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! Football Finance

The furious Winter’s rages

Posted by John Beech on September 29, 2009

Still catching up on my reading, I came across an extraordinary piece – Gerry Sutcliffe: a footballing nobody delivering cheap shots at the FA by Henry Winter (1).  Long on bile, venom and rancour, the article was rather shorter on facts.

He refers for example, to Sports Ministers who “come and go so quickly it is hard to remember their names and faces. Sports Ministers seem like the No 11 buses I used to take as a schoolboy along Whitehall. Don’t worry if you miss one; there’ll be another along in a minute.”  It may seem like that to some including Henry, but it surely ignores Richard Caborn’s spell as Sports Minister from 2001 to 2007, a period in post which most football mangers would envy. The fact that “the football correspondents of all the national newspapers” were gathered together at Wembley when, according to Henry, “an unfamiliar man walked in, sat down and attempted to speak with equal authority about football and the 2018 bid. Nice suit. Smooth patter. But who was he?  Blank looks spread around the room. Under the table, busy fingers sent text messages around to establish the identity of this individual who clearly felt he was a centre-piece of England’s bid. The mystery man was Sutcliffe.”

If Henry’s ignorance really was shared by his fellow football correspondents, it must surely tell us more about them and their competence to do their jobs than it does about Gerry Sutcliffe, who has been at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport for over two years

One phrase he used really had me chuckling.  He referred to football as “a wonderful sport which brings so much revenue to the Exchequer“.  I just wonder which clubs exactly he had in mind.  Those that are ultimately owned by companies registered in the British Virgin Islands for tax avoidance purposes?  Those that make regular losses?  Those which have never fallen behind in payments to HMRC?  The one that, to  come out of Administration, tried (unsuccessfully as it happens) to settle its debts to HMRC at the rate of one penny in the pound?  Those reported to be planning to pay their players through interest free loans so that the players can avoid paying tax?

Henry’s a first-class football journalist normally when reporting the game on the pitch.  A pity he doesn’t stick to that.  Why did he come up with such an odd column?  Perhaps it’s a case of, to quote his own words, “surprise, surprise, it’s party-political-conference time. How cynical.

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