The Sweeper: Labour’s Failure to Regulate Football

Labour Party

Big Story
Yesterday we looked briefly at the concerns about the Football Association’s lack of reform expressed by Sports Minister Gary Sutcliffe. But how has the Labour government — in its twelve years in power and with a long-proclaimed aim to modernise and promote the broader development of football — fared itself in ensuring this happens?

David Conn looks at the overall record of Labour’s involvement with football, and comes away not too impressed. Conn sees some progress, such as the establishment of Supporters Direct to promote supporter involvement in the financing and governance of their clubs, but in general, a lot of words and too little action.

Time is running out for Labour, with a general election looming. There’s no doubt many in the government, such as Andy Burnham and Gary Sutcliffe, are heartfelt supporters of the game and wanted more than a photo-op with Kevin Keegan, a la Tony Blair in 1997. They have sowed some important seeds for the grassroots, but it’s also under Labour’s watch that the rampant unchecked commercialism they’ve criticised has taken-off to an unprecedented degree in football.

As Conn mentions, an independent regulator could and should have been installed — Sutcliffe himself made that call in parliament ten years ago, with perspicacious words: “We cannot allow the ownership of and responsibility for professional football to be left in the hands of those who seek to exploit it financially or for some personal kudos at the expense of supporters. The Football Association has failed miserably to protect and act in the best interests of all who support the game. It should hand over the scrutiny of club’s finances and codes of conduct to an independent regulator.”

Sadly, it looks like Labour has missed the opportunity to take that important step.

European News

North American News

  • Steve Davis quite rightly rips into the re-branding of MLS clubs, with particularly regard to FC Dallas: “Five years ago in August the Dallas Burn became FC Dallas. A year after that, they moved into a dandy little stadium, where tens of hundreds of people now show up 16-18 times a year to watch a poor product while frequently taking a beating in customer service and then putting the cherry on the bad experience sundae by getting stuck in traffic on the way home.” More on this tomorrow.
  • MLS has released its schedule of 2010 home openers (hopefully I’ll be heading to New Jersey to watch the Fire embarrass the Red Bulls again as they open their new stadium). Ben Knight at Onward Soccer questions the wisdom of sending Toronto to Columbus on opening day, saying fans continue to be concerned by the treatment dished out to them by police there. “But lots and lots of folks won’t go, and most of the rest won’t exactly be thrilled.  It’s always tough, when you’re on foreign soil and don’t know what the cops are going to do next.”
  • Chivas USA took on their mothership club, Chivas de Guadalajara, and only twenty-odd thousand showed up at the massive Rose Bowl. Match Fit USA wonders what went wrong.

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

But lots and lots of folks won’t go, and most of the rest won’t exactly be thrilled. It’s always tough, when you’re on foreign soil and don’t know what the cops are going to do next.

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