9 June ~ The Daily Mail has targeted Supporters Direct (SD) chief executive Dave Boyle after some ill-judged Twitter remarks. But is there something more sinister beneath their typically self-righteous outrage? An ecstatic Boyle was celebrating the success of AFC Wimbledon – the vanguard of the fan-ownership movement – finally winning promotion to the Football League when he made the postings. "The Bible can **** off. This is the greatest story ever told," he tweeted, according to the paper, while also aiming remarks at MK Dons chairman Peter Winkleman and Raj Parker, the lawyer who sat on the commission that approved relocating the original Dons to Milton Keynes.
For many, that "relocation" is the English game's nadir and Boyle, like many fans, refuses to forgive and forget. In a June 7 column headlined Football chief's an offensive tweeter, the scandalised Mail insisted Boyle's remarks were "not fit for a family newspaper". Boyle wrote a letter of apology after his Twitter outburst, so why – in the era of instant electronic communication – did it take the Mail 16 days to pick up the story?
It might look like silencing an active critic before a report by a select committee of cross-party MPs into the governance of football comes out, one that could pose some difficult questions for the Premier League. Boyle gave evidence at the enquiry, part of whose remit is to answer the question: "What are the pros and cons of the supporter trust share-holding model?" There are few pros as far as the Premier League is concerned while just five per cent of the enquiry's time was given to fan's representatives.
Boyle's remarks offered up a chance for SD's right-wing opponents to deliver a blow to the whole movement. The bulk of SD's funding comes from the Premier League via the Football Stadium Improvement Fund (FSIF) levy, and Richard Scudamore's cohorts are reportedly "mightily unimpressed" with Boyle according to another Mail rant on June 8. The timing of those twin blasts – more than fortnight after the offence – is interesting. Not just because the MPs' report is due out soon, but also because SD is in talks with the FSIF over funding for the next three years.
The Mail's latest vituperative attack on Boyle was headlined Fans' group at risk after boss blunder and the campaign looks suspiciously like an attempt by a right-wing newspaper to get someone they describe as a "left-wing radical" sacked simply for advocating fan ownership. SD's chairman Pauline Green has accepted Boyle's apology so why not let it lie? Only the Mail knows the answer. Steve Menary