Everton

Live by the sword, die by the sword but change brings opportunity for a much better future

The collapse of the incredibly ill-conceived Super League will be viewed as a great victory for all stakeholders in football. There will be enormous relief, perhaps jubilation in board rooms, dressing rooms and perhaps most importantly among the fans themselves.

However, unless there are significant changes to football in terms of ownership, governance, income distribution and fan engagement/participation the “victory” will be hollow and meaningless.

Let’s start with the miscreants first. They need to be punished financially and in terms of their competitive status. Why? Firstly their actions in bringing the game into disrepute, the commercial and damage to value their actions have brought warrant punishment. Secondly it has to be a deterrent to them or anyone attempting such actions again.

So what is a worthy punishment?

My own view is that the six should be relegated to the Championship at the end of this season and replaced by the top six of the current Championship. The effect of such punishment would be felt by the clubs themselves, only three of the six could possibly be promoted the following year thus assuring that at least three of the six would be outside the Premier League for more than one year, and also outside of European competition (bar winning the FA Cup or Carabao Cup in 2021/22) for two or three years at a minimum (assuming they qualified for Europe upon return to the Premier League, which might not be the case). An additional European ban might be considered necessary – a blanket ban of five years for example. The six clubs would have to deal with the contractual issues of relegation with their superstar players, similarly with their sponsors and commercial partners. They should be subject to the usual Financial Fair Play rules that apply to Championship clubs. (Perhaps the Glazers can buy Old Trafford to cover losses).

Putting the six clubs into the Championship would have a re-distributive effect for the Championship and indeed the English Football League. It would create much greater visibility, improve the commercial attractiveness for fellow Championship clubs and almost certainly lead to a renegotiation of TV and broadcast rights.

Equally, it would have a redistributive effect on the six promoted clubs assuring that at least three of the six would spend two years or more in the Premier League. Additionally the glass ceiling would be broken for all Premier League clubs bringing fresh competition to the title and qualification for the Champions League and Europa League – itself a redistributive measure.

This is a punishment that fits the crime and benefits football. In my opinion it has much merit.

Changes to the Premier League

Governance. Self regulation in football has clearly failed by almost any metric you care to consider. Regulation of football has to be taken out of the hands of the club owners. They (with some possible exceptions) have not proved worthy of the responsibility, and paid no regard to the custodianship obligations placed upon them. Their lack of care, their dereliction of duty means that regulatory control has to be put into the hands of people independent of the clubs, broadcasters and other commercial entities associated within the game. The regulation would be subject to a  framework that necessitated new values in the game, recognising the societal benefits of football and the moral ownership of football by its fans. The clubs, broadcasters and commercial partners would be subject to the authority of the regulator.

The regulator would have fan representation and would have an obligation to regularly consult with fan stakeholder groups up and down the country in terms of reviewing its performance but also guidance in terms of future direction and strategy for the professional game.

The regulator would also have responsibility for wider aspects of the game including the fair distribution of wealth across professional football, community obligations of each club and most critically financial support of grass roots football.

The clubs

Although some clubs have the good fortune to be owned by responsible owners, as the last few days, actually many years have shown, it is not something that is a given. The list of clubs destroyed by their owners actions is long and frightening as fans up and down the country will testify, even before one considers the impact the owners actions of the six have had on their own fans. The true victims are the fans themselves. Yet that is not a reason for the clubs to escape punishment such as suggested above.

I’d propose a new governance structure for each professional football club. The structure would create an advisory board that had veto over certain decisions. The advisory board would be populated by fans and truly independent non-executive directors or trustees (depending upon the status of the board). The club’s shareholders and directors would have day to day control of the club maintaining operational responsibilities, budgets, commercial activities and of course all relating to footballing matters (budgets, manager, player recruitment etc). They would retain their legal responsibilities as per current legislation.

The advisory board would have veto over two key areas. The advisory board would hold a golden share with voting control for the following matters. One is change of control or ownership of the club.  There could be no change of ownership or control (in normal circumstances) without the advisory board approval. The advisory board would have the power to appoint professional advisors to assist in their deliberations. Secondly, the advisory board would have the power of veto over the club’s ability to enter new competitions, meaning that the club could only commit to entering new competitions with the approval of the advisory board.

The advisory board would have main board representation.

Such a structure commits the owners, indeed obligates the owners, to a custodian role without negating their ability to provide capital, commercial expertise and grow the club in a responsible manner – all within the regulatory framework of the Premier League and individual clubs.

Opportunity

The attempt to destroy the Premier League as it had become creates the opportunity to put right all that was wrong. The six may have been dissatisfied with both the Premier League and particularly UEFA, but to be honest the dissatisfaction (for different reasons) was carried by almost all in football.

Professional football needs to change. The actions of the six have accelerated the need for change but also provided the opportunity to execute change. They lived by the sword and they must die by the sword in terms of a suitable punishment (as above). They irreparably damaged and their undue influence should never be countenanced again.

However, this is a phoenix-like opportunity for football to correct itself, to re-discover itself, to recognise its value and importance culturally and societally.

It has to start by punishing those that sought to destroy the sporting and competitive integrity of the game.  The punishment should be fair and just but also offer a path of redemption over time.

In the meantime the governance of football at League and club level can be improved massively, (i) to protect the game (ii) truly enrich the game and (iii) ensure that the true owners of the game (the fans) can contribute to and regulate where necessary the game we love.

Everton, as the most senior of the remaining Premier League clubs, with its new found confidence and leadership role, plus its excellence in consultation and engagement with fans and the community are ideally placed to drive these changes through the game.

Categories: Everton

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5 replies »

  1. Sounds good . Personally I would drop them into the bottom division , 3 year ban in Europe and let the six have a dog fight between themselves to see who goes into the non league division in order for the lower non league teams to get a foot on the ladder.
    Let the greedy so called owners lose the lot .
    Liverpool has always been my team .
    They will return .

  2. I am more of the opinion that the most appropriate punishment for these clubs is not to give them any representative position on any executive in the game for a very extended period. let them see how it feels to be on the receiving end of others desires for decades and feel what the sense of powerlessness is like.

    While calls for massive points deductions and even making them start of the bottom of the league again resonate with many, others will argue that unduly punishes players and fans (and to some extent it is true) – though a rangers style romp through the leagues would have the dual benefit of spreading a bit of wealth in the short term and educating the boardroom as the to traditional contexts of the game.

    The way to hurt the owners and not the players or the fans is along the lines I suggested in the opening paragraph, added to this I would rollback a number of initiatives these clubs have driven through, that has caused disparity of the game – how many of you are ware that only 40 years ago all tv revenues in the league were shared equally across the 92 – I am not advocating that, things have moved on too much.

    In the Premier leagues I would like to see:
    – the International income return to equal share (this would automatically increase the share to the EFL)
    – the number of basic games for TV share distribution increase to 19 (this again would automatically increase the share to the EFL)
    – The proportion of Premier League central revenue shared with the EFL be guaranteed as a minimum of 20% the original offer the Premier League made in 1992 (and that should not be targeted as a maximum by scheming executives)
    – These rules should be enshrined in perpetuity the same as the FA’s golden share, the PFA’s 5% share of domestic income and participation in the FA Cup and League Cup

    At UEFA I would like to see
    – the abolishment of Coefficient payments to qualifiers – the distortion in revenues it provides is beyond belief!
    – the abolishment of the changes ratified on Monday for the Champions League post 2024 – it damages leagues and the fans have made it clear the like Super League they do not want it
    – automatic qualification to the Champions League group stage for the top 12 ranked UEFA nations in club football based on UEFA competition coefficients (it is currently the top 7)
    – a greater and more equitable distribution of UEFA monies across the three UEFA club competitions say Champions League 60% (currently 80%) Europa League 25% (currently 20%) and the Europa Conference which starts next year 15% (currently nothing though was to come from the Europa Leagues pot not the Champions League pot

    These should see fairer distributions across the game and ease some of the distortions between success and failures. There also needs to be a rethink of financial regulations as it is evident that they have only worked successfully in part.

    I must say I am surprised by your suggestions they appear to punish Premier League and European clubs significantly given that TV deals for the next cycle are still not closed. I know you are aware that your club is far from innocent in the journey that has led to this weeks events.

    Post the minimum wage the “Mersey Millionaires” helped price clubs out of the game, I do not include that many of your successes have coincided with the procuring of talent from my club (think Lawton, Dobson, Steven) as your finances outweighed our relative poverty, though we look back fondly as 100 years ago today as a 1-1 draw with Everton gave us our first League title. That team like our 1960 one was largely made of self developed players).

    We were there in the beginning with you, one of the original 12, we didn’t vote or campaign to end matchday revenue share, the end of equal TV rights distribution across the 92, increased variations in TV distributions every cycle or the subsequent formation of the Premier League to further enhance the inequalities of distribution. We felt the pain and through our own incompetence almost exited the league, The fact we have found a way back up the ladder again without major funding has been a minor miracle. Our experiences have taught us so much about the value of the game and the communities clubs sit within.

    In many ways I feel we need to increase the jeopardy that yourselves particularly (no fear of relegation/no realistic expectation of Europe) have lived for years because that should encourage a more even distribution so the relative trauma of football fortune promotion/relegation Europe/no Europe does not create seismic financial impact.

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