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Opinion

The depressing state of football club ownership

4 weeks ago
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As I write this, Bolton and Bury fans are anxiously waiting for news about the future of their clubs.

It’s impossible to even begin to understand how they must be feeling right now.

A football club is about more than just 90 minutes on a Saturday. They are the heartbeat of their local communities. They need to be protected as such.

Our own issues with Mike Ashley have been well publicised and there are several other clubs who are currently in the hands of dubious ownership.

The FA, EFL and Premier League continue to sit on their hands while this is happening. They simply don’t care.

Bury owner Steve Dale passed the EFL fit and proper persons test at the end of 2018 and was cleared to proceed with his takeover despite not having the funds to run the club. When this became apparent, the EFL absolved themselves of any responsibly and the club has missed multiple payments to companies and continuously failed to pay its staff.

Back office staff at football clubs are not usually paid glamorous wages and will be relying on their income for food, mortgages etc. Imagine what would happen if you were not paid this month? This has not just happened at Bury. Over 10% of football league clubs failed to pay their players on time at least once last season.

Bolton Wanderers fans are also nervously waiting to find out if their football club will survive. They were a Premier League club as recently as 2011/2012 but have been financially mismanaged under owner Ken Anderson. The club recently fell out with Forest Green Rovers after their failure to pay loan player Christian Doidge. Forest Green Chairman Dale Vince has described Anderson as a “a rogue chairman, a slippery character and untrustworthy”. The first team squad has not been paid for five months.

In the North East, Gateshead lost their place in the National League Premier Division and almost went out of business this summer after breaching league financial rules under previous owner Dr Ranjan Varghese. Only a last minute takeover from a consortium led by Neil Pinkerton saved them from oblivion. They started this season in the National League North Division.

It all brings me back to that famous quote by Sir Bobby Robson.

“What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city.”

The football governing bodies simply don’t understand this.

Football clubs need to be recognised as community assets and I also urge the government to create an independent football regulator.

A petition has been started by fans group Against League 3 and I urge you to sign it so we can protect the football clubs we love.

You can read more about this and sign the petition HERE.

You can follow Kieran on Twitter @KJR90

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