Monday, 18 June 2012

Writing to the FA about football ownership

I have been asked what is happening in terms of Coventry City and SISU. Since my letter from Councillor Mutton refusing my request for a meeting, I have heard nothing back from SISU.
I have written the following to the Department of Media, Sport and Culture and have sent copies to the FA. Something needs to be done about football ownership as it costs all parties

"In recent months I have received hundreds of letters from concerned and worried constituents about English football club ownership and I feel this has now got to a stage where the Government needs to take a stronger role in vetting individuals before they are allowed to buy into our football leagues.

While I am resistant to the idea of the Government involvement in the day to day workings of football, such as transfers and ticketing, I feel that there should now be closer links between the Government and the FA when it comes to the ownership of football clubs.

In recent years we seem to have a constant stream of clubs who are facing the courts as they owe large amounts of money to creditors such as HMRC among others. More often than not, HMRC are not able to reclaim all the money owed to them, which is costing the UK exchequer money.

It seems patently obvious to me that the FA’s approval system, “The Fit and Proper Persons Test” does not work, otherwise these situations would not keep arising. At what point does the Government plan to get involved and take a stand over ownership which is detrimental to both football club and the nation’s finances?

At this current point in time, there is nothing in the fit and proper person’s test which examines any bid for a football club in detail, and there is no test to prove that there is the genuine money behind the bids. I am aware that the Premier League “Fit and Proper Persons test” is slightly more stringent than that is applied in the football league. However, the Government must put further pressure onto the league to tighten up its guidelines. It is detrimental to both fans, the football clubs and the country if these ideas are not put into force.

We are incredibly lucky in the fact that football is a huge part of the national culture in this country, and people have strong feelings towards football ownership. These feelings sadly come to light in an even greater way when they feel their club is threatened.

My biggest worry is that in the next few years a large football club is going to disappear from the football league due to poor management of clubs finances. Football clubs cannot be allowed to go into oblivion such as this and the British football culture needs to be protected. What also needs to be protected is the British money which is lost when football clubs are unable to pay back money to bodies such as HMRC, and even to smaller creditors who can be potentially put out of business due to reckless owners running up unserviceable debts.

What immediate plans does the Government have to oversee the buyouts of football clubs? What can the Government do to work alongside the FA to enforce more stringent checks as a part of the “fit and proper persons test?” What can be done to protect the vulnerable lower league clubs where the test is less stringent?

As a keen and concerned football fan, as well as a local politician, I would welcome any thoughts you have on these issues and would be glad to speak to you about them if you think appropriate."