Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fans not financiers should run football

 Source: Socialist Party

 Professional football in Britain is stumbling from one crisis to another. After repeatedly failing to deal with racism, attention returns to financial malpractice. In one week, two of Britain's most famous clubs, Portsmouth and Glasgow Rangers have gone into administration.

In both cases short-term club owners have taken a cavalier attitude to their responsibilities to run the clubs in a financially prudent manner, neglecting to make adequate provision to pay tax and other liabilities. The victims, again, are the communities the clubs are based in, the supporters, charities such as St John's Ambulance and small businesses.

In the premier league era, attention has focussed on some players' inflated wages. The real story however has been off the pitch.

Clubs in Britain have been attractive for speculators and their retinue of agents, accountants, solicitors and other advisers, looking for windfall profits if they can get them into a higher league or European competition. And speculators find that the Football League welcomes them with open arms.

As the Football League explained: "At all times following its takeover of Portsmouth, Convers Sports Initiatives (CSI, the owners), complied with the requirements of the owners' and directors' test as set out in the regulations of the Football League".

The League failed to mention that its 'test' is largely self-certification and the absence of any fraud convictions. They don't say that the majority shareholder of CSI was prevented by the Financial Services Authority from gaining a UK banking licence. If speculators' plans don't work out, taxpayers and the local community pick up the losses.

Many people have an obsessive interest in football. With the increasing harshness of everyday life for workers and young people, this is no surprise. Football should provide some light relief.

Portsmouth and Rangers fans should demand genuine open inquiries into financial mismanagement. These inquiries should primarily involve supporters, non-playing staff, players' representatives and elected local authorities. They need to expose how the clubs have been run.

The football leagues should also be exposed as a cabal of owners rather than organisations with football's wider interests at heart.

Football should be controlled by the fans. This will require building on the achievements of fans-owned clubs such as AFC Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester.

Dave Maples