Tony Lloyd, Member of Parliament for Manchester Central, has filed an Early Day Motion calling for supporters to hold a tangible stake in their clubs. Citing growing supporter unrest at Portsmouth, Liverpool and the green and gold Manchester United revolution, Lloyd also calls for a binding framework for football regulation.
Lloyd, MP for Manchester Central since 1997 and Stretford from 1983 to 1997, filed Early Day Motion 807. Signed by six fellow MPs, the EDM holds no legislative power but will place pressure on both government and football clubs to regulate the level of debt in the game, while recognising the moral stake that supporters hold in their clubs.
Under the title The Governence and Regulation of Professional Football, Lloyd’s EDM asks:
That this House recognises that professional football has become a major part of the modern way of life for millions of people; further recognises that its future has ramifications for individuals, communities and the nation; is aware that the state of the premier league and the professional game is causing concern; notes that self-regulation by the football authorities has often meant no regulation; further notes the widespread concern of club supporters, football journalists and financial commentators amongst others that the controlling interests in the clubs do not obviously demonstrate long-term commitment to the clubs involved and to the health of football in general; shares the concern of these groups about the level of debt and financial uncertainty which now affects certain clubs in all divisions; is further aware of the growing trend for public demonstration of unhappiness about these trends at clubs like Liverpool, Portsmouth and the recent Green and Gold campaign at Manchester United; believes the time has come for football fans to be given a tangible stake in the clubs they have helped build and still support; and calls on the Government and the football authorities to create a binding framework which will regulate club debt and those people who are involved in football, guarantee the protection of the consumer with rules for fair trading and protect the wider public interest by putting the supporter at the heart of the national game.
Manchester United is burdened with more than £716 million debt following the Glazer family’s leveraged buyout in 2005 but the problem is not the champions’ alone. Portsmouth is now on its fourth owner this season and it is generally accepted that the club is one player sale away from going into administration. Meanwhile, Liverpool has more than £200 million debt, placed onto the club’s books by owners Tom Hicks and George Gillet.
Government and the game’s organising bodies are notoriously poor at regulating financial matters in the game. While UEFA President Michel Platini wants to introduce new rules from 2011 that will bar indebted clubs from entering European competitions, it would almost certainly rule United, Real Madrid and Barcelona out of the Champions League. It is doubtful whether the body has the stomach for that prospect.
Meanwhile, the British government has done little to change its laissez faire approach to football regulation under the stewardship of the perennially inept Department for Culture Media and Sport.
Lloyd’s EDM is unlikely to change that fact but supporters should congratulate the Labour MP, whatever their party affiliation, on its sentiment.