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Column: Clubs are part of the soul of their area
Britain is a free country.
Sport should not be controlled by the state. So what was the point of the meeting late yesterday afternoon between the Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, three MPs (Jake Berry, Graham Jones, me) and Blackburn Rovers’ Action Group?
Let Mr Robertson himself answer my question. When he took over as Minister two years ago he said that the “national game [professional club football] needs to deal with four issues. The fit and proper person test for club owners, transparency so that people looking at football clubs can see exactly what’s going on, the whole question of debt as a percentage of turnover, and governance.
"There are far too few people that sit on football boards, either in clubs or the organisations, that act independently. Most are part of the game’s vested interests.”
Mr Robertson went on to warn that failure would mean the Government will stepping in.
“One of the options would be an independent regulator to run the game.”
Since he said that the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee published a withering report which “lays out in stark detail the way in which the existing structures, governance arrangements and relationships have failed to keep pace with the challenges and expectations surrounding the modern game” – and that’s the Government’s take on the report. Blackburn Rovers’ predicament makes the whole case for urgent reform. It is not a one-off; but simply the latest in a long line of examples of lamentable supervision by the Premier League and the Football Association.
Those members of the Desai/Rao family (who own Venky’s) who I’ve met seemed perfectly decent people.
(I wish I’d had the chance to know them better – and that’s not for the want of trying by me).
But decency does not equal suitability, or understanding football clubs in Britain are not just commercial ventures, but part of the community, the soul, of the area from which they come.
It’s precisely because the democratic rights, the people’s rights, are being ignored by the current appalling “system” that Government action is overdue.