Competence exam could halt rebellion
THEY held an open meeting in Blackburn on Thursday after the supporters’ trust called for theboard of directors to quit and the BRFC Action Group demanded Venky’s sell up. In Nottingham, owner Fawaz Al Hasawi was asked by Forest’s supporters’ trust to explain what is happening at the two-time European champions. And, in Blackpool, an ongoing ‘ethical protest’ extends to asking away fans not to contribute to club coffers.
Then there are Leeds United and Newcastle United, Charlton Athletic and Fulham, Coventry City and Leyton Orient, all clubs where fans are either in open revolt or, at the very least, wondering if their owner has a Scooby about running a football club.
When you get a new job, the likelihood is there will be some form of training provided, even if it is just an induction course. When you take the kids to try something different, an instructor will run through the basics. If you want to be a football coach, there are badges to be earned before you are allowed anywhere near an academy.
But, assuming you have enough cash and are not proven to be a criminal, anyone can buy a football club and immediately begin taking decisions that affect the daily lives of thousands of people.
Some people get it right. They take good advice, hire experts and learn swiftly. Think of Tony Bloom at Brighton, Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones at Norwich and, though it is early days, Kelvin Thomas at Northampton and Dean Holdsworth’s consortium at Bolton. Others...well, let’s start with the well-meaning but naive, such as Tony Fernandes.
Most QPR fans appear to support Fernandes, who is clearly ambitious for the club and has invested heavily in it. But, largely through listening to the wrong people, he has made some expensive errors. So, too, Venky’s, though they seem incapable of learning from their mistakes.
Then there are the chairmen who do know something about football, but not as much as they think they do. They might lack experience of the English game, or patience, or plain common sense. The Italians running Leeds and Leyton Orient would seem to fall into this category, along with Roland Duchatelet at Charlton.
Plus there are people who you simply wonder why on earth they bought a football club, like SISU at Coventry, Shahid Khan at Fulham and Anton Zingarevich’s short tenure at Reading. The prospect of making more money is obviously a motivation for many, but they swiftly discover football clubs can lose money too.
The fiscal rewards of getting into the Premier League are obvious (though Blackburn, QPR, Fulham and Newcastle were, of course, in the top flight when their current owners bought them), but the unpreparedness of many owners is alarming.
The EFL’s owners’ and directors’ test assesses whether a ‘relevant person’ (ie, someone in a position of power within a club) is honest. What is does not do is measure if they are competent. It should do. While the EFL, which has had enough legal problems applying the owners’ and directors’ test, notably with Massimo Cellino, is unlikely to wish to extend its remit, there is a desperate need to do so.
The owners’ and directors’ test is there, according to the EFL, “to protect the image and integrity of the League and its competitions, the well-being of the clubs and the interests of all of the stakeholders in those clubs”. Surely the incompetence shown by many owners damages the image and integrity of the League, and the interests of thefans.
The competence test would check basic knowledge of football and its administration, playing and managerial contracts, the transfer market, agents, etc. Maybe, with special reference to some named above, it might even ask: ‘Did you know your club can be relegated?’ Those failing would have to commit to a course of instruction at two levels: a basic test for any new owner and an advanced one, which either the owner or his key executive would have to pass.
Will it happen? Not in the immediate future. But for more than a century there was no test.
All it needs is some strong and farsighted leadership of the League. So, not any time soon.
SMART MOVE? Chris Martin has left Derby for Fulham on a season’s loan AMONG the many deadlineday in deals, one stood out the Championship: Chris seasonlong Martin to Fulham on a the loan from Derby. Assuming war breaking club can prevent civil staff and out between coaching scores goals analysts, Martin, who and makes them for players make around him, could soon fans forget the loss of Ross McCormack.