But action unlikely to happen
16 June ~ MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale Tim Farron has proposed a parliamentary early day motion calling for legislation to open up the running of football clubs to more scrutiny. A Blackburn Rovers supporter, Farron uses the state of the club since fallling under the ownership of Venky's in 2010 as an example of why action is needed. Early day motions rarely make much progress within the House of Commons so it is unlikely that it would be called for debate, and even less likely that it will be adopted as law.
However Farron, a Liberal Democrat, is using it as a vehicle to ask the government to back suggestions by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to introduce legislation due to a lack of action from football authorities. The MP is part of a growing number of fans who believe that the FA and Football League are unable or unwilling to act to make the running of the game more transparent as owners have a vested interest in maintaining the current status quo.
The motion states that: "This House is increasingly concerned about the lack of transparency in English football, leading to disenfranchised communities of supporters and a less sustainable national game; believes that while identity of owners is a key issue when regarding transparency, secrecy pervades many further aspects of the game such as a club's financial condition, fees paid to agents and wider club operations."
Farron believes that there is an urgent need for government intervention in order to empower supporters towards a greater say within the running of the game, bringing an independent, non-commercial viewpoint to the decision-making table. He is calling for greater regulation over the way in which clubs are run and, perhaps tipping his hat in the direction of Ken Bates, also around ownership issues. With clubs seemingly in charge of the football authorities (rather than the other way round) the possibility of action appears to be diminishing at a time when vast TV revenue is attracting owners from across the globe and a strong hand is needed, particularly to bring in purposeful fit and proper person rules.
Asked about the motion, Farron feels that: "Football for many isn't just a sport; it's a passion for millions of people. We follow our teams through thick and thin and through tough times. In recent years teams have been bought and sold like commodities and this is having a negative impact on the game but also communities. I want the government to look at the German model and see what we can adapt here."
It is notable that the only real attempt at bringing some control to the English game has come from UEFA in the shape of the Financial Fair Play regulations affecting Premier League clubs. The Football League has adopted similar rules, adapted to each individual division, with the Championship operating on a break even principle and the lower divisions having a more stringent approach, limiting spending on wages to a proportion of each club’s turnover.
It will take time to see whether this has any effect but the early signs are that clubs such as Manchester City and Chelsea will not curb their big spending ways and the rules will actually have a greater impact on those with smaller turnovers looking to sustain their status by bringing in expensive players on high wages. If supporters are hoping for government intervention to open up their clubs to more scrutiny, the chance of any legislation coming from the current free trade focused Tory-led coalition are minimal – a point seemingly lost on Liberal Democrat president Farron. Bruce Wilkinson