A look at German and American systems would serve British football well


So the Prime Minister goes to Scotland and in between trying to save the United Kingdom he has time to talk about Glasgow Rangers. If anything illustrates the power of modern sport, particularly football then this, surely, is it. But it also shows curious our football world is.

The most important question is: if football is so powerful how come our legislators have not taken steps to make sure we have proper rules for football clubs and a level playing field? The simple fact is we talk about the importance of football but allow it to be run like a cottage industry. Worse still an industry which is allowed to make its own absurd rules.

The situation of what happens when a football club goes into administration is a classic case in point and an absolute disgrace. Then the debt it owes to another football club, or to the players, has to be paid in full. As for the person who supplies the pies or whatever else at the club, he or she can go hang. The football debt may run into millions, players’ wages can easily reach that level, but it has to be met. If not the league will not allow the club to play.

In contrast the small businesses supplying the club are treated like a low caste nothing. I do understand that when this rule came in football was not a business. Now that football is a huge industry it is absurd that our politicians allow the rule to continue. Those who have done business with Portsmouth in recent years know how costly this rule can be.

I know this rule does not apply to Scotland. Curious is it not that while the talk is of Scots seeking to split from the rest of the UK, in this regard they already have a rule which is different. This means that those owed money by Glasgow Rangers, including football clubs, will just have to take their chances. As with house purchases the Scots, I believe, have a fairer system which the rest of the country would do well to copy.

Rangers administrator Paul Clarke arrives at Ibrox. Image courtesy of PlayUp

The other issue is allowing anyone to buy into the football club. In America, despite being wedded to free enterprise, it has restrictions when it comes to sport ownership. If you want to buy an NFL or a MSL club you have to be approved and vetted by all the other owners. In Germany, effectively, a foreigner cannot walk in and buy a club.

But we in this country in the name of free enterprise allow anyone to buy a club. And then through the football creditors rule allow that person special privileges because he owns a football club. Had this system not existed nobody would allow it to be introduced now. The fact we allow it to continue shows how little our political masters have paid attention to football, let alone understood the need to regulate it properly.

Of course Rangers demise is due to more than just the non-regulation of the football business. It reflects the fact that the world of football had changed resulting in not just Rangers but Scottish football being marginalised. Rangers fall is a fatal combination of believing football could be a business while ignoring these changes in the wider world.

Here the effect of the Bosman ruling was huge. It meant that smaller countries like Scotland were devastated, as Alex McLeish the manager of Aston Villa puts it. Scotland once produced players who were some of the most important in English football. No good English team was without at least one influential Scot. Now look around the Premiership and you will struggle to name a prominent Scot. You are likely to find more from the Ivory Coast and other African countries than north of the border.

And with Champions League geared to the bigger television markets of England, Italy, Spain and Germany, the Scottish champion cannot even be sure of a place in the tournament. Those running Rangers could do nothing about these changes.

However, the fall of Rangers, painful as it is for the fans, provides an ideal opportunity for politicians to have a hard look at football and make the necessary changes to reflect the changes in the game and society. But will they seize the moment? I doubt it.


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