English football needs better regulation. When people who are anything but fit and proper are allowed to take control of football clubs, it shows the current system is dysfunctional and not working. The price can be high: clubs like Bury with over 100 years of history cease to be.
Highly leveraged takeovers which shouldn’t be allowed load debt onto clubs like Manchester United, with the fans paying off or servicing those debts. Owners act in their own interests and against those who have supported their clubs all their lives. Clubs signed up to a proposed European Super League without bothering to communicate with their fans, staff, players and managers. That would have destroyed the concept of sporting merit and open competition. It was a cynical power grab. There was a significant backlash and the plans were dropped, but it must not happen again.
The UK government is planning a fan-led review into football which could lead to lasting change to an array of important concerns including co-ordinated strategies to deal with racism, supporters’ representation within clubs, ticket costs, kick-off times and the distribution of income and other important issues.
This is all encouraging, especially for fans who have not had their voices heard sufficiently. Past government interventions have been limited, but football needs an independent referee to safeguard the game impartially.
The appointment of a regulatory body to represent the interests of fans, to protect against bad practices, adjudicate as the overarching body on matters involving the English Football Association, Premier League and English Football League would prioritise the wider good of the game rather than the self-interests of a few.
Water companies, energy companies and the media all have an independent regulator. Football should have one too.
Tracey Crouch, Member of Parliament and former sports minister, will oversee the fan-led review. I hope she will recommend the appointment of a regulator with significant powers.
The Premier League recognises the need for stronger regulation, but the league's chief executive Richard Masters said last week that he didn't think football needed an independent regulator. A group of former England players including Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Jamie Carragher, Micah Richards and Jamie Redknapp are behind a petition calling for one, which needs 100,000 signatures from UK citizens before it is heard.
Andy Mitten is The National's European football correspondent, the author of several books and editor of the United We Stand fanzine