29 March ~ The idea of owners lodging a deposit with the FA before being allowed to take control of a League club might seem unlikely, but is surely worth pursuing. This suggestion came from an unlikely exchange at an unlikely venue. The Soccerex conference in Manchester is the game's annual love-in, where the idea that fans must be endlessly milked is never questioned. Speaking on a panel entitled Fraud, Law and Finance, Graham Bean, who became the FA's first compliance officer in 1997, was forthright about the game's ills. He left the FA in 2003 after six frustrating years and can now speak relatively unhindered: "Football is a cottage industry. Everyone knows everyone and the clubs know each other through the FA."
"It's clear the fit and proper persons test needs to be toughened up. There is a duty from the leagues and the association that those coming into the game need to be whiter than white. When it comes to being a director of a football club, a group of individuals put a consortium together and go through the fit and proper persons test, but directors don't always know when they are breaking the rules themselves."
To get around this, argued Bean, the FA should hold courses outlining what a tougher fit and proper person test involved and what the responsibilities of a football club director entail. Prospective new directors would be given a set period in which they have to take the test.
Anyone failing to do so would be banned from becoming a football club director, said Bean, whose idea was wholeheartedly endorsed by former West Ham and Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie, who was in the audience. "The fit and proper persons test is not worth the paper it's written on. Right now it's not possible to know if an owner has money or not,” said Storrie – a comment that will ring true with long-suffering Portsmouth fans.
Storrie went on to suggest that owners should be made to provide real evidence of their funds by putting money into an escrow account to cover potential liabilities. Bean described this idea as "common sense", adding: "That sort of account should be opened as a form of insurance. The FA does have a clearing house of sorts, but there's no reason that this could not be extended so that clubs have a sort of savings account to show that the owners are serious about running a football club."
This is surely an idea for the FA to pursue as they look to overhaul governance of the game. But it is one that few owners of Premier League clubs would be likely to support. Steve Menary