About’ section.  One of those apparently landmark life events occurred at midnight last Thursday – I went from being a full-time employee to ‘senior citizen’ status.  Although I was actually 65 in October, it is only now that I have chosen to switch to being a pensioner.

From Friday, my relationship with Coventry University changed.  I have accepted an Honorary Research Fellowship, which means that I retain my affiliation to the university, but any work I do for them in future is by mutual agreement and subject to individual contract.

Quite what this change will mean in practice remains to be seen.  I guess I’ve been lucky that in recent years my day-job has included what I would actually choose to do by free choice – research football finance and governance.  Not for me a shift to an allotment then!

I plan to continue and perhaps extend my lecturing in Sports and Events Management, public speaking, researching and consultancy.  As I write, I have commitments every month until July in, first, Madrid and then in Kufstein, Austria.  In November I will be spending three weeks lecturing at the Russian International Olympic University in Sochi.

There will of course be significant gaps in my diary, and I plan to focus even more on my particular interest – the role of fans in football governance and club ownership.

How this will affect my blogging is not yet clear.  If things go the way I envisage, I would expect ‘normal service’ to be maintained.  There is unlikely to be a significant increase as I have only ever posted when I felt I had something worthwhile to say.  My tweeting of NEWS items should be unaffected.

My transition from employee to ‘retiree’ should, all in all, be rather less of a transition than for most people.  I see it as an opportunity, and am open to interesting offers!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

The ins and outs of the transfer window

Posted by John Beech on September 3, 2011

So, the transfer window finally slammed shut, to use the mandatory cliché, amid the predictable hype.  In one respect this was hardly surprising – of the 289 August deals reported by the BBC (1), no fewer than 93, or 32%, had taken place on the final day.  In total 141 (49%) had taken place in the final week.  One was almost left wondering whether a whole month was needed.

A noticeable feature of the BBC data is that of the 289 deals, 69 involved players described as unattached, 110 were loans, and 10 were free transfers, leaving only 100 (35%) that were full-blown fee-paying transfers.  Given the main reason for having a transfer window – to prevent clubs buying in extra talent in a burst to achieve promotion or a Champions League place – the question must surely arise as to whether it is necessary to apply any transfer window at all to non-fee-paying transfers, now the clear majority.  After all, no club is going to loan another club a player willingly if it feels that will upset competitive balance and/or give the receiving club a somehow unfair advantage.

It’s difficult to analyse the spending by individual clubs – the BBC data records the figure for a mere 17 deals:

Samir Nasri Arsenal – Man City £25m
Juan Mata Valencia – Chelsea £23.5m
Bryan Ruiz Twente – Fulham £10.6m
Mikel Arteta Everton – Arsenal £10m
Peter Crouch Tottenham – Stoke £10m
Andre Santos Fenerbahce – Arsenal £6.2m
Scott Parker West Ham – Tottenham £5m
Oriol Romeu Barcelona – Chelsea £4.35m
Jermaine Beckford Everton – Leicester £3m
Emmanuel Eboue Arsenal – Galatasaray £3m
Ishmael Miller West Brom – Nottingham Forest £1.2m
Leroy Lita Middlesbrough – Swansea £1.75m
Shaun Maloney Celtic – Wigan £1m
James McClean Derry City – Sunderland £350,000
Darnel Situ Lens – Swansea £250,000
Shaun MacDonald Swansea – Bournemouth £80,000
Chris Lines Bristol Rovers – Sheffield Wednesday £50,000

There seems to be a consensus that spending has peaked again following a couple of years decline.  Which is bad news in my book.  I would have hoped that Financial Fair Play and capped squad sizes would have reined in the crazy levels of spending.  It may be that they have outside the Big 5, but that in itself is dysfunctional – these are the five clubs most likely to qualify for Europe and therefore find themselves under scrutiny from UEFA.

It’s also clear from the limited data available that there is no sign of the vertical disparity in terms of spending power  up and down the football pyramid declining.  Again, I can only greet this with disappointment.  When will they ever learn?

Posted in Costs, Globetrotterisation, Premier League, Transfers, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Of Dave and Goliath

Posted by John Beech on June 15, 2011

Watching Boylergate unfold still from the slight detachment of the Tirol is a singularly unedifying experience.

I should first make clear that I count Dave as one of my friends, and that I am also friends with a number of Supporters Direct employees whose jobs are now at risk.  I am not however a pre-move Wimbledon fan or an AFC Wimbledon fan.  I strongly disliked what happened, but I tend to see Sam Hammam and the local Council as the villans of the piece rather than Pete Winkleman.  I wish that the MK Dons would drop the ‘Dons’ part of their name, in the hope that all concerned would finally move on and adopt a more realpolitik approach.  That said, I find it fairly low down on the list of things that seriously bother me – it’s down there with Spennymoor Town, Livingston and Clyde (and maybe Kettering Town next), rather than up there with FIFA and corruption, for example.

The crisis, for that is what it is from a Supporters Direct perspective, seems to have issues at several different levels, the first and most immediate of which is the issue of what Dave Boyle tweeted (no click-through as Dave has deleted the particular comments which have had such drastic implications).

What he tweeted, he wrote in his personal capacity (it clearly states on his Twitter account “Comments reflect my views alone etc.“), but, of course, we can’t in practice ever disassociate ourselves from our employer that neatly (although I would argue the case for academic freedom if that employer happened to be a university!).  Dave seems to have recognised this, and resigned as CEO of Supporters Direct.  Why, it’s reasonable to ask, was that not an end to the matter?

Well, as Glen Moore reported it (1) in The Independent:

When his tweets came to the notice of the FSIF they wrote to Dame Pauline Green, chair of SD, asking for her comments. She replied that Boyle had apologised and promised there would be no repeat. The trustees of the FSIF, who include the Football Association and the Government as well as the Premier League, took the view that someone in his position, even if tweeting in a personal capacity, could not make such statements in a public forum and merely be given a rap on the knuckles.

This line was taken in the context of a crackdown on abusive behaviour in the game, including the FA’s Respect campaign and the recent suspension imposed on Wayne Rooney for swearing into a TV camera after scoring against West Ham. The FSIF board subsequently released a statement saying they “no longer had confidence in Supporters Direct’s leadership and judgement”. Funding previously offered to the tune of £1.5m over three years, was withdrawn.

An interesting question, which I have not seen an answer to, is why this anonymous person brought the tweets  to the attention of the FSIF rather than complain directly to Supporters Direct.

The FSIF (the Football Stadia Improvement Fund) (2) is itself part of the Football Foundation which is funded as described.  The Fund’s role is to provide “grant aid to clubs in the Football League, the Conference and the National League System, down to step 7 and below, that want to improve their facilities for players, officials and spectators.”   The mission of the Football Foundation itself is “to improve facilities, create opportunities and build communities throughout England” (3).  It strikes me that the Trustees of the FSIF were not acting on behalf of the FSIF but rather in the interests of their parent bodies, and I’m unclear as to how the pulling of funding for Supporters Direct, and thus seriously threatening its existence, is in any way creating opportunities and building communities.

What comes across is the convoluted way that football is governed in the UK – by a farrago of committees where ‘conflict of interests’ is a phrase rarely heard.

Which takes us to the ultimate issue – how is Supporters Direct funded?  The case that we actually need such a body is more than adequately expressed in the wealth of evidence submitted to the House of Commons Select Committee on Football Governance (3).  With the clear exception of the Premier League, all in the football garden is not seen as rosy, and a very strong case indeed for the Supporters Trust movement is made.

The FSIF have made clear that “funding would still be available to individual trusts and they should apply directly on a case-by-case basis“, but this conveniently ignores the fact that a primary purpose of Supporters Direct is to help in establishing Supporters Trusts, and that, but for the work of Supporters Direct, many of the Trusts who can still apply for funding would not exist.

If there is a lesson in the whole sorry saga, it is that Supporters Direct needs to be funded not directly through a multi-stakeholder stadia improvement fund (???), or indeed the Premier League.  The Premier League funding Supporters Direct is at least partly like having the Countryside Alliance finance the League Against Cruel Sports in that their objectives are antithetical, and linking them in this way just sets up the likelihood of the car crash we find with Boylergate.

For this reason I am not entirely sympathetic to the Early Day Motion calling ultimately for the resumption of funding of Supporters Direct by the Premier League (4).  In the context of a House of Commons investigation into football governance, it would surely make more sense to move to a more stable funding basis for Supporters Direct, where the ‘hand on the tap’ is the FA, or better still the DCMS.

Posted in Governance, Trusts, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

The great governance debate

Posted by John Beech on May 13, 2011

The House of Commons Select Committee on Football Governance certainly finished their hearings with a bang.

First up was Mike Lee, ‘strategist behind the 2022 Qatar World Cup bid’, and late of the London 2012 Olympics bid.  His appearance was bound to be confrontational given the submission of new evidence by The Sunday Times (1) regarding the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar.  He was given a bit of a hard time, and, unusually, received an apology for this (2).  Qatar has become such an issue that even the International Olympic Committee have ordered a Qatari bribery investigation (3).

Next up, and the final witness, was Lord Triesman.  His allegations about the bidding process for 2022 were made under parliamentary privilege, and have caused a considerable, and appropriate furore.

Important though the governance of the national is, I was disappointed that the Committee had drifted off what I saw as the main topic – the governance of leagues and clubs.  Judging by the written submissions, this seems to have been the topic that was generally seen as more important.

There is perhaps a different reality, one in which the reform of club and league governance remains centre stage.  On Wednesday Supporters Direct an launched two special briefings put together by Supporters Direct and Substance.  Both concern encouraging supporter community ownership in football; the first is on Developing Public Policy and the second is on Developing Football Regulation.  (I should admit a vested interest at this point – some of my research is quoted in the latter.)  Both are downloadable pdfs, but note their length before you rush to print them.

Dave Boyle (Supporters Direct) and Adam Brown (Substance) at the launch

Far from simply being an advocation of fan ownership, they set out clearly how the current financial model for running football clubs is broken, the specific ways in which it fails, and how a sustainable alternative model would work.  As well as fan ownership, a strong case is made for club licensing along the lines of the systems practised in Germany and in Northern Ireland.  The briefing papers also spell out the role that government should take in driving reform through effective changes in legislation rather than through some more direct intervention.

I found it particularly encouraging at the launch that there were 3 MPs present.  Governance reform is definitely still on the political agenda.  As Dave Boyle of Supporters Direct pointed out, a pile of all the official reports on football is now over a foot high, yet their recommendations have, on the whole, not been implemented.  Such is the current state of football governance that the failure to take action cannot be justified.  In real life, doing nothing is always an option whatever anyone might claim, but doing nothing would have a culpability to the disintegration of professional football attached to it.

Posted in Governance, Law, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Crisis and confusion at Coventry City

Posted by John Beech on April 6, 2011

Since the end of January there have been various changes in the membership of the Coventry City Board, then we saw the sacking of Aidy Boothroyd, the tenth sacking of a Coventry City manager in the last decade (1).  Saturday’s three points against Watford brought at least some cheer to City’s fans, and the fear of relegation is receding.

With a certain irony, what has emerged at board level is a split into a new ‘old guard’ (Ray Ranson and Gary Hoffman) and a new ‘new guard’ (new Chief Executive Ken Dulieu, thrusting Canadian internet entrepreneur Leonard Brody and others parachuted in by SISU).

Brody is “a respected international entrepreneur with a strong track record in business, finance and online media.  He is President of Clarity Digital which is a subsidiary of the Anschutz Corporation, a large US-based sport and entertainment group and is also a two-time Emmy nominee” (2). Quite.

Brody offered an interesting explanation, as part of a new improved communications strategy, of what had been happening:

“What you were witnessing was three years of a dispute between shareholders, people who had different visions and different ideas about where the club was and what they wanted to do.  The key difference here is unity.  You now have the shareholders dispute resolved and a new board that is committed not only to the team but also to the community.” (3)

He paints an intriguing picture of a three-year battle between shareholders.  I have to say that I find this an unlikely picture.  The parent company, Sky Blue Sports & Leisure Ltd had six shareholders: SISU Capital Private Equity Fund A, SISU Capital Private Equity Fund B, SISU Capital Private Equity Fund C, SISU Capital Private Equity Fund D, and SISU Capital Private Equity Fund E, who together held 84% of the shares, the remaining 16% being held by R2 Sports Group plc, a Ray Ranson company.  So it’s the battle between the five SISU Fund Managers that has been holding the club back, is it??

He also says he is “saddened to hear fans think we’ve lost the brand“.  I would have to say that ‘losing the brand’ is not a phrase particularly featuring in conversations I have with City fans.  They are more concerned about survival, in the Championship, and simply surviving as a club.

Another interesting thread in this saga is the question of buying the stadium.  Al parties seem to agree that the Ricoh is a highly attractive ‘cash cow’, and that acquiring it would be a key to solving the club’s problems.  SISU have undoubtedly put money into the club since taking over, but clearly not enough to buy the stadium.  Either they do not have the funding to do so, or they do not have the inclination to do so.  No evidence points towards the latter.

How then can the exciting new board team move forward in the acquisition of the stadium?  Of course, new investors!

Her I see two major obstacles.  If you, as a potential investor, you were approached by SISU with an offer to invest in a club which could be a goldmine if only it could acquire its stadium and the associated revenue streams, once you had overcome your suspicion (‘if it’s such a great opportunity, why isn’t/hasn’t SISU seized on it in the last three years?’), you may well think ‘a cash cow, well, I want some slice of the action as at least a co-owner’.  Yet SISU insist that the club is not for sale.  We shall see.

The new board has already scored a PR own goal, which is not encouraging.  Ken Duliweu announced at a press conference last week that he was about to hold talks with the local Council about their 50% ownership of the Ricoh, a claim promptly and frostily denied by the Council (4).  As the Council statement out it, “The club has talked about a new era of openness and transparency, which we would welcome as a Council.  But so far, in their dealings with us, they have not shown this and we’re disappointed they’ve now said twice they’re meeting with us when no approach has been made to us.”  If there is to be a new policy of openness in communications, the messages should at the very least be accurate.

The only optimistic sign I can see is the talk of a bid by Gary Hoffmann (5) to buy the club.  But a) it’s supposedly not for sale, and one suspects, in the circumstances of his departure from the board, especially not to him and b) it depends on him finding investors.

The only comforts for fans is that the club is no worse off than it was when SISU took over (but arguably no better off), and that it could be worse for them – they could be Plymouth Argyle fans.

Available online is the full interview I gave Late Kick Off last week, just before the Coventry City press conference.

Posted in Insolvency, Investors, Ownership, Stadium, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Blogging stuff

Posted by John Beech on August 16, 2010

WordPress, who provide the platform for this blog, have recently offered two new options which I have activated:

  • A ‘Tweet’ button at the end of each posting, which allows those of you who use Twitter to share the posting directly.
  • A Facebook-style ‘Like’ option, again at the end of each posting

Please feel free to use either button, or not, as the case may be!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

JB’s awards for Season 2009/10

Posted by John Beech on August 2, 2010

Yes, silly season again, at least, until the Glorious Seventh!

SOAP STAR OF THE SEASON AWARD:
Some noble efforts this year, but there was no-one in quite the same league as Portsmouth.  As if four owners, Administration and HMRC challenging the CVA in court wasn’t enough, they managed to carry on ‘soaping’ over the summer break, with a farcical series of events during their summer tour of North America (1).  As a Pompey fan, what worries me is that they may well be in the running for next season’s award.

LEAST HELPFUL CONTRIBUTION TO ENGLISH FOOTBALL AWARD:
Lots of competition here, but the award goes to Sulaiman Al Fahim for his efforts at Portsmouth, most notably for offering the Supporters Trust his shares in what at first appeared to be a gift, but turned out to be for purchase at a price they couldn’t afford.  (Mind you, Ali Al Faraj the Mirage made it a close call.)

CREATIVE USE OF WEAKNESSES AND GAPS IN THE RULES AWARD:
This year’s award goes to the Football Conference for their use of Appendix E.

FIGHTING A LOSING BATTLE AWARD:
Top marks to Portsmouth’s Administrator, Andrew Andronykou, but he hasn’t lost yet, so he can’t be considered.  Another candidate must be Fabio Cappello, but that is a tad harsh.  Raymond Domenech would certainly have been in contention, but awards are restricted to English football.
So, no award this year I’m afraid.

DIRECTORS SAY THE FUNNIEST THINGS AWARD:
This goes to Southend United’s Ron Martin for “We have moved mountains to get where we are” (2), which, after 12 years of planning to move to Fossetts Farm, is still Roots Hall.

OPTIMIST OF THE SEASON AWARD:
There’ve been plenty of statements of optimism in an increasingly troubled season, but rather fewer acts of optimism.  The award goes to Dato’ Chan Tien Ghee (TG) for investing in Cardiff City while the Langston debt still hung over the club.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE SEASON AWARD
Last year I wrote of new kids on the block:

Lots of nominations in this category, but the award goes to a very late entrant, Arab-backed high-rollers Munto Finance. Notts County Supporters Trust members were persuaded to sell up to this company in the hope of becoming another Manchester City, or at least Notts Forest. Munto’s first move was a striker from League 2 rivals Chesterfield – a bid of £50,000, which was rejected as inadequate (8).

This year ex-kids on the block Munto Finance win it again, for their total failure to be ‘Arab-backed high rollers’.

COMEBACK KIDS AWARD:
A clear winner here - Bournemouth - thanks to the sterling efforts of manager Eddie Howe.

THE THREATENING TO TAKE HIS BALL AWAY AWARD
This goes to Trevor Hemmings whose 5p per share offer to shareholders of Preston North End valued the club at less than £165,000, and who is reported to have “threatened to withdraw all financial support for the club if the offer wasn’t accepted by enough of Preston’s shareholders” (3).

WORD OR PHRASE OF THE SEASON AWARD:
This year we have moved on from last year’s winner ‘on the brink’ to the even more worrying ‘meltdown‘.

And  three new awards this year:

MY MOST SURREAL MOMENT OF THE YEAR AWARD:
For me this came when I clicked on the link here.  Almost as surreal had been this statement four weeks previously.

THE ‘WELL, THAT’S CLEARED THAT ONE UP THEN’ AWARD
The winner is this little gem from Leeds United on the ownership of the club.

and, for something completely different, a new serious one!

SUPPORTERS TRUST OF THE YEAR AWARD
A lot of really good work has been done this year by a number of Trusts, and to some extent it is invidious to pick one out, but this year I feel the deserved winner is City Fans United of Chester, who, against all the odds, managed to resurrect the club.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Blogged off!

Posted by John Beech on June 18, 2010

I’m about to head off for a week’s holiday, laptopless, so there will be a short break from posting and from moderating comments.  Apologies, but I don’t want to be a dull boy.  Normal service should return next weekend.

Out of curiosity I looked up what I had written when I went on holiday last year.  It probably serves almost as well this year: “What will I be returning to? What news of takeovers at Portsmouth and Newcastle, and HMRC’s winding-up orders?” 

Plus ça change…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Supporters Direct Conference

Posted by John Beech on June 11, 2010

I’ll be at the Supporters Direct Conference on A Better Vision for Football tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday, and would be very pleased to meet any readers who are attending.

Remember, you can still register there on the day – details are here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Supporters Direct Conference 12-13 June

Posted by John Beech on May 18, 2010

Details here

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LINKS page expanded

Posted by John Beech on April 3, 2010

The LINKS page, accessible via the tag on the tool bar at the top of the page, has been considerably expanded.

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Maradona injured

Posted by John Beech on March 30, 2010

According to a report in the New York Times (1), Maradona has had to undergo surgery after his dog bit him in the face.

The report describes him as ‘not seriously hurt’, so I trust I can be forgiven for commenting that this is surely a case of The Mouth of Dog avenging The Hand of God.  ;-)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Dear Santa ;-)

Posted by John Beech on December 24, 2009

I was going to ask for a ban as a director for John Batchelor, but it seems you have just delivered this!

In no particular order then, this is what I’d really like for Christmas as well:

  • For Accrington Stanley fans, some seats on the board
  • For Chester City, a new unrelated owner
  • For Stephen Vaughan, a copy of The Rough Guide to Ethics
  • For John Armstrong-Holmes, a Sackcloth & Ashes gift set
  • For Rotherham United, Scarborough Athletic and any other clubs in a similar situation, an end to their exiles
  • For Ron Martin, a copy of Blogging made Simple
  • For Peter Ridsdale, a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People
  • For Avram Grant, some Quality Players vouchers, or at least the freedom to use them
  • For the FA, the drive to introduce an all-league-embracing unified and effective Fit and Proper Persons Test
  • For the game, a review of the current sanctions which are dysfunctional, and the use of ‘bringing the game into disrepute’ charges against appropriate owners and directors
  • For my grandchildren, a game that is still beautiful, but for the ugly business elements to have some remedial surgery
  • If you’ve got the time, for clubs throughout the Pyramid, a lifeline

and last but by no means least

  • a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year for all blog readers, be they in England, Dumbarton, Stockholm, North America or wherever, and whether they are fans or directors, and for my friends and fellow residents of this far-flung sector of cyberspace, Kevin Rye (Supporters Direct blog), Ian King (twohundredpercent) and Wyn Grant (The Political Economy of Football).

Yours in football

John

[New postings may be a tad patchy over the Christmas/New Year period as I shall be knee-deep in various successive permutations of grandchildren, but I will doubtless seek sanity in my keyboard whenever possible.]

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Statements of the bleeding obvious, the ironic, or just the plain surreal

Posted by John Beech on November 23, 2009

Headlines can be oddly misleading.  I clicked through just now to ‘Boro collapse stuns France’, wondering how the French had failed to notice Middlesbrough’s relegation for so long (1), only to find that I had forgotten the name of the manager of one of our leading resurrectionist club.

They can also be very amusing.  I’m thinking here of headlines that just aren’t news, more, as Basil Fawlty would have it, statements of the bleeding obvious, or statements of just wishful thinking.

A good example of the former is Martinez embarrassed after defeat from today’s BBC website output. No! Really?

An example of the latter would be Ridsdale Far East trip expected to tie up Cardiff City investment from WalesOnline on 2 November.  Surely even Ridsdale wasn’t seriously expecting this.

The downright surreal also would qualify, as in £10m loan will secure Pompey future: Al Fahim from Portsmouth’s The News of 17 November.  Of course – the new owner is going to increase the club’s debt.  Really thinking outside the box there.

So, any offers of non-headlines?  The rules are simple.  All you have to do is post the actual headline in a comment below, exactly as it appears on the webpage, together with the URL, and the date it was published – no more, no less.  It has to be on the topic of football management (rather than performance on the pitch), and the less there is any need for comment, and/or the greater the irony, so much the better.

I’m a Pompey fan so I need cheering up. If that had been a headline it would certainly have qualified as a statement of the bleeding obvious!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Coming in from therams.co.uk?

Posted by John Beech on November 15, 2009

As there have been a blog posting since the link was posted on the forum, you need to click here for my posting on the UEFA Club Financial Control Panel.

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