News   |    July 21st, 2021

FIT FOR PURPOSE?

I hope that when the current season ends, football’s governing bodies will conduct a thorough review of the rules surrounding the ownership of clubs and make whatever changes deemed necessary. The events at Bury FC should have provided a stark lesson as to the action needed to protect clubs at all levels. Every club and football fan should want the governing bodies to have the primary role in protecting clubs from owners with questionable motives and to have the teeth to take the strongest possible action.

It is also imperative that we stop a situation where clubs and fans are thrown into chaos in the middle of a season. I think we have all seen now matches are being played in empty stadia that fans are the lifeblood of football in this country and it is not the same game without them. Every club is a business and I understand that, but a club is also a community asset and should be treated as such. Ideally rules must be in place to protect every stakeholder in the game.

For me the first and most essential ingredient is that nobody should be allowed to gain control of a football club until they have satisfied the governing bodies that they have the necessary financial resources to fund the club involved.  A new owner must be required to show that he/she can fund the club for two seasons and a performance bond should be in place to be called upon if needed. If an individual or individuals can prove the funds, then having a performance bond in place should not be an onerous cost.

The fit and proper rule is not a rule your average man and woman in the street understands if my friends are anything to go by. All too often information comes to light once a takeover is announced that calls the process into question in a very public way.

As things stand the Newcastle United takeover is still on hold pending an investigation into the proposed owners. Sheffield Wednesday FC and Derby County FC are subject to ongoing investigations into breaches of the EFL’s financial regulations and Charlton Athletic FC’s proposed new owners await approval of their acquisition of a club that was already being investigated before the ownership changed. Issues still surround Birmingham City FC also.

I think the fact that League One and Two voted to abandon the current season tells you everything you need to know about the parlous state of the finances in the lower leagues and now more than ever these clubs are vulnerable to takeovers where the property assets are attractive to those with no interest in football. We should protect our 92-league team structure at all cost. It is unique in world football and is an important part of the social fabric of this country.

For more information email: enquiries@integralsportsmanagement.co.uk

Peter Varney - Chairman, Integral Sports Management

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