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MPs let Premier League powerbrokers off the hook

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David Bond | 18:46 UK time, Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Despite spending almost two hours questioning the Premier League's hierarchy on Tuesday, MPs missed a valuable opportunity to shed a clearer light on why there is so much pressure on football to make big changes.

True, the chief executive Richard Scudamore and chairman Sir Dave Richards, gave an impressive performance on a wide range of topics. But, once again, we failed to get a sense of where this select committee inquiry is heading.

Is it about the structure and perceived conflicts of interest inside the Football Association which makes it, arguably, less effective than it should be?

Is it about the debts carried by top clubs and financial regulation and who should take the lead?

Is it about the England team and why it keeps failing in World Cups?

Or is it about who owns Leeds United?

Of course it is about all these things but after listening to Scudamore and Richards robustly defend their corner in front of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, it would be easy to come away with the impression that nothing is broken.

According to the League's top two, there is no conflict of interest in Sir Dave Richards' role as a vice chairman of the FA and as chairman of the Premier League.

There is no opposition to plans to reform or to make the FA's board and council more inclusive and independent although, they argue, the FA, by its very nature, has to be a sum of football's constituent parts as an association of interests.

There is no need for the FA to introduce a new financial licensing system as the League's clubs (well, every one except Blackpool) have signed up for Uefa's new financial fair play system.

And on and on it went.

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Premier League will act on player behaviour - Scudamore


The League deserves great credit for introducing new regulations on debt, the ownership of clubs and even for its initiative last week to try and improve player behaviour.

But many in football believe these are things traditionally the FA should lead on. If not what else is the FA for?

And MPs failed to put Richards and Scudamore on the spot over why the League has felt the need to take on a greater governance role or indeed, whether it was appropriate for clubs to police themselves.

Scudamore's explanation was that he had a better chance as the clubs' trusted lieutenant to persuade them to introduce regulatory changes, than the FA.

But is that good enough? Shouldn't the FA act in the interests of the whole game, not just the 20 richest clubs.

All the headlines will no doubt focus on the acrimony between Richards and Scudamore and former FA chairman Lord David Triesman.

Richards said he was hurt at claims that he bullied Triesman and couldn't understand why he said he tried to block his attempts to change the FA.

Both Richards and Scudamore blamed Triesman for a lack of consultation - particularly on an FA submission to the former Culture Secretary Andy Burnham.

But both Triesman and his former chief executive Ian Watmore's claims of a dysfunctional FA cannot simply be dismissed as a breakdown in the relationship between the personalities at the top.

And unless this inquiry starts to focus on exactly where it thinks the FA and English football is broken, its eventual findings cannot possibly hope to fix it.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    David - "Turkeys don't vote for christmas" do they, so why be surprised that the PL top men see nothing wrong?

    your comment;
    "......And unless this inquiry starts to focus on exactly where it thinks the FA and English football is broken, its eventual findings cannot possibly hope to fix it." ... is spot on, but unfortunately the committee will continue to ask all the wrong people, because in truth they really don't want to know what the problem is; because if they do find out, they might have to do something about it! Heaven forbid!



  • Comment number 2.

    What exactly is the objective of the select committee? Given FIFAs rules against government interference into the running of national FAs, I don't see how they can "fix" anything without getting England suspended from international football.

  • Comment number 3.

    Money and hence the Premier League rules. That's what is also happening in the cricket too. There is no incentive for them to change the way it is going and Sky will gladly continue to pay top dollar for the rights. The fact that FIFA, UEFA etc appealed against us being allowed to show all World Cup and European Championship matches showed where the priorities of all football organisations lie, and certainly not to promote the welfare of the fans.

  • Comment number 4.

    Instant changes fans want to see: Scrap meaningless International friendlies, Cap or review ticket prices and player wages, Stage Semi final away from Wembley. Will they look at these? Probably not.

  • Comment number 5.

    The premier league fat cats and Scudamore are synonymous with spin and denial, hardly any of the football clubs are financially viable, living way beyond their means, paying salaries that make bankers look like minimum wage earners. If that single fact alone has not been recognised by those asking the questions then why should we be surprised that nothing will come of it? The FA is now a puppy of the PL, of course the PL should be governed and ruled by the FA, but then the money would have to be more equitably distributed in the game and that, heaven forbid, could never be allowed to happen!

  • Comment number 6.

    4. At 23:20pm on 5th Apr 2011, hudjer wrote:
    Instant changes fans want to see: Scrap meaningless International friendlies, Cap or review ticket prices and player wages, Stage Semi final away from Wembley. Will they look at these? Probably not.

    ------------

    Who wants to get rid of international friendlies? They're a very useful way of testing out a new national team setup against opposition when major tournament qualification isn't on the line, and when a country like Scotland gets a game against Brazil, it's huge for them. And I think we all saw how excited the Ghanaians were about playing England. Why would you want to take that away from them?

    The only way a wage cap can be implemented is by FIFA, not the FA, so don't bother bringing that up here. If the FA puts in a wage cap then all the biggest stars will simply ply their trade abroad where they can earn more.

    Mr Bond: I honestly couldn't tell what this brief and frankly very uninformative blog was about. What point were you trying to make? Where are all the details?

  • Comment number 7.

    Seventy odd years of international football for England.

    One appearance in a major final.

    By contrast, Germany has made 13 final appearances. (Euros and WC).

    And they say there is nothing wrong?








  • Comment number 8.

    Changes that need to be made:

    Salary caps. Top salary levels should be capped accordingly for each of the 4 professional divisions. This includes any bonuses or additional payments stipulated in a players contract - any additional payments offered or discovered are deemed illegal and the club should face sanctions.

    Transfer fee caps: These should be placed in line with UEFA's financial fair play rules and rigurously enforced. Rules should also be clearly laid out and well regulated - any club looking to get around this via owners using other owned company to make 'gratuity' payments to the club should face sanctions.

    All mid-season international friendlies should be scrapped. Friendly matches should only take place in the build up to professional tournaments.

    English teams playing in European competition should not play in the League Cup. This eases fixture congestion and makes it a far more interesting competition for other premier league and football league teams involved.

    FA cup replays should be scrapped. One-off fixtures only - there will be greater upsets and we won't have to watch pointless replays such as Manchester City Vs Notts County. This will also ease fixture congestion.

    Runners up in the FA cup should not qualify Europe if the winners already have. European places should only be for cup winners and if not that then league positioning.

    Goal line technology reviews for close goal decisions ONLY.

    Remove the fourth official. This is a Non-Job and is an excuse for managers to hurl abuse at an official who has no control on the match. Stadium should have/be provided with a member of staff who can hold up the board or ensure substitutions are conducted appropriately.

    Post match sanctions against unsporting behaviour. Incidents of unsporting behaviour - diving, offensive gestures and language and violence should ALWAYS result in fines for the player (not the club) and an automatic ban of a length depending on the incident. This is not universally applied - especially in the case of diving which is not being dealt with.

    Managers, clubs and players should be punished (as they are now but on a far more universal basis) for disrespectful behaviour during and post match towards referees. The referee has an IMPOSSIBLE job when he has 22 players and 2 sets of coaching staff who could not care less if he gets the decision right, only that it benefits their team. It is ridiculous that managers and players are still somehoe oblivious to this. It is the clubs that have to adapt a culture of fair play - NOT THE REFEREES.

    Get rid of Fabio Capello.

    Rant over.

  • Comment number 9.

    The League deserves great credit for introducing new regulations on debt, the ownership of clubs and even for its initiative last week to try and improve player behaviour.

    ==

    Does it???? Fans have been screaming about owners buying clubs for the wrong reasons for decades. The Premier League sat back and watched americans place the league's most financially sound club £700m in debt overnight.

    They allowed Shinawatra control of city, then there was the debacle of Portsmouth.

    They have watched agents steal millions out of the game, players get more and more for achieving less and less.

    The only interest they have ever had is MONEY. Hence the 39th game rubbish. They have completely abandoned the game itself, that's why the new wembley was seen more importantly as a cash cow, full of executive seats turning backs on the real supporters that turned up in their thousands before 1999.

    The governing bodies in this country are not fit for purpose

  • Comment number 10.

    Seem to recall something similar in the early days of the previous government with David Mellor chairing public meetings around the country ( I attended one in London) but at least then all fans were given the right to air views and not just those who supposedly represent us without being properly elected to do so.

    Personally I think that the Premier League has been a success, not that in 1992 I anticipated my club being part of it especially for as long as they have been. I am also in favour of Premier League II (English clubs only though)

    Agree with those who say get rid of friendly internationals, particulaly those in August and February as these block up weeks which could be better utilised.

    Game 39 was a mistake and hopefully it will not happen. Nor must we reduce the size of the Premier League or indulge those who argue for a winter break. Thankfully the unpredictable weather in England is a good case against that. As a fan I want to be attending games throughout the season although I would like a more consistent finish date (eg: second Sunday in May).

  • Comment number 11.

    Nothing about agents.
    Nothing about player wages.
    Nothing about the fact that being in the Prem accelerates COSTS as well as income.
    Nothing about the self-regulatory powers invested in a self-interst group.
    Nothing about cashing in on player transfers by everyone and their dog.

    Nothing can be done whilst Scudamore thinks all is well and the PL is a great competition.

  • Comment number 12.

    Proving once again that the most important thing in football is Leeds United.

  • Comment number 13.

    @8: "Remove the fourth official. This is a Non-Job and is an excuse for managers to hurl abuse at an official who has no control on the match. Stadium should have/be provided with a member of staff who can hold up the board or ensure substitutions are conducted appropriately."

    Are you sure? Who do you think replaces an official if he/she gets injured? Should all football clubs be required to train a member of staff to national referee level?

    Your point about post-match punishments is fair and one I believe in, that already takes place in numerous countries and other sporting codes. It's entirely inconsistent, for example, that Rooney has been given a ban for swearing, but not for elbowing. The "we can't interfere if the referee's dealt with it" line is just another toothless FA excuse to not upset clubs. We all saw it except the three berks in black.

    For me, one of the most important things that needs to be addressed is the 'solidarity payment', which could be fairly increased across the board to the three other divisions by scrapping the reward for failure that teams get for being relegated from the Premiership. Using this money to help clubs set up training academies, to increase the national talent pool, would be the best use. Instead, the rich continue to get richer and other clubs are shut down for matters of thousands of pounds. Solidarity, my backside.

  • Comment number 14.

    #8

    Salary caps, transfer fee caps, cutting friendlies and removing the fourth official are not going to happen for a variety of reasons, most of which have been touched on in other posts. Your suggestions regarding the two cups, goal line technology and disciplinary matters are all clearly possible and would improve the game immeasurably. Interestingly, a similar approach to cup competitions is what allows Serie A to start later and take a winter break. UEFA club competitions in the Autumn provide 6 slots to play League Cup fixtures if the UEFA qualified clubs are exempted. Doubling up in those slots with the League Cup provides degrees of freedom that would allow cancelled matches to be reassigned without causing end of season congestion. It would also provide the opportunity for a 2/3 week break after Boxing day.

    I think #10 misses the point of the winter break. It's to provide clubs with the opportunity to get players back to fitness after 5 months of pretty much continuous, two games a week, football. For us (and Italy) it's not about the weather. The advantages in terms of player freshness both for domestic games and in UEFA competitions I believe would outweigh arguments against a break per se. Unfortunately the revenue lost as a result of rejigging the cups might be seen to be too great - especially that lost by lower division clubs who might have got the coveted replay against a giant. (This possibly could be addressed by linking the gate split to the regular time result - a lower division team getting a larger share for a tie at that point, for example - although the larger clubs might resist that curtailment of their revenue.)

  • Comment number 15.

    I do not actually see the point of this "select committee", or even understand what they are setting out to achieve. Where do FIFA's regulations regarding government interference fit in with this enquiry?
    In any event, it appears to be a case of asking the wrong questions of the wrong people, and all a bit pointless.

  • Comment number 16.

    "Instant changes fans want to see: Scrap meaningless International friendlies, Cap or review ticket prices and player wages, Stage Semi final away from Wembley. Will they look at these? Probably not."

    Agree with all bar the International friendlies bit - they are very meaningfull if approached by the managers and players in the correct manner, and can be immensely usefull.

    The single most important issue in my view is they way in which a select few clubs can monopolise football in general to the demise of other clubs. Could this be changed with the introduction of a salary cap, along with a cap on transfer fees and agents fess? I would probably guess so.

    Possibly a points deudction for the amount of debt each club operates? It would initially turn the table upside down, but surely all would stabalise eventually, and we would actually see some genuine competition from allot more teams in English footy.

  • Comment number 17.

    #12

    As if there was ever any doubt

  • Comment number 18.

    I think there's still a lot of wishful thinking about making big changes to the finances of the game, especially those regarding players wages. Players are free agents, mostly earning their wages in EU-member states. It would be about as easy to restrict their wages as it would to restrict the wages of bankers or bus drivers. Even Sepp Blatter-FIFA and Platini-UEFA, hiding behind Swiss laws, would want to avoid a confrontation with an EU court.
    The big clubs know this too, despite acting like a cartel in flagrant disregard of anti-trust principles that allegedly apply to "normal" companies and industries. I'm just itching to see if UEFA ever actually tries to enforce any of it's financial fair-play regulations. Clubs like Chelsea have already shown themselves ready to reach for the lawyers if anybody tries to get a bit too "heavy" with them.

    This select committee is probably just a few, possibly concerned, politicians wanting to be seen doing something in a very high-profile area, but they are effectively powerless unless the government decides to legislate (Comment #2 is a fair one, but governments are certainly never afraid to get involved by using, for example, health & safety arguments. I think FIFA is partly bluffing. It just depends on whether the country/government is one small enough to be bullied. Existing EU employment and corporate laws are simply too big for them).

    As for the general select committee thing, I think I'm correct in saying that select committees can order anyone to turn up and speak to them, but are completely impotent in the face of people who basically just turn up and laugh at them. Kelvin McKenzie did it when he was editor of the Sun some years ago. It made for some of the best TV I'd seen in years.

    However, if the PL or a TV company felt the need to recruit some paid lobbyists or "consultants" for a bit of protection in the house, then the MP's might not complain too loudly.

  • Comment number 19.

    Normy AVFC-

    Remove the fourth official. This is a Non-Job and is an excuse for managers to hurl abuse at an official who has no control on the match. Stadium should have/be provided with a member of staff who can hold up the board or ensure substitutions are conducted appropriately.
    -----

    Something similar is already done in the upper divisions of Rugby Union, where both teams have a person/persons responsible for making sure that substitutions and the like are conducted properly. There is still a match official on the bench, but he is there to act as a reserve official, and to assist both benches in the substitutions.

    In Rugby League, each team has an 'interchange' official, who's duty it is to ensure that their respective benches act in accordance with the laws of the game, and that any problems can be dealt with, quickly and efficiently.

    To implement it in football would require forward thinking from the powers in charge, and I don't think that they have the guts to do so.

  • Comment number 20.

    Do not agree with those who suggest Semi Finals being moved away from Wembley.
    Having Semi Finals at Wembley can only enhance the occasion for fans whose clubs do not frequently make it that far in the competition. When were Bolton, Stoke or even Manchester City last at Wembley. A decade ago in each case. OK Bolton did play at the Millenium Stadium but fine venue though it is, its not Wembley.

 

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