Since my last blog on this subject in April much has happened with many clubs mentioned and much has happened with many others not mentioned. The most high profile clubs with plans and takeovers in the English leagues come from leagues One and Two and there are many more in the Scottish Premier League. Wycombe Wanderers are the latest club to have their takeover confirmed by their supporters trust. League Two has increasing numbers of teams owned by the fans. Exeter City, AFC Wimbledon and Wycombe are now completely fan owned but the highest profile bid comes from the Pompey Supporters trust who are now in League One. The amount needed to takeover Portsmouth is believed to be around £8 million. The Tranmere Rovers Supporters Trust another club with takeover plans are working towards a £500,000 target of which £200,000 was raised by March but there hasn’t been much news since.
In the Scottish Premier League, Dundee United and Motherwell are already owned by the fans and its been reported St. Mirren fans are near to a deal for the fans to buy up 52% of the shares which would give them overall control.
I’d say the reasons why the Scottish Premier League and League Two are the main areas we are seeing takeovers is, one down to the lower cost to form a bid than other leagues and two down certain regulations. The amount of money needed to launch a bid in League Two is likely to be in the £100,000s rather than the £Millions need above which is much more achievable. League Two also includes a percentage wage cap which I believe puts off certain types of owners aiming to buy their way to success. This season the football league will see its own style of FFP introduced throughout the 3 leagues, aiming for sustainable running of clubs in football. If FFP puts off certain types of owners in all three leagues time may allow more clubs to be owned by the fans. A key area put forward by the government asked for supporters trusts to have the first right to buy their clubs if they went into administration. Cost will always come first but the other areas could allow for supporters clubs to expand into their clubs much faster than in the last few years. There could be by the end of the summer around 31 clubs owned by the fans up from the 26 from the start of 2012 and I hope that increases year by year. Tranmere Rovers, Porthmouth, Darlington 1883(formally Darlington FC), St. Mirren and Wycombe could all included in that with two already confirmed. I see that as very positive progress.
After the football governance inquiry and the complete lack of reforms by the football authorities, it wouldn’t be surprising if nothing happened and that was the end of it. Thankfully I’ve been told its not. The report put out by the FA and Premier League wasn’t detailed enough for most people and failed to mention many of the most important points the select committee covered and the Government recommended needed vast change. For that reason or not, the Department for Culture Media and Sport has already asked the Select Committee to review the response from football. This includes the FA, Premier League and Football league. After this they’ll the make further recommendations to Government. I hope they point out the areas where the football authorities completed failed to mention and fix as per the recommendations.
The Premier League and many of the top clubs often make out ‘the fans’ owning and running their club is nothing more than a fantasy. Many people have this idea the fans would take over and then for some reason start making fantasy buys or sack the managers in some kind of xfactor voting game from the stands from a multiple choice button system. All of that is complete nonsense.
The fact is over 170 clubs in the United Kingdom have official supporters trusts and its also a fact 26 clubs are owned by the fans. All these clubs like normally owned clubs have good times and bad times. AFC Wimbledon went on promotion run after promotion run and are now back in the football league. They currently lie in 15th with 50 points in League 2 which for a club only created in 2002 is unbelievable. Exeter City are another clubs which are fan owned an have struggled for what ever reason this season on the pitch but its in the non-league where Chester are top of their league along with FC United who are just in the promotion leagues. Thats where the strongest chance of supporter ownership happens but this year its struggling Championship side Portsmouth which could be next fan owned club. For Portsmouth the most likely options are either be taken over by the fans or go completely bust. They are planning to raise the needed £1.6 Million to buy the club by first asking fans to put in £100 each. Considered the much smaller non-league side FC United have raised the same amount, Portsmouth fans must have a chance in my eyes but they need get behind it. Some clubs fans can easily put up a lot of money in a short amount of time. Bradford Bulls fans have in the super league have this week raised over £500,000 and the Wrexham fans last year raised £127,000 in around 7 hours.
Away from Portsmouth there are other clubs the next one to be fan owned will be Motherwell of the Scottish Premier League. They are in the final stages as Wrexham were last year and all that is required will be the confirmation the deal is complete. Tranmere Rovers are another club with advanced plans for a takeover and if that takes place they’d be the joint highest ranked club to be fan owned in England next to Portsmouth who are pretty much resigned to join them in League 1 next season. In same league as FC United sit Northwich Victoria who also have plans to save their club if they come into financial trouble and in the Conference North Corby Town are planning to create their own supporters trust. One of the biggest stories of the moment and the biggest clubs with takeover news is the Blackburn Supporters with plans to takeover their club with an investment model of investing £1000 per fan with generous dividends. For me that sounds to good to be true and likely too higher price to pay for some fans. What this does show is fans do have plans in all levels of the game and many are going ahead without the Premier Leagues backwards and limited views that it won’t happen. This is happening from non-league to League 1 and there are even plans all the way up to the Premier League and for me it’s only a matter of time. More clubs will struggle and each year more fans will takeover their clubs.
The pervious blog shows just how little power The FA really have, I wrote that before they published a response to the Governments requests. The whole document was a complete disgrace and considering there were over 70 different points in the governments recommendation, 16 pages from the football authorities hardly covered any of it. Richard Scudamore comments from the other day show just how much power the Premier League really has….
We’ll make sure supporters have a proper voice but that doesn’t mean they can get everything they want.
… its everything summed up in one sentence. It makes it pretty clear Scudamore is stuck in his own little word…
It’s very hard to come up with legitimate ways to put fans on boards. We don’t have a Germanic model here.
… its very simple. Include a simple rule which means a new place is created and an elected supporter from each clubs supporters trust is put on the board of each club. It doesn’t require rocket science. Most people might think that will never happen in the Premier League. Scudamore needs to be reminded Swansea already have a supporter on the board. On top of that, 64 other clubs outside the Premier League have supporters on their boards. Considering there are just over 170 supporters trusts thats a huge chunk. Considering more clubs are being taken over by the fans season by season and the shareholdings are increasing season on season. Scudamore is living in the same world as FIFA. Completely out of touch and clueless. Apart from the other facts on directors, does he know 26 clubs are owned by the fans?
Most of the clubs which are owned by the fans are from League One and below but they have been increasing in number. Clubs like Exeter, Wrexham, Wimbledon and Chester are examples of larger clubs which have struggled but have been reborn. Tranmere Rovers and other supporters trusts already have viable plans to takeover their clubs but the current plans from the football authorities limit what can be done. Scudamore comments are that not of The FA, the Government or the fans but the Premier League and its clubs. Scudamore only has the interests of the owners of the clubs at heart and nothing else. Can you imagine the Glazers, Henry, Roman or many of the other owners supporting change from the fans point of view?
The question now is, what is the Governments response to this document? Do they know details we yet don’t? Will they be public and tell us their view? Are they going to ask for more or will they be quiet and slyly accept this? If this is slowly allowed to disappear to allow the Premier League to do as they wish, something has gone seriously wrong. Serious questions should be put forward now to the Department for Culture Media and Sport to find out what the next stage is!
If you’ve heard about the report into football governance or kept up to date from the mainly the Guardian or Telegraph. Both have been reporting the stories on the issue so you should have some idea of where the debate and changes are up to. I doubt think the Sun have even mentioned it, too busy reporting Rihannas new hair do, thats the stuff that matters.
At the end of the Culture and Media and Select committee on football governance a report was passed on to the government to review. In the Governments final publication, this was made clear on more than one occasion.
75. The Government is fully committed to ensuring that the changes put forward by the football authorities make a lasting and substantive difference. If that does not happen the Government will introduce a legal requirement on the Football Association to implement the appropriate governance clauses by the swiftest possible means.
Unsurprising one of the first recommendations that was made, has been reportedly completely ignored. The 10 man board with 6 independent non-executive directors hasn’t happened and they couldn’t even agree a small change. Currently on the 14 man board sit 3 Premier League Directors and 2 Football league Directors, its not hard to see why they won’t give up those posts any time soon. If the football clubs have control of the FA, it means the football clubs can still do pretty much as they like. It seems again they’ve got their own way and its as if the introduction of the licensing system is going to say ‘we’ve set up a licensing system and set up the independent body for it but let us off on the other areas.’
The other thing is, this could be a challenge to the Government on areas they really don’t want to change and if the Government did get involved theres a possibly the England Team would banned by FIFA. If the England team was banned just before the Euros, there would be uproar but if thats a price that must be paid, so be it. Football refusing to sorting its self out and allowing a long list of famous clubs to go bust is unacceptable in my book. They been clearly warned and if they don’t want to change, make them by what ever means possible.
It also makes you think what other areas within the governments report have they refuse to move on and it also makes you think the ones they have changed will have been to the complete minimum. Many people think the governments report itself was weak, so to see some key areas within a weak report completely missed shows just how backwards our game is. If The FA have refused to complete just one single point and if they have made it so its the minimum of changes on the rest, the Government should take steps straight away. It shows the football authorities can’t run themselves to do the very basics as the government trusted them to do so and it also means the Government must step in. The government has also been pressured to support supporter ownership in football and they if can’t even change the FA board we have serious problems which have been proven to be bigger than they were before.
In less than nine days the football authorities (The FA, Premier League and Football League) will have to produce a plan of introducing measures spelled out in Octobers government response to the football government report. I’m sure we’ve all looked at it but some of us like me haven’t looked at it closely enough. Many of us believed it would do nothing and was a halved arsed effort. Firstly consider this… Some of the items in the governments response refer directly back to the the report. For example we all believed the Government had passed over leveraged buyouts but that is not the case. I even said in a past blog they’d completely bottled it. This past blog shows you need to go into more detail… Leveraged Buy Outs To Be Banned
Another area which I haven’t looked at in more detail until now is covered in the governments response under point 41.
41. One option that we have considered is to specify within the new club licensing system a trigger point that would require clubs to make a seat available to one or more supporters’ representatives on the Board. Such a trigger point could be the next time the club changes hands; the point at which the officially recognised supporters organisations reach a certain size; or by a majority vote of eligible supporters. There will be other options as well.
Point 41 means within the club licensing system there will be a trigger point system for the officially recognised supporters trusts to place members on the board of football clubs. The recommendation says these will include a change of ownership, the size of a supporters trust, by a vote and that there will be others options. If this had been in place in the past, clubs over the last few years like Leeds, Plymouth and Portsmouth who have had problems could have placed a member on the board for greater power and transparency.
This trigger point system to get a member on the board for many clubs may only come about at the point when a club changes hands or gets in trouble. I think many people have passed over the other trigger points. The change of ownership has been happening since football clubs were created and for all clubs this will come around but for a club like Manchester United or Chelsea where the owners say they have a ‘long term interest’ or another club which could be anywhere in the leagues which hasn’t changed hands for 20-30 years like Wigan, that system doesn’t and won’t work. A key recommendation here is once an officially recognised supporters organisation reaches a certain size instead of changing hands. Most football clubs even in the Premier League may only have at best a few 1000 members or less, some only have 100s. Norwich City for example a Premier League club have over 600 members but own 1200 shares worth a value of £121,000 in their club. Swansea City fans already have a member on the board due to the fact they own 20% of the club. The Manchester United Supporters Trust back in 2005 had a touch over 30,000 members. They now have over 175,000 and if this trigger point for example requires 1000 or even 10,000 members, surely from day one of the new licensing rules, our supporters trust would meet the requirement triggering that point. A trigger point like this could do two things. One, trigger on the day its introduced for those who meet the criteria and two other supporters trusts would surely have a big inventive to promote themselves and grow to meet that target. If the target was 1,000 which to me seems realistic. Reading, Spurs, Arsenal and others would meet it but many wouldn’t. I believe a target of anything over 10,000 would make it impossible for most clubs to achieve and impossible for smaller clubs.
A licensing system so clubs have to talk to fan groups like IMUSA/MUST, possible members on the board, supporters trusts given first options on future takeovers via administration, leveraged buyouts banned, protection of shares in football clubs, full transparency on the ownership of football clubs and its debts is all very much on the cards. We could have done with all that in 2005 and today the next club in trouble will be Arsenal. Hopefully this will protect them from big debts and American owners. Currently this all feels like a pipe dream but if we then consider that by next Wednesday the footballing authorities have to agree a plan as set out in the response and that the government want most of the recommendations in the response in place by the start of the 2012-2013 season it becomes much more real. Of course for many of us it won’t be real until it happens.
Last month the Scottish Premier League relaxed the rules on standing and has allowed for safe standing areas to be reintroduced. Currently Rangers, Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell are all currently exploring the option of installing safe standing areas in their stadiums. The key difference between English clubs and Scottish clubs is the Scottish clubs are not bound by the Taylor Report and English laws so they have one less problem to over. The Premier League has said in the past it doesn’t want to introduce safe standing back into the Premier League but now certain English clubs are exploring the idea. Aston Villa is one club to have plans in place and is seeking support at the next Premier League meeting from other clubs. Arsenal and City have also been rumoured to be interested in safe standing areas. The type of standing that would in place would be very different from the standing areas you see at many lower league clubs or the type we saw in the past decades before standing was banned. If reintroduced Scottish and English clubs would follow the Germany system of fold up seats and bars where a stand can be converted to either safe standing or seated if required under UEFA regulations.
Villa is one of many clubs where standing takes place for long periods of time even though it is banned. The same can be said for most other clubs. The Kop at Anfield, K Stand and the Stretford End at Old Trafford are all areas where no one will sit down for 90 minutes. Manchester United have been warned in the past by the local council for persistent standing but it still carries on. Much of it is over looked. Even at away games clubs like Liverpool have admitted persistent standing isn’t a problem, so a question needs to be asked. Is the current law 15 years out of date? It would seem so as much has happened. Hooligans aren’t anywhere near a big a issue as they were 20 or 30 years ago. Football is safer, new technology and techniques have been developed. Its also been proven standing in seated at Premier League stadiums isn’t dangerous. It happens at every away game up and down the country every Saturday and Sunday. When was the last time there was an issue because fans were standing? The Germans have also developed a very successful and safe standing system. I believe its time for the Government, FA and Premier League to allow Villa to install a safe standing system as in Germany which can be monitored. It will prove ‘standing’ wasn’t the issue. It was everything around it and everyone knows it. Everything has to be managed if it isn’t, problems will occur.
Another problem with the current Premier League system is the ticket price and everything that goes with football. Its about money and many clubs have lost a certain type of supporter over the past 10 years to do the huge increases in price of a football ticket. If you’re a fan of Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Arsenal etc ticket prices are normally £35 to 50 or maybe more. At Bolton, Blackburn and City it’s more like £25-35. Standing tickets would not only bring the price down, they’d increase the attendances, capacity and the type of people attending football matches. Those priced out could now afford to attend games. For clubs like Bolton and Blackburn, safe standing areas could improve the atmosphere and bring back a community feel to being a fan. It should in theory improve the atmosphere at any ground it was introduced. I’ve not really heard any argument against it and there is a lot of support, its time the law was changed but changed with regulations on how standing is managed. Managing the system and the type of system is the key to success.
The email and text below has been sent out to supporters in W15 by the Club. Ground regulations say that certain searches can take place but I and others are not sure what legal basic security have to carry out these checks in the style of airport style searches including emptying your pockets into a plastic sealed bag. Its normally nothing more than a pat down and a bag search. Both which you have to consent to.
So far no one has provided me with the evidence that private security staff have the legal right to do this. I’ve also received one reply saying this type of search is completely illegal and even the Police would struggle to give a vaild reason if they carried it out. If this was to be carried out by the Police they have to provide a reason, under what law its being carried out under, they have to fill in a form to say it took place along with providing their name and Police station they work out of. This is the type of thing the Police conducted London that has sparked off some of the riots last year. Certain types of searches have been ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights with the government and Met facing pressure almost everyday. Its a sensitive subject which should not be forced on supporters. I don’t believe if you did refuse to enter your pockets after a pat down they could refuse you entry. You’ve done wants reasonably required and they’ve asked what they can legally search and can do. Paying supporters should not be treated as guinea pigs so some suits in the Olympic Committee can watch from the side lines for their own satisfaction. Fight it today, tell them to fuck off and test it somewhere else.
In preparation for the Olympic Games, search tests will be trialled at entrance W15 at the Bolton game.
On your arrival at the turnstiles all supporters will be issued with a clear plastic bag into which all pocket contents must be emptied.
Any supporters with bags will be directed to a table where they will be searched and sealed.
All supporters will then be subject to a full search before entering the stadium.
We advise you arrive early tomorrow to avoid queues.
Thank you in advance for your co-operation.
Ticketing & Membership Services”
I think everyone will have seen the latest news from Manchester City and there massive £197m lost but I don’t think anyone has really considered the figures and how they will get anywhere near meeting the UEFA Financial Fair play rules. Manchester City believe the Champions League money, sponsorship deals and winning the league will go to solving the problem of the massive losses. The figures below will show how this clearly isn’t the case.
First if we consider that Manchester United were paid a total £45m from UEFA, Barcelona were paid a total £43m and Tottenham a new team into the Champions League were paid £26m. Manchester City were paid £6m from the Europa League last season. The extra I’d expect they’d get would be no money than £20-24m.
Secondly lets consider the sponsorship deal reportedly worth £400m over ten years, that would be worth £40m a year unless they’ve been paid upfront or its for the youth development project when part of it wouldn’t count. City were already been paid £8m a season by Etihad Airways. That’s on average an extra £32m.
Then theres winning the league. Third placed Manchester City made £55.5m in prize and tv money from the Premier League. Manchester United league winners and you’re expecting this to be a lot higher only made £60.4m. That means if City did win the League between the two positions is a maximum of only £5m.
Adding those three areas up only comes into to an extra £61m on top of what they already earn. Even if they made what United made from the Champions League that would only be an extra £76m.
Then if we consider that Manchester City had a £174m wage bill for the 2010-2011 season, it seems a very very far fetched idea that the Champions League money or anything else would help solve a near £200m a season problem. It would still leave them at least £100m-120m off paying the wage bill and that break even point. I’m sure once the players bonuses for winning the Premier League and advancing into the Champions League come along that wage bill will increase. If we look at Chelsea, a club who have done all what City plan to do, they still have huge losses. My view, history and the figures say they will not meet Uefa Rules.
After Stan Kroenke comments on American owners and the Glazers which can be seen here…
…. it’s time we looked at a number of the American owners who have been and are involved in English football clubs. I’m looking at just how trust worthy each owner is and how that relates to me and you the fans.
First off the Glazers. The list of issues and problems could go on for pages but Kroenke as ever, misses the major problems. If United make £50 or £300m, do or should I really care? No. What I do care about is where that money goes. He makes the mistake of mixing what happens on the pitch and off the pitch together. It either goes on the pitch or into investment in the stands, anywhere else and its a complete waste. Its pretty clear that the Glazers costing the club £535m has had no benefit for the club or the fans. My last blogs shows how even the British Government has now accepted this view.
Next is Hicks and Gillett at Liverpool. These are two Americans who tricked the fans and everyone else into thinking they could solve all Liverpool problems. They said no debt would go on the club, that was a lie and at the end they even tried to block the new takeover with more debt by taking out a massive payment-in-kind loans like the Glazers used. This would have basically crippled the club. A big issue has been the new stadium, the new owners promised to build it but it never happened. They were welcomed with open arms at first and left the club in a right state.
Following on from those two con men is another con man called John W Henry but he’s just the face of NESV. If I was a Liverpool fan I would seriously start to question the motives this group have because there are a lot of similarities to the Glazers and to the past Liverpool American owners. There is a lot of information that is hidden and that has not been made public. Just like Uniteds ultimate ownership, NESV ownership and ultimate Liverpools ownership is in Delaware. In 2010 Uniteds ultimate ownership was moved there and just at the same time the PIK debt was ‘gone’. We say gone but as Andersred put it on one of his past blogs “It is virtually impossible to get information on Delaware companies” We don’t even know who the Directors are, let alone what the accounts look like. The most likely position thats accepted is the Glazers PIK debt was refinanced behind closed doors. I can’t see any other way the Glazers could find £250m over night.
This leads on to Liverpools real position. Most Liverpool fans believe they are One. Debt Free and Two. Now Loaded. Henry and the like have refused to say what NESV debt consists of or how the takeover was really funded. They have also refused to say they won’t put debt on Liverpool. They sound to me just like Hicks and Gillett but just without the promises.
Heres a some quote from John W Henry on the matter..
“LFC discloses its financials annually, so monies going in and going out are disclosed. But I’m not going to disclose NESV financials or financing information.”
“But NESV has always had debt, from the first day we purchased the Red Sox.”
“£218m was partly raised from the NESV partners personally and partly from borrowing.”
So just like the Glazers and just like Hicks/Gillett, NESV has debt and they’ve admitted they’ve taken on debt to fund the takeover. Hidden in Delaware, has taken on debt, won’t be open nor truthful to provide the real figures. Where have we seen that before? It’s clear why no commitment has been over a stadium. They just like the past Liverpool owners are going to struggle to raise the £400m needed for the new stadium and there is always a possibly debt could be moved onto the club. I don’t see how the club has really moved on.
Next is Stan Kroenke. If you’re an Arsenal fan and you believe his comments about the Glazers, you are a very naive person. If he has no problems with what the Glazers have done at United I’d be very worried. It sends out all the wrong messages. I’d be very worried about debt and I’d be very worried about him increasing his shareholding over the next few months. I’d hope the new licensing rules are already in place before he could mount a leveraged takeover and if he’s going to mount one I’d expect it to be sooner rather than later. At one end of the scale we have Chelsea and City but at the other end these American owners who believe putting debt on clubs, increasing ticket prices and increasing turnover is the way to go. My view is neither are good for the game, the fans or the clubs.