You would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh.
On Thursday, the Government announced its White Paper for sorting out football’s governance mess and a new regulator is coming, probably in time for the 2025-26 season.
But the best paragraph was buried in section 3.21, a hilarious riposte to the Big Six clubs, which had not only lobbied furiously against regulation but, don’t forget, wanted to run off with the crown jewels of football two years ago and cast the rest of the game adrift.
In a mundane section on how the new regulator would be funded, the document causally dropped this stinging riposte to the greedy six. ‘Indicatively, based on 2020/21 revenue, the six richest clubs would cover approximately 50% of the total cost of regulation.’
It put you in mind of the Norwegian commentator famously taunting England after his nation beat them in a World Cup qualifier. ‘Joel Glazer!’ he might have said. ‘John W Henry! Khaldoon Al Mubarak! Roman Abramovich! Daniel Levy! Stan Kroenke! Your boys took a hell of a beating!’
On Thursday, the Government announced its White Paper for sorting out football’s governance mess
But the document casually dropped a stinging riposte to the greedy Big Six, who tried to join the Super League
The Big Six now will now be barred forever from bending the game to their selfish interests, which with them controlling the Premier League (see Project Big Picture) and their clubs permanently qualified for the Champions League regardless of performance on the pitch.
Instead, an independent regulator will make those decision and will ultimately force them to distribute more money to the pyramid. The sting in the tail is that they will have to pay for the bulk of it. That’s karma.
Aside from gloating at the sheer asininity of those owners, it’s worth taking a moment to mark what is huge development in English football. There was a striking shift in the White Paper yesterday after 140 years of fans being told clubs were just companies like any other. ‘The free market will not rectify football’s problems,’ it read.
This from a Conservative Government, recognition, that football is not a business like any other and not like Sainsbury’s, as Crystal Palace owner Steve Parish once referenced when arguing why his club shouldn’t bail out the EFL during Covid.
Sport is collegiate. You need other teams to play against. No team is an island in the way that Sainsbury’s is. They don’t need Aldi to survive in order to have a business. Manchester United do need 19 other Premier League clubs to play against. And many of those need The Championship to thrive, or else the Premier League become stale and loses value and they would have nowhere to play when relegated. And the Championship needs League One and so on. No other business is like this.
They all have a vested interest in supporting the entire pyramid as it sustains every club from Arsenal to Rochdale.
And whilst Sainsbury’s might be important as community facility but it doesn’t bring people together in a shared identity and expression of love for a town in the way Bury or Derby football clubs do.
For decades, free market ideology allowed the UK to rip apart communities under the mantra that ‘there was no such thing as society.’ Yet Covid lockdown showed us there is and that football clubs are a vital constituent part of it.
The Big Six now will now be barred forever from bending the game to their selfish interests
Based on 2020/21 revenue, the six richest clubs will cover approximately 50 per cent of the total cost of regulation
The devil will be in the detail yet there are already indications that it will make a significant difference. The paper says ‘the government is considering whether the Regulator should set tougher restrictions around leveraged buyouts.’
That will particularly interest Manchester United fans, who spent years campaigning against the malign ownership of the Glazers, meaning that the practice of buying a club by borrowing money against its assets and stadium could be restricted. That would be a major win for fans and huge step forward in securing stability for the game.
There may be interesting times for clubs who have a named owner when everyone suspects the actual source of the funds is elsewhere. The regulator ‘would require clubs to declare their Ultimate Beneficial Owner.’
Newcastle spent a lot of time and money explaining that Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was not the ultimate owner of Newcastle United and therefore didn’t need to pass the Premier League’s ‘owners and director test’, which he would likely fail, having been cited by US intelligence as the individual who ‘approved the operation to kidnap or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.’ This regulator would have power to use government agencies to investigate Newcastle’s claim rather than just accept it as self-declaration.
There will be a clampdown on club ownership, including restricting owners buying a club and borrowing money against its assets like the Glazers have done
That said, don’t expect Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi or Qatar to be barred from football. It was made clear the regulator cannot second guess government foreign policy, which means nation states with which the UK is friendly will be free to invest. That said, it did raise the issue of PEP – not the Manchester City manager but a ‘politically-exposed person,’ which seems to give the regulator the power to block a Roman Abramovich type takeover, if an owner was linked to an unfriendly power.
In exceptional circumstances – and you imagine they are thinking of Steve Dale owning Bury in its last days, when club officials pleaded with the EFL to remove him (a power they did not have) – the regulator could take over your club in the short term to facilitate a sale. The government is exploring empowering the regulator ‘to appoint skilled third-party trustees as a last resort, to run the club on a temporary basis when its owners/directors have been disqualified.’
And whilst they won’t get involved in Financial Fair Paly regulation – they are clear that the leagues govern themselves – there does seem to a shot across the bows of Manchester City, Chelsea and Newcastle United, which indicates that if a club is spending more than seems suitable, the regulator could intervene.
The Premier League have made it clear that they are instinctively against a regulator being bought in
It says that ‘there may be extreme circumstances when it would be sensible for the Regulator to have a role in considering where the overall level of owner injections into the game’ if ‘the stability of the league could be severely threatened’.
The Premier League are instinctively against a regulator yet many of its members – especially the likes of West Ham, whose owner David Sullivan thinks it’s a ‘terrible idea’ – might find something to cheer here. Anything that makes for a more level playing field helps them.
Whatever the Premier League thinks, regulation is coming. There is an opportunity to reset the game for the next 30 years. The formation of the Premier League in 1992 got much right but also created grotesque distortions.
Football’s had had 30 years to sort this out so having been so ineffective for so long, they can hardly complain that the Government has had to step in. The government are, after all, representatives of the people. And this is, as we’re frequently told, the people’s game.
Source of data and images: dailymail
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You would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh. On Thursday, the Government announced its White Paper for sorting out football’s governance mess and a new regulator is coming, probably in time for the 2025-26 season. But the best paragraph was buried in section 3.21, a hilarious riposte to the Big Six …
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