Kicking On – What Next For Football

Our Trust Chair, Keith Morgan, outlined the difficulties facing all EFL clubs as they try to rebuild after lockdown. The cases of Bury and Wigan particularly should ring alarm bells throughout the game of football.

Cardiff Trust Board member and former Vice Chair of Supporters Direct, Tim Hartley, suggests some positive ways forward to ensuring clubs do not go out of business.

They say you must speculate to accumulate but as anyone with a credit card knows extending yourself too far is a one way ticket to financial disaster. And with hyper inflated transfer fees and eye watering players’ wages that is exactly what football seems to have been doing. We all want success but would you risk betting the actual existence of Cardiff City on the slim chance of promotion?

Football finance has become a law unto itself and the authorities who allegedly control the game have lost their grip on who buys, manages and safeguards the game. For years Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Association (FSA) have warned that there was a crisis looming and what we have seen at Bury, Bolton and Wigan has proved them right.

The problem is the lack of desire on behalf of the FA, PL and EFL to properly regulate the game. As we in Cardiff know anyone it seems can buy a football club and then do what they want with it. Supporters groups (including the Cardiff City Supporters Trust) have given evidence to a number of parliamentary inquiries to try to improve the way the game is run.They joined the government task force on football and helped ensure structured relationships between clubs and supporter trusts are now mandatory. All this was agreed with the FA and the leagues.

It’s now time to go deeper into the underlying problems and ensure that the business side of the game is properly regulated. Following yet another inquiry the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) Committee last year recommended a raft of proposals to improve the regulation of football clubs and prevent them from falling into crisis.

Chair of the Committee Damian Collins MP said: “We believe decisive action is now needed from the football authorities to ensure that clubs are complying fully with the EFL’s football finance rules and regulations.A failure to enforce these rules effectively will see more clubs entering administration and at risk of expulsion from the Football League.”

The FSA submitted written proposals which focused on the creation of a robust, independent regulator under the auspices of the FA. Football’s self-regulatory regime contributed to the demise of Bury FC and a lack of action could put more clubs at risk in future.

The Committee agreed and backed a number of FSA ideas on protecting club and strengthening the owners’ and directors’ test – and more. The recommendations include:

  • The FA, EFL and Premier League should establish a supporters’ ombudsman to hear concerns about how clubs are being run
  • A reformed Owners and Directors Test should be brought in to disqualify a buyer with a record of corporate insolvency
  • Clubs should be banned from borrowing against fixed assets such as stadiums, other than for related capital projects
  • There should be a formal and enforceable licensing system for professional football clubs in the English league system, as recommended in the 2011 report on Football Governance
  • Government legislation for independent system of football licensing and regulationshouod be brought in if the reforms are not implemented.

The message to the footballing authorities from supporters and MPs is very simple, change or be changed. Let’s hope the government at last listens to us.