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Opinion

New rules of engagement – Five suggested rules to save football

6 months ago
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Manchester United fans have shown how to protest and created a global talking point with their actions, with broadcasters and pundits across the globe forced to fill two hours to discuss why the game was postponed.

What a result.

Rather than talk about what we as Newcastle United fans should have done, I’d prefer to focus on what we could do next, in collaboration with the rest of the football community (fans of other Premier League clubs etc), rather than just focused on Ashley and SDFC (let’s face it we’ve not been very good at that so far).

Government intervention has been promised but what would that look like? The 50+1 model in Germany has been mentioned a lot, but that’s an ownership model established many years ago and couldn’t really work here, given the value of the clubs.

However, I’d suggest the question is really about control not ownership. The owners will never own the soul of a football club, they can stomp on it, and try to reduce the appeal but that’s not to anyone’s advantage. The new rules need to balance between the benefits of owning a football club and the voice of the fans.

An independent regulator of football has also been mentioned. That would give football a referee off the pitch (so to speak) but what would they actually regulate, how would that work?

Here are some suggestions to give an independent regulator something to regulate in relation to the governance of football clubs and ownership. It’s long overdue as the current rules aren’t fit for purpose and are being ignored.

Debt

Owners cannot take profits from the club if the club is in debt. Debt must be serviced first.

Profit

If no debt exists, the owners can take profits but that is limited to 10%(?) of the annual profit.

Control

A new ‘Governance’ share class to be issued by each football club, to be split 50/50 between owners and established fan groups.

The new regulator would set the rules and structure of the new share class, based on the governance of the game, and the club. This would ensure the fans have an actual voice balanced against the owner managing the club.

I’m borrowing this idea from Facebook, where Mark Zuckerburg only owns 28% of the company, but retains all the control as he owns all the ‘voting’ shares.

Governance

Introduce a requirement for a minimum number of directors. I’ve heard Arsenal fans complaining they only have four directors? We famously have just the one, hardly fit for purpose for a multi million £££ business.

Also maybe the regulator actually has a chair at the table at the Premier League level, in a non-exec role.

Structure

The football club assets must be held within a single legal entity registered in the UK. That would prevent the club being split across 200 different legal entities and keep everything within the jurisdiction of UK company law.

That’s it.

Five suggested rules to save football. All related to governance, and company law, nothing about ‘actual’ football.

How the hell did it come to this?

P.S If any of these ideas happened, imagine what we’d find out about what was ‘really’ going on within St James Park.

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