The Football Edition of Monopoly

Saturday, 13 February 2010 ·

Notts County and Portsmouth. Both clubs will have to go through a “fit and proper persons test” to prove that potential new owners will be able to manage the club yet this isn’t the first time that both clubs have changed hands this year. For the fourth time this season, Portsmouth are looking for new owners once more after Ali Al-Faraj failed in his bid to attract new investors. The current “owner” does not wish to own the club and only took over after Portsmouth failed to pay back the money he had loaned the club.

This farce has been allowed to happen even though the Premier League has its “fit and proper persons test” which is supposed to allow only those who are financially responsible to run a football club. What it does is investigate whether potential owners have fallen foul of any financial irregularities and will then disqualify potential directors on the back of any findings.  So the question remains: why has this farce at Pompey been allowed to continue?  These rules need to be tighter to encompass suitability to run a football club without the use of debt because now we are seeing far too many Championship and League 1 teams in danger of going into administration with Crystal Palace joining the list of clubs teetering on the brink.  Even Chester City are in serious trouble in the Blue Square Premier League after their players refused to travel for a game after not being payed.  They will now have to explain their reasoning to the FA.  Perhaps potential new owners should provide full and detailed evidence of their accounts as well as their plans to the Premier League so that they can be held accountable in the event of the club incurring debts or provide proof that their wealth is not based on loans and they can genuinely run a football club in the same way a business is run - spend what you earn not what you want.
Notts County now have a new owner but one with experience of football ownership having been chairman of Lincoln City previously.  Ray Trew bought the club for £1 last week with debts of £3.9 million and has immediately dismissed the "fanciful" idea of being in the Premiership "within five years" instead concentrating on the more realistic target of survival which should have always been the target for a club in trouble in the first place.  Don't run before you can walk should have been the motto of Notts County before making big name signings in Sven Goran Eriksson and Campbell.  Admittedly, Eriksson has done the decent thing and written off the debts the club owes to him, something in the region of £2.5 million.  It is precisely this unselfish attitude which will save these clubs and provide supporters with a little of belief that not everyone in the game is a mercenary.
Look at the other clubs with significant debt levels, Liverpool and Manchester United being prime examples.  £237 million and £790 million in debt respectively, both clubs were "purchased" by their current owners with the promise of providing a more competitive club.  But very little of the owners money has gone into the clubs with Liverpool needing to conjure up £100 million before July to satisfy the bank's conditions for the debt repayments. UEFA has promised to ban any clubs in significant debt, although whether this is to "save" the clubs or to quell the growing might of the Premier League is another question that only Michel Platini can answer.
Football is not a game of Monopoluy: it is a century old game with firm roots in the psyche of the football supporter and the treatment of Portsmouth, it's staff and fans is nothing short of disrespectful and greedy.  Paying for a club with nothing more substantial than the loans of businessmen is not the way to run any club.  Public opinion is now firmly against this type of behaviour but the mentality of "a white knight" needs to be removed from the psyche also.  Then we can get down to the business of paying agreeable rates for players with money earned by the clubs instead of nearly bankrupting clubs in search of success.

Graham Matheson

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Written and edited by Graham Matheson, a Liverpool and Deportivo La Coruna fan.
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