Why the football governing bodies need to enforce new rules on football ownership

1987 produced one of the biggest moments in Coventry City’s long and proud history when the Sky Blues overcame Tottenham Hotspur to win their first FA Cup crown.

Fast forward 32 years and the club have been on a constant decline. Four relegations and administration, and now the club are just three games away from losing the Ricoh Arena. It is time for action with the club’s future facing a perilous conclusion.

Blackpool have eventually gained the upper hand in their long standing battle with the Oyston family with the Seasiders put into receivership so the club can be sold and the proceeds used to pay off some of the £22 owed by their owners.

Henry Winter believes the EFL have to be stronger when it comes to football ownership

However, Coventry City are now only three games away from being kicked out of the Ricoh Arena and rendered homeless – as their fight with owners SISU intensifies.

As much as a football club is a business, it is so much more. It is the heartbeat of a community which brings people together and can create lasting memories for fans across the globe. The fans will be here long before and after any potential ownership group are at the helm.

Clubs such as Blackpool, Leyton Orient, and Coventry have had their heart and soul ripped away by careless and unfit owners, with their proud and established history being dragged through the mire. The Government and the FA have a duty to protect clubs from falling in to the hands of owners who don’t have the best interests of the club at the forefront of their business mind.

An independent regulatory body who can differentiate and decipher between business people is pivotal when moving forward if the Football League wants to eradicate clubs falling in to the same trap left by the Oyston family and SISU.

“It is now clear that nothing is going to change unless ALL parties involved in this saga are prepared to start acting in the best interest of Coventry City Football Club.
We therefore feel strongly that it is time to stop the “blame game” and get on with the business of saving OUR club.”

A statement from the Sky Blue Trust in reference to the stance taken by SISU

Steps have been made by the Football Association and the government as they will start a review into the ownership of football stadiums to help protect the interests of English clubs. However, this only scratches the surfaces of what is needed to preserve the longevity of clubs that are already under the ownership of groups that are heading in only one direction. It is all well and good protecting the stadium, but the future of a club is more important.

There is a stark lack of communication between the governing bodies and the fans. This lack of clarity needs to be transformed as without the fan base, football would not exist. When looking at the example of Leyton Orient, O’s fans were left in the wilderness and left with no information regarding the future of their club.

This lack of transparency lead to Orient fans staging mass protests, invading the pitch, and holding mock funerals for the club. Attendances dwindled and under the leadership of Francesco Becchetti Orient came within days of facing extinction.

The protests staged by Orient in response to owner Becchetti

Similarly, Coventry now face a race against time to agree a new deal at the Ricoh Arena or face being expelled from League One at the completion of the campaign.

Bolton Wanderers are the most recent club to find themselves on the wrong end of a careless mismanagement from owner Ken Anderson. The EFL have given the club two weeks to find a potential new buyer or risk facing a winding up order. The Trotters are faced with an unpaid tax bill for £1.2million. Anderson took majority control of Wanderers in 2017 following relegation from the Championship.

This further emphasises that the Football League need to ensure that proper checks take place before a majority stakeholder takes charge of a football club.

The EFL seem content on dishing out the punishment to clubs in need, but seem reluctant to offer help when a club is on its knees. There is a need for a mass clamp down in football ownership and the FA should work with the government to ensure that football clubs are not used as cash cows, but as something that represents a city, a community, and a livelihood.

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