What would a new official Football Regulator mean? What could he/she investigate?




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Football is not without scandal as you might have noticed.   If you have a long memory you might recall that Carlos Tevez was not signed by West Ham, but merely loaned from an investment group which owned him – and oh how people got excited about that!  And then again how Rio Ferdinand was given an eight-month ban for missing a drugs test.  And of course if we are looking at the murky backwaters surely there are few murkier than Harry Redknapp’s tax affairs.  But of course we allege no wrong doing.

But it goes back way beyond that.  In the 1960s Jimmy Gauld was found, over several years to have systematically interfered with matches in the Football League, enticing players into betting on the outcome of fixed matches.

And then there was the awfully nice Bolton Wanderers’ manager Sam Allardyce, and his agent son Craig were alleged to have accepted bribes from agents for signing certain players.

Of course all this sort of thing has been there forever – the 1915 match fixing scandal is now forgotten both because of time and because it involved the media’s favourites: Manchester United and Liverpool.   Of course, the anti-Arsenal mob tried to cover that scandal up later by inventing the notion that Arsenal bought their way into the first division (which was totally untrue), but you can read of the real 1915 scandal here.   And then if you really enjoy your history you can move on to the only full account of The 1919 Affair:  How Arsenal were promoted to the first division

Anyway, it has only taken 108 years of chaos, mismanagement and mayhem but we are supposedly about to get a football regulator, and it seems that if we have one, most of the Premier League will ask the regulator to stop nation states from directly or indirectly owning and/or financing English football teams.  Manchester City and Newcastle deny any wrongdoing.

That is the headline grabber, but the issue of the way numerous clubs are apparently recruiting, overplaying and then just abandoning young players when they get injured is another one that surely must be of some interest to any regulator worth his salt.  (See for example The battle to get clubs to accept responsibility for young player injuries).

The trouble is there is no set date for Parliament to discuss the issue, what with the honourables being tied up with an energy crisis, a prison crisis, a school crisis, a benefits crisis, a mental health crisis, a debt crisis, a climate crisis, a small boats crisis, an NHS crisis, and a few more that I’ve managed to forget for the moment.

Anyway, there is talk of a regulator maybe happening, and if so, of him/her banning the involvement directly or indirectly of nation-states and their immediate benefactors in owning football clubs.  We know from legal briefings that the Public Investment Fund of Saud Arabia is “a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” and the chairman at Newcastle is the governor of the Saudi investment fund and a minister in the Saudi government.  So obviously no link between club and government!

But still we never know: there might one day be a regulator who actually is independent and who has real powers to balance the flow of income into the game between the bigger and lesser clubs.

However, there is no mention of whether the new body will have the power to investigate PGMO and all its doings, or whether that body will remain completely independent.   If the new regulator does have that power the oddities of some referees persistently overseeing home wins (in some cases) and some persistently overseeing away wins (in other cases) might come up.  And the curious policy of allowing some referees to control matches of the same club four or five times in a season might be mentioned in passing as well.

All this could be quite good if it works properly, but it wouldn’t actually do anything about the level of debt in the game, and the continuing thought that if one major club defaulted on its debts for any reason a lot of the pyramid of clubs owing money to clubs, could fall apart.

And that concern was there before people began asking what would happen if Saudi Arabia’s clubs started refusing to pay their debts to Premier League clubs on time, in retaliation for the Premier League blocking Saudi clubs from entering the Champions League – a topic which has been doing the rounds and which some say Uefa is smiling upon while most oppose.

Uefa of course has no actual control over football in Saudi Arabia – that comes under the West Asian Football Federation which is a subset of the Asian Football Federation.  But you know Uefa.  If it is out there, and there is money involved, then Uefa always wants part of the action.

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