In past years football clubs in this country were usually owned by wealthy local individuals, people who had done well for themselves and wanted to put something back into the community. These people were local and usually unknown to anyone except that clubs fans. Since the influx of billions of pounds of TV money and the worldwide coverage of English football the ownership model has changed significantly and we now we have two additional types of owner – the vanity project of people like Abramovitch at Chelsea or Sheik Mansour at Man City and, more worryingly for many, those that think they can make money out of football like the Glazers at Man Utd, Venkys at Blackburn and SISU at Coventry. The danger of the vanity project is simply that should the billionaire benefactor get bored and walk away the club is ruined whilst the investment model is flawed simply because, although the money in the Premiership is vast, outside of that there is hardly a club making any money whatsoever.
The governance of football has been discussed for many years but in the past few it has got serious with Government getting involved. In 2011 the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee into football governance chaired by John Whittingdale MP for Maldon reported “The government has said it will encourage the reform of football governance rules to support the co-operative ownership of football clubs by supporters and there is widespread concern that the current governance arrangements are not fit for purpose.”
In January 2013 this committee stated “While some progress has been achieved much greater reform is needed. Proposals (from FA, FL and PL) simply don’t address fundamental problems including the way supporters are engaged at club level and membership of the Main Board which is not fully representative or able to balance interests adequately.” They then went on to say that if football cannot reform itself within 12 months then the government should introduce legislation as soon as practically possible. 12 months have passed and there have been no significant changes.
Last week the Government Committee on Mutuals presented its own report on football governance and basically reached the same conclusions. They said that the football authorities are refusing to change, to acknowledge the fans needs. Engaging with fans in the running and ownership of the clubs is vital for the future of the game.
On 28th Feb Damian Collins – MP for Folkestone and Hythe – presents the second reading of his private members bill to parliament about football governance. This bill is designed to reform football governance and make it more transparent and accountable – to ensure fair financial dealings between professional football clubs and their supporters.
This is all well and good but what does it mean to us Coventry fans? Our team is playing 35 miles away from its home city with little prospect of a return – we have been let down by the owners, by the local authority and, significantly, by the football authorities. The Football League bent every one of their own rules to allow this ridiculous situation to happen and they have let every Coventry fan down and we need to show our displeasure.
City supporters are showing their opposition to this move with thousands simply not attending matches at Sixfields. We have also had marches and petitions but on top of this I believe we should support the Parliamentary moves to help reform the governance of football, to try and prise the fingers of self interested owners from the reigns of power and return some say to us, the fans. There is an online petition by City fans asking parliament to look at the situation at Coventry and it is worth every Coventry fan signing it. More significantly I believe writing to your MP urging them to support Damian Collins bill would show the Football League how unhappy we are with the way they have treated Coventry fans. Make them aware of your desire for reform of governance in general. lt might not help solve the crisis at Coventry directly but it might put pressure on the Football League to get more involved with the Sky Blues rather than shutting their eyes and hoping it all goes away. It might just help to find a solution in getting our club back to Coventry.
The football authorities are scared of government legislation on football as it would disturb their cosy, insular, self interested little world – as football fans we want our clubs back and supporting the select committee, mutuals committee and the Private Members bill is a start. Contact your MP and make your feelings known – remember they work for you and should represent your views. Write to them today.