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 times they are a-changin’ 3

Posted by John Beech on April 21, 2010

The relationship between politicians and football governance has never been a legendary affair – it’s probably best described as at best ‘casual and flirtatious’ rather than ‘deep and meaningful’.

True we have seen the major changes brought about by the Taylor Report (1), which came not just in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster but a series of stadium disasters leading to tragic loss of life.  But I would see this as a response to a Health & Safety issue rather than as engagement with football governance issues.

We have, of course, also seen the Task Force (2) and the Burns Report (3).  It would be hard to argue that these have resolved the major problems of governance, club ownership and the dysfunctional structure of football governance.  Yes, there have been significant reforms, but we still have a dysfunctional governance structure.

The emergence of, in particular, the issue of fan ownership of clubs in the current manoeuvring in the run up to the General Election needs to be seen in this broader context.  The Labour Party has suddenly thrust the issue into the political forum by announcing plans for change in its manifesto (4).  Offering fans a chance to buy 25% of the shares in their club has got to be a step in the right direction, but it does rather smack of tokenism in trying to solve the fundamental problem of replacing the flawed benefactor model.  The related question of exactly how you get the current owners of 25% of the shares to sell is begging.

The Conservatives, ever ready to enter the debate, seem to have been caught short – even David Cameron couldn’t claim this was really a Tory idea.  Their shadow Sports Minister responded that fan ownership “may not always be the best solution” (5), presumably a reference to Watford and Lord Cashcroft.  The Lib Dems’ response included “Ministers need to promise to look at other issues of desperate importance to fans, like ticket prices, safe standing and facilities for disabled supporters“.  Perhaps they should promise to look at the quality of pies while they are at it – a Pie Task Force headed by John Prescott is an idea surely worthy of consideration.

What they are saying I’m afraid does not excite me – it would foolhardy to imagine that within weeks of the formation of a new government of whatever persuasion that we will be setting down the road to a glorious new era of fan ownership.  On the other hand, what does excite me is that they are bothering to say something, however half-thought-through.  That football governance is seen as something that swings floating voters is, to me at least, significant.  The placing of the problem on the political agenda is recognition that there is a problem, something which politicians and political parties have been slow to recognise, and the problem is one which matters to an increasing number of ‘Thinking Fans’ who despair that ‘the game’ can sort itself out.

Pity that Supporters Direct is not fielding some candidates.  They’d get my vote.  😉

[See also postings 1 and 2 on the changing times theme]


The Football Supporters’ Federation has seized on the current interest in football being shown by the political parties (A) and has sent a series of detailed policy questions to all the major parties (B).

In a related ‘changin’ times’ theme, the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association is encouraging fans to flex their political miscles by not renewing season tickets as an anti-Glazer protest (C). Putting pressure on the Glazers by reducing their cashflow is a potentially powerful tool if enough fans act (or rather, don’t act).

2 Responses to “The times they are a-changin’ 3”

  1. […] Further Portsmouth Update Preston Update 2018 & HMRC Update Argyle Latest PL v. FL Update Changin' Times Update Farsley Update Portsmouth Update King's Lynn Update Farsley Latest Kettering Update Portsmouth […]

  2. […] Further Portsmouth Update Preston Update 2018 & HMRC Update Argyle Latest PL v. FL Update Changin' Times Update Farsley Update Portsmouth […]

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