Our Donald – Regulate, Speculate, Sort…

Date: 23rd March 2024

In this weeks first blog from our resident writer Donald Stewart:

Regulate, speculate, sort… 

I suppose, first you have to acknowledge there is a problem – a bit like a car that will not run properly. You try your utmost to nurse it to a point where you can afford to pay for a repair or pump up the slow puncture every morning believing that it will sort itself out or you just tootle round to that guy who does repairs out the back of his house and hope he can fix it for a fair price.  

Eventually though, the inevitable day comes when the big end falls out it, the tyre blows out at 70 mph down the motorway or even that guy shakes his head at you and says, you need to replace this.  

Reality sets in and you have to do something. 

Once you know it has to be done, you run round various options, discuss them with yourself and narrow things down to a few solutions which need to be factored into the stakeholders’ meetings. If she needs new shoes, it’s his birthday next month and we are going away for a wedding with the gas and electricity prices finally coming down, we can afford X. and so X marks the spot.  

Then you sort it out.  

Now one of the most divisive Prime Ministers of the 20th Century took great glee in pointing out such a solution to the country’s finances. When she was in power it was the grocery shopping which was likened to balancing the budgets of the UK Government. Further back Charles Dickens gave us many a character who professed the difference between misery and happiness would be down to a single penny.  

My analogy in football is slightly different. For I am not just talking about finance.  

If I may return to my vehicular analogy, the wheels on the bus are not going round and round.  

We are not alone. there is plenty to compare against in other national organisations and factors of the game which spring to mind have led the English FA to go along with the realisation that competing interests do not a smooth decision making process make.  

In March the bill to establish a regulator was published for debate – they have noticed something wrong and are not going to sit idly by whilst the problems persist.  

Action is needed. They need an X to mark a sweet spot.  

The headline was about bad owners being removed from clubs – Romanov, Whyte anyone?  

Financial regulation, fan engagement and club heritage protection are also under the auspices of this well-meaning, hard thinking and thoroughly welcome change. Of course, there is much debate to be had and there is much speculation over how that shall be manged but with an impending General Election on the horizon, the hope is that no matter what the result of that may be, this bill has enough cross-party support to endure.  

What caught my eye was about the three stage process of assessing owners. First comes in terms of assessing people against the normality of integrity, honesty and fiscal soundness – no succulent lamb on the menu there. Then comes looking at how illicit money may be pouring into a club and whether the club is being used for nefarious purposes.  Finally, the third stage, presumably after the second stage has come to an end, would see the requirement of an action plan for future sustainability be placed in front of the regulator for approval. By the club and its owners.  

All, including existing directors and owners will be put through this mill. If they fail, they will be forced to “disinvest.” Of course, if the bill becomes law and people are forced to act it out.  

In the proposed format, the regulator would also have the power to force clubs to consult with fans – and what radical eejit would disagree with that principle – but would not be forced to act upon concerns – I might have some issue with that.  

But the biggy, is on  heritage change as it pertains to grounds, badges and any aspect of a club’s legacy. Clubs would need supporter consent. Absolutely bang on. 

My greatest hope is that this ploughs a furrow round the grounds and football of England and becomes law. It operates well for a year or so whilst the Scottish Government copy it. Most things trialled in England – league names and VAR – tend to be copied by the SFA, but this might be very different… I do not mind imitating this at all.  

The fact is that Scottish Football’s big end fell off ages ago, the gear box has been wonky for years and as for the tyres… don’t even begin… but you know when you notice things, have blown yourself out telling people and nobody takes a blind bit of notice until that uncle turns up at the wedding and says exactly the same and everyone thinks it’s a great idea… that’s my hope. 

My fear is real. The clubs argue, fall out, cannot agree and the patch up job at the local garage helps us get to the next season before the international picture starts to look less rosy and we all fall back into the doom, the gloom and the recriminations of not doing enough when we had the chance to do it.  

That chance is now.   

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