Hereford supporters understand all too well the impact gross mismanagement can have on clubs, and to their communities, following the demise of Hereford United in 2014.
The fact Hereford have rapidly risen back into the National North system is something akin to a minor miracle, and should not be under-estimated, but supporters of clubs like Blackpool, Coventry and Bolton Wanderers are demanding increased regulation on club ownership.
Now, the MP for Chester, Chris Matheson, has presented a bill to Parliament calling for tough and independent regulation of football.
He has worked closely with the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) to prepare the bill which mandates that clubs being mismanaged should face scrutiny from a body which is independent of the clubs.
The body would have powers to undertake independent and forensic audits of club directors and financial activities when concerns have been expressed about mismanagement.
In his speech Matheson identified a number of clubs in crisis across the country whose fans are powerless in the face of gross mismanagement by the club owners.
Matheson said: “Under current rules, fans have no means of redressing their grievances. Fans such as those of Blackpool or Coventry or Bolton Wanderers have been treated abysmally, with their owners at fault. There has to be a mechanism to provide fans with an outlet to redress their grievances because at the moment they have nowhere to go.”
He continued: “I am aware that the majority of football club owners are committed and passionate about their clubs. They recognise that fans are the pulse that keeps football clubs alive. However, too many clubs are being driven to the ground with no mechanism in place for fans to flag up misconduct.”
“The Football Supporters Association’ have highlighted that this is not an isolated issue, it is happening across the country. Dedicated fans watch helplessly as their treasured clubs crumble from lack of investment or financial exploitation by dodgy owners.”
If created, the body would report to the Football Association (FA) with recommendations for action to address any deliberate financial mismanagement.
Both Matheson and the FSA have expressed their desire for the FA to undertake this regulatory role, given the level of expertise and national responsibility of the FA.
FSA chair Malcolm Clarke said: “Our historic clubs are in desperate need of strong regulation and protection from the small minority of owners who do not have the best interests of football at heart.
“We believe the FA should grasp this role and create an internal regulatory body which is properly funded and independent from the clubs and owners. The leagues are run by their member clubs and cannot be relied upon to regulate themselves.”
For the past 18 months the FSA has been working on detailed proposals which show exactly how this could work. Those proposals have been presented to the FA Board and the FSA will develop those ideas for implementation and further consideration by the FA, Premier League, EFL, and National League.