The Commons Inquiry into football governance

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By Phil Gregory

As the blog that has always written on the big issues such as finance and corruption before they become popular, it makes sense that Untold Arsenal would be interested in a Commons inquiry into football governance.

In particular I often harp on about football finance, but it appears an opportunity has actually arisen to do something about it. The inquiry is chaired by an opposition MP, and is inviting input from the wider public in the form of submitted reports. Tempted?  I am.

If you are a regular reader you might remember I did a bit of a Premier League finance review over the summer. From that, I learned a bit and decided to write a letter to the Minister for Sport and Culture, Hugh Robertson in which I raised various concerns about football finance in the English game.

I got a reply back in September, in which the government said, amongst other things, that “football governance is a matter for the football authorities to work on… it is only right that the football authorities are given time to get their house in order before there is any question of government intervention” . To go from that to the unveiling of a government inquiry marks a bit of an about-turn, if you ask me. I truly feel we have an opportunity here.

What I’m planning to during the writing of my report for the inquiry is to put together various articles on the different sections. Once up on the site, it’s your turn to give us your opinion and views of the proposed solutions, and to suggest alternatives and or improvements if you see fit. By this, my hope is that the report will benefit from the collective know-how of Untold Arsenal and its readership.

Once finished, there’ll be a petition that you can sign saying you support the proposals within the report so that we can submit it with real force of opinion behind it. We’ll support the petition with Facebook and Twitter campaigns, so people can show their support for the proposals even if they’re not an Untold Arsenal reader. The issues in football finance should concern all clubs and all supporters, so let’s put together the report with the full support of Untold Arsenal, and then take it further to get heard as widely as possible.

There are six key points that the inquiry wants reports to look at, varying from the uniqueness of football clubs as businesses to the very competence of football authorities. Those two, plus questions about the level of debt in the game and justifications for government intervention are the four main points that I’m going to focus my word count on, as I feel they are the main issues.

Throughout January I’ll be submitting a series of articles to the site, which will hopefully go into their own index for ease of reading. As I said earlier, the articles are being written both to entertain as well as inform so that if you decide to support the report via signing the petition, you do so with an informed opinion.

The articles are also a form of quality control: I’ll be reading and responding to every comment, so if you want to suggest another angle or opinion or simply think I’m talking plain nonsense, write a quick comment.

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11 Replies to “The Commons Inquiry into football governance”

  1. Very interesting… certainly a good opportunity to crack down on debt levels to stop clubs booming and busting themselves out! There must be a lot of good analysis out there already on this topic, in case that might spare you some time!

  2. Either this is just a ploy by the govt. to temporarily appease the growing number of people who are getting tired of the way football is being governed in the country, or its a huge opportunity to bring about a real change.
    Phil, I hope that with the leadership of Untold, together we can do something here.

  3. I think you should get the timing right on this one. This would have been a good idea around a year ago…but Liverpool are out of debt now and United have settled some of their debts. The impact that you’re hopin to make will be very low now.

  4. @Dark Prince,

    I think you have misunderstood. Phil has created this article in response to the recently announced inquiry into football finances, he hasn’t made any decision on its timing.

    And why do you think this would have been a good idea ‘a year ago’? Liverpool were bought by NESV less than 3 months ago and aren’t out of the woods just yet, while it’s still not clear where Man Utd got the money to pay off a slice of their debt – it might be the debt has simply shifted to somewhere else.

    Football finance is as important an issue as it’s ever been.

  5. Wrenny- i dont think bad footballing governance or finance will be too much of a worry for the football associations unless the citizens are directly involved and are affected economically by it. Are the fan’s finances directly affected by Liverpool heapin lots of debts?? Dont think so…so the football associations wont mind whats goin on in the accounts of the clubs.

  6. Phil,

    Glad to see you’re embracing the opportunity to provide input to the Select Committee’s Call for Evidence. I eagerly await your report. I similarly am publishing my personal responses to the Committee’s questions on my (far less trafficked!) blog England Till I Die. My response to the first of the Committee’s 6 questions around the subject of whether football clubs should be treated differently to other commercial organizations can be found at

    Looking forward to standing behind your petition and social network campaigns when launched as well.

    Mark Usher

  7. Cheers for the support people.

    Thanks for the link Mark, I like your blog and plan on subscribing later on if you have an rss ! enjoyed your article, and really liked how you’d taken a completely different perspective to me (I focused more on the nitty gritty of finance, how football clubs don’t suit traditional accounting standards, how lax regulations around LBOs are daft etc). I’ll type it up as an article for Untold soon, but Tony’y already got two articles to publish from me so I’m holding off for now! Thanks again for the link, always interesting to read the thoughts of others working along the same lines.

  8. The football associations will be concerned about debt because UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations are coming their way fast and the first club that gets barred from a UEFA competition under FFP immediately becomes an issue for that club’s association.

    MP’s constituents are rightly concerned about their clubs and what bothers constituents bothers the MPs – constituents = voters so their are risks and rewards for MPs a bandwagon to ride or electoral disadvantage if the concerns are ignored.

    BTW this is a parliamentary inquiry not a government one, unlikely that legislation will arise and anyway much of this this legal sphere comes under the EU so any legal framework embracing FFP would have to be an EU directive – but the inquiry will bring these issues out into the open and that’s a good thing.

    Football is like much else in the recent economic past and present, it looks richer and it thinks it’s richer than it really is when reality arrives much that we thought was so will not in fact be so and Arsenal will be better placed in the new FFP setup than anyone else, thanks Arsene!

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