IMUSA - Independent Manchester United Supporters Association

Behind the windows of Manchester there is an insane love of football, of celebration

- Eric Cantona

IMUSA news

The DCMS report into the governance of football

29th July 2011

The long awaited DCMS report into the governance of football has now been published.

Its main conclusions are given below but in essence the DCMS have given an FA that has been rendered incapable of reform by the influence of the Premier League, a year to reform itself or else

The or else isn’t spelt out but if this does involve legislation the glacial pace of Parliamentary reform means that this ‘threat’ is more than likely to be lost in the run-up to the next general election and thence, forgotten about.

It's the fudge we always knew it would be and Richard Scudamore will no doubt be sleeping well in his bed tonight.

IMUSA’s written evidence to the DCMS inquiry pleaded the case for football to be treated as a cultural activity and protected as such.

Additional evidence sent directly to committee members informed them that nobody now knows for sure who owns Manchester United because Red Football LLC (the company that ultimately owns Manchester United) has been moved to the US state of Delaware, where details of its ownership are no longer in the public domain.

Our calls were therefore for complete transparency of ownership, a move away from the current emphasis on football as purely a business activity and for a greater role for fans.

In the event, whilst the DCMS showed an interest in the issues recently surrounding the ownership of Leeds United (even ‘urging’ the FA to demonstrate its new resolve by conducting a thorough investigation) they seemed not to understand how useless ‘a strong fit and proper persons test’ is when you don’t know for sure that the person putting themselves forward as a club’s owner is, in fact, the owner.

IMUSA has repeatedly argued the case for complete transparency of ownership on these grounds and because of FA rules requiring them to know who owns more than 10% of any of their member clubs and UEFA rules preventing one individual/entity owning more than one football club on competition grounds. It should be obvious to all that lack of transparency about ownership challenges the integrity of the whole game and leaves it wide open to corruption.

Whilst the DCMS report placed great emphasis on Supporters’ Direct and the shoddy way they have been treated by the Premier League, it gave no consideration to the FSF’s funding from the same source also being placed in jeopardy.

Further, the DCMS actually argued for a maintenance of the illegal protectionism in the selling to TV broadcast rights that means UK fans get charged more to watch football on TV than our European counterparts.

The DCMS report therefore describes a game that is hugely influenced by a money-, not sport-orientated Premier League, that is business-, not fan-orientated and spite of this, one that still manages to get itself more into debt the more turnover it has.

The DCMS committee were also presented with clear evidence that the FA is incapable of running the game in its present form and that it is incapable of reform because of the Premier League’s influence.

Yet still the best recommendation the DCMS could come up with was to urge the football authorities to consider their report and to threaten as a last resort to introduce legislation if they didn’t act on it.

IMUSA’s view is that football is in danger of losing its very soul unless strong action is taken.

We therefore say to Government that self regulation is no regulation and that football needs strong regulation, to protect it as a cultural, not business, activity.

IMUSA believes that the fans are the only ones left who care about their clubs as sporting institutions and that their close involvement in the running of their clubs is the only way to ensure the transparency needed to keep out the corrupting influences that would otherwise destroy the game.

Our call is therefore for Government to introduce legislation that requires all clubs currently in or promoted into the FA Premier League or Football League to be at least 51% owned by its ordinary members (i.e. the fans).

Main points of recommendation from the DCMS report on the governance of Football

The Committee recommends:

Imposing a rigorous and consistent formal licensing model throughout professional English football to promote sustainable forward-looking business plans and underpin self-regulation measures introduced by the Premier League and the Football League, and financial fair play regulations being introduced by UEFA.

A strong fit and proper persons test consistently applied, with a presumption against selling the ground unless it is in the club’s interest. The Committee says “there is no more blatant an example of lack of transparency than the recent ownership history of Leeds United” and urges the FA to investigate if necessary with the assistance of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

Abolishing the Football Creditors Rule: the Committee says it “epitomises the extent to which financial priorities are being distorted” and recommends that if the HMRC fails in its legal challenge to the rule, and football authorities do not address it, Government should consider scrapping it through legislation.

Amending the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 to recognise the special nature of supporters trusts and help them overcome the significant legal and bureaucratic hurdles they face when raising funding - the Government should also consider legislation to protect minority supporter stakes where they are facing a compulsory purchase order.

That the FA should review expenditure at the grass roots, with a particular emphasis on coaching education.

The Committee recommends urgent reform of the Football Association itself before it can take on the challenge of addressing the problems of English football. Specifically, the Committee says:

The FA board should number ten, consisting of the Chairman; the General Secretary; two further FA executive staff; two non-executives; two professional game representatives; and two national game representatives.

The reconstructed FA Board should reconsider whether the 50:50 divide of surplus revenues should be scrapped to allow it to take strategic decisions regarding the distribution of FA funds, and whether the National game Board and Professional Game Board promote strategic decision-making.

The FA should review the composition of the FA Council to improve inclusivity and reduce average length of tenure, with the reformed Council absorbing the shareholder role.