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Neville hits back after Kinnear's criticism of football regulator idea
Wednesday, 1st Dec 2021 19:24 by Tim Whelan

In his programme notes for last night’s Crystal Palace game, Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear poured cold water on the idea of a regulator for football and greater redistribution of the Premier League’s wealth. But Gary Neville has backed the proposal, and some Leeds fans agree with him.

Last week the government published ‘The Fan-led Review of Football Governance’, after a series of evidence-gathering sessions chaired by Tracey Crouch MP. Supporters’ groups from around 130 different clubs took part, along with the football authorities. The review aimed to “explore ways of improving the governance, ownership and financial sustainability of clubs in English football” and “engage extensively with fans to ensure any recommendations are led by fans’ experience and interests.”

The key recommendations include an independent regulator for football, a new owners and directors test to ensure financial stability, a transfer levy to be paid by Premier League clubs, greater supporter representation and more initiatives to support equality and diversity throughout the game.

Kevin Miles, Newcastle fan and chief executive of the Football Supporters Association, said “This is potentially a huge step forward for football governance – the Government committed to a fan-led review which has listened to the voice of fans. It’s now up to the Government to deliver upon the recommendations.”

“The review’s proposals to strengthen the voice of supporters in the game, protect football’s heritage and the pyramid, and provide genuine independent regulation, lay the basis for a prosperous and sustainable future for football at all levels.” And this was from a fan of a club who are aiming to use their new-found wealth to buy their way to success over the next couple of years.

But our Angus wasn’t so impressed. In his notes he said “Of the 47 recommendations contained in the Review there was much to applaud. However, the two most significant recommendations are as flawed as they are radical. The first is the demand for independent regulation and the second is an increased transfer levy to redistribute increased funds further down the football pyramid”.

“These proposals have been conflated to address the very separate issues of the demise of Bury, the threat of the European Super League and the takeover of Newcastle United. Forgetting that independent regulation has not proven to be a panacea for any industry, it is hard to see the value an independent regulator would have added to the perceived issues.”

“Football is a private sector business and has flourished that way. Enforcing upon football a philosophy akin to Maoist collective agriculturalism will not make the English game fairer, it will kill the competition which is its very lifeblood. Teams further down the pyramid do not need their means artificially inflated, they need to live within them.”

“Would an increased redistribution of wealth have saved Bury? The answer is: “Probably not.”

Redistribution of wealth will simply favour the lowest common denominator, clubs who excel in recruitment, player development or commercial enterprise will be punished, while less capable ownership will be rewarded for incompetence.”

But Gary Neville wasn’t impressed by this criticism of the idea of greater wealth distribution. The Sky pundit took to Twitter to say Anyone remember when Leeds United were in the Championship sweating like crazy over their own financial state if they didn’t go up. How has it come to this within 12 months? A sorry state of affairs. Surely even Leeds fans don’t like these programme notes on the Fan Led Review."

And it’s fair to say that Leeds fans don’t like these comments. Just one of the tweets criticising Kinnear today said “Kinnear is someone who should know better than this. To reach the promised land we must never forget the struggles we had to get there because one day we might end up back where we started.”

And it’s perfectly true that just two seasons ago Andrea Radrizzani was moaning that the TV rights for the Championship were worth so much less than the Premiership, and saying that is we hadn’t gone up in 2019/20, the finances of the club wouldn’t have sustained another promotion bid with spending at the same level. And what happens if the worst happens and we go back down this season?

For many years the biggest problem with the sustainability of English football at all levels has been the huge gap in income between the Premier League and the rest. While Kinnear is right that the meltdown at EFL clubs such as Bury and Macclesfield has been down to individual cases of mismanagement by their owners, that would be dealt with by other clauses in the review, such as a better fit and proper persons’ test.

The financial woes of a few other clubs can be directly put down to the wealth gap, after they gambled by paying big wages to get back to the Premier League and failing to make it. Step forward Derby, Bolton and Sheffield Wednesday. With a fairer distribution of income, the clubs would not be so willing to risk everything on one big push for the top flight.

And there were some who said that the review didn’t go far enough. In the wake of the controversial Saudi takeover of Newcastle, Amnesty International were disappointed that there was no mention of human rights in the suggested criteria for a stricter owners and directors test.

It’s now up to the government what to do with the review, and despite the criticism from some quarters, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said that the government welcomed the review and accepted the creation of an independent regulator “in principle”. He has promised to “proceed at pace” in acting on the review, but an official response won’t be with until the new year. So for now, we’ll just have to watch this space.

If you want to know about the review in more detail you can click on these links for a brief summary or go really mad and read the whole document .


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