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 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.


6 Responses to “The great governance debate”

  1. Rick Duniec said

    3 MPs gave brief speeches at the launch at Portcullis House as you say, but there were more than 20 MPs actually in attendance. Even more MPs wished to attend but had urgent business elsewhere in Westminster whilst the lauch was taking place. The half dozen or so MPs who I managed to speak with personally were very interested in what the Supporters had to say. All in all, a very impressive turn-out of MPs on what was a very busy Wednesday at Westminster.
    There will be questions in the house for certain.

    • John Beech said

      Thanks for your better observation than mine Rick!
      Here’s hoping there will be questions asked. For once, I’m actually optimistic.

  2. Rick Duniec said

    Maybe there were even more MPs in there as I noticed a few people come through the second door during the presentation and they didn’t have public passes on display. That could only mean that they had security access via Parliament so they were MPs or advisers etc, in other words they were people who were already security cleared for Parliamentary buildings.

  3. When will these interested MP’s take anything forwards into parliament though? Maybe I am cynical but being aligned with football supporters can be a great vote winner

    • John Beech said

      I must admit to being similarly cynical in the run-up to the last election, but this hearing and the attendance at the Supporters Direct briefing does suggest there is at least some (all-party) will to tackle the problem. I’m holding my breath, at least for the moment!

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