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

Comments (8)
Comment by ingoldale 2012-03-29 15:27:14

Well done Storrie. The fit and proper persons test "may not be worth the paper it's written on" but if people respected the rules, other clubs the clubs they work(ed) for and spent within their means we would have far fewer problems woudn't we?


Comment by JimDavis 2012-03-29 16:35:57

"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

From this does Storrie mean that the amount of money you have is the only answer worth knowing, when it comes to being fit and proper? Funny then that of all the current Premiership team owners, the one with the least money is probably the most fit and proper of the lot.

Comment by Sport Economist 2012-03-29 16:45:04

As a Reading fan, I'm hoping that protracted sale of the club to Anton Zingarevich is partly down to the league finally applying the fit and proper person's test with some seriousness.

Comment by madmickyf 2012-03-30 01:30:30

Some perfectly reasonable and sensible ideas in this article which is why it has absolutely no chance of being adopted by the FA. As a supporter of a club which plunged from the Championship to the Conference in 3 seasons as a result of being run by people who should never have passed the fit & proper persons test I'd love to see tighter rules brought in. Unfortunately it seems far easier for the FA just to hand out point deductions to the club (even if the directors responsible have already left) than to put in place rules that would make the owners responsible for their actions!

Comment by Lincoln 2012-03-30 10:34:11

Yeah that is one I have never understood madmickyf. A group come in and take over your club, sometimes against the fans will, and run you into the ground and then leave having made a bit of money out of it. Following that the punishment is then to dock the club, under new owners, 10 points. Exactly who is that a punishment for?

Lincoln got away with it with virtually the same owners after the ITV digital collapse but we did have no one to blame but overselves. But in a lot of cases, say Darlington, the owner who screws them over leaves relatively unharmed where as the next one suffers.

Boston United are another good example of this, they were jettisoned down two levels for the misdemeaners of the previous regime even though they had long since departed. Then rather than give support to them in the Blue Square North they were deducted more points as they struggled into administration despite good intentions having swum against a very strong tide from finding themselves in league football to two levels below.

Comment by ian.64 2012-03-30 13:23:43

As part of any future fit and proper process that the FA may deem fit to inaugurate, may I pass on a naive yet potentially useful idea: the internet.

Using "the internet", information (reports, articles and so forth) about the pasts of future buyers may come to light and be useful in determining whether they should be allowed to buy and own a club. I believe this is called 'research', a new process that, had the FA used it in the past - where the technological process called "the internet" was available - many of the problems facing certain clubs may have been avoided.

Thank you.

Comment by jertzeeAFCW 2012-04-03 13:06:48

Lincoln "Exactly who is that a punishment for?"...err the same people that benefitted from going up a couple of divisions because they cheated their way up, in the case of Boston (although I do sympathise with anyone done over by Steve Evans)?

It amazes me when that old argument comes up about punishing the fans. Yeah, I remember Wembley packed with all those sad, punished Pompey fans...oh no..that was just a bit after when they moaned about being punished for a points deduction.

If you're going to stop the points deduciton then remove all the success that the team had in that ssame period of time, success they cheated their way to.

10 points is not enough of a deterrrent as it is.
For me, admonistration should be automatic relegation...two divisions.

Comment by madmickyf 2012-04-04 05:06:40

JertzeeAFCW, I'm sorry but you can't make the blanket assumption that all teams which get into financial difficulty have "cheated". What about circumstances where the club is being deliberately ripped off by those who are supposed to be running the club unbeknownst to the players, manager and fans? This happened to my club Luton and the FA did sweet FA to punish those responsible, they preferred to kick the new owners and the fans in the knackers instead!

I can't stand these 'one size fits all punishments' for this type of situation as each club's circumstances are different. Should Chester have immediately been demoted 2 divisions for going into Admin after what Stephen Vaughan did to them? Having said that if they do pass judgement on a case-by-case basis I'd like the authorities to at least show a bit more fairness and consistency when handing out punishments. How QPR & West Ham escaped any point deductions for fielding players they knew to be ineligible (now that is cheating!) really makes my blood boil.

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