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Opinion

Call for club spending of Premier League distributed cash to be audited – Make Mike Ashley and others accountable

5 months ago
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How can we get rid of Mike Ashley?

I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of our support wish to see a change of ownership at the club.

The difficulty we have is that we don’t own the club, so effecting that change is not in our gift. We can only employ tactics which utilise our strengths, such as our great numbers and the passion that we have for our City and it’s Football Club.

The momentum is visibly building in the protests against the owner, and the way he runs his businesses. We can see that we are gaining support amongst the better Journalists and Politicians. Life is starting to become a little less comfortable for Mike Ashley on a number of fronts.

What I’ve set out below is just an idea, with the aim of hastening his departure. No doubt there’ll be others reading this with a lot more subject knowledge, who may be able to advise, develop, or dismiss this as an idea, see what you think.

First of all consider why he is still hanging on to owning the club in the face of massive dissent from the fan base.

Money.

Lots of it.

£123,000,000 last season in TV money, £20+ million profit in  the last transfer window, free advertising and so on……

As far as I’m aware the bulk of the clubs income, the TV money, doesn’t look like it’s being spent. There’s no tangible evidence of expenditure on that scale that I can see anywhere around the club.

So maybe it’s being used for another purpose, we don’t know for certain, we can only speculate. Maybe Ashley would consider selling if that money wasn’t available to him in quite the same way in future?

How do we achieve that?

Consider a campaign with the aim to reform how the authorities govern football. This may take years to achieve but once it can be seen coming down the road, it may have an  earlier effect.

The Football Association is the governing body of the sport. They oversee how the game is run in this country, at arms length you could say.

The Premier League is operated as a corporation and is owned by its twenty member clubs who are shareholders.

The FA aren’t involved in the day to day running of the PL.

The PL market the rights to broadcast games and receive money from the TV companies in return. This season they received £2.4 Billion.

This money is then distributed amongst the twenty clubs, with the aim of improving the game in their respective area.

The Premier League handbook states;

‘The collective and central way the Premier League markets its rights and distributes revenues to clubs supports them in their efforts to develop and acquire talented players, build and improve stadiums, and make a huge contribution to the entire football pyramid and a range of community programmes and good causes.’

Recently I wrote to the PL asking what audits are carried out, to confirm that these huge sums of money are being spent according to the above paragraph.

These are the responses I received.

‘There is no specific audit of how central payments are spent, however our Handbook contains wide-ranging requirements relating to relevant areas such as club finances, governance and stadium criteria etc. ‘

‘Newcastle United, like all clubs in the Premier League, is an independent body that is subject to and bound by the competition Rules.

Our role is to apply the Premier League handbook on behalf of the clubs and we cannot act outside of those Rules.

As mentioned previously, there are several Rules aimed at ensuring good governance of Premier League Clubs and they are of course also subject to Company Law.

All of our Clubs are equal shareholders in our competition and sign up to and invest in a number of agreed central initiatives. We cannot however make decisions about the day to day running of our member Clubs. They all have their own directors, management teams, lawyers, accountants and many other staff with that responsibility, and who they employ to fill these positions is entirely their decision.

We provide a framework that includes rules governing who” can invest in our Clubs and a requirement for Clubs to prove that they are sustainable by submitting future financial information showing they can meet their liabilities for the year ahead.’

The two statements that leap from the page are,

‘There are no specific audits on how the central payment is spent.’

‘We cannot however make decisions about the day to day running of our member Clubs.’

In other words, the PL receive £2.4 Billion and distribute it amongst the clubs, thereafter having no interest in how it is disposed of. Nor do they wish to be involved.

At least that’s how I see it.

Our task would be to seek reform, perhaps more robust requirements from the PL handbook,  where club owners would be required to demonstrate and account for the specific expenditure of the TV money, in accordance with the PL handbook; player development and recruitment, improving the stadium and training facilities etc…..Given  the huge sums of money involved, I’d argue that this should be happening anyway.

There is an argument which makes it difficult to impose reforms like those proposed, on what is basically a private corporation, but I would counter that by making the distinction that the FA and PL are the custodians of the National game, therefore we are all stakeholders who should have the right to demand reform where needed.

The bottom line being, for example, if Ashley was required to spend, or at least legally commit, all of the £123.000.000 on the club this year, being legally barred from moving the money elsewhere, he might sell.

With this reform in mind I’ve written to the Minister for Sport and Culture, Tracey Crouch MP, asking for a response to my concerns around this slack handling of enormous amounts of money.

If what’s going on concerns you as well, write to her.

As I said at the start, we have numbers on our side.
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