Football: MP fuels saga of Johnson's double ownership

THE PETER JOHNSON saga erupted into a dispute last night between a prominent Merseyside MP and the Premier League.

The Liverpool Walton MP Peter Kilfoyle claimed the Premier League had "failed miserably in it's duty" with regard to the year-long wrangle over Johnson's ownership of Everton and Tranmere, which breaks the game's regulations.

Kilfoyle, an Everton fan who has both clubs in his constituency, has also criticised Everton's vice-chairman, Bill Kenwright, for failing to come up with a financial package to buy out Johnson's 68 per cent control of Everton. But Mike Lee, a Premier League spokesman, was unimpressed by Kilfoyle's criticism. He stressed that the only sanctions available to the authorities are fining the clubs, banning them from competition or deducting points.

Lee said: "We have worked very hard with the clubs, the FA and Nationwide League to find a solution but it is a very hard situation. We are monitoring the position very closely and have made it clear to Peter Johnson that he must relinquish his stake in one of the clubs. But we do not want to take steps which would penalise the clubs themselves or their fans and if we started getting heavy duty on this, who would pay the price?

"We have taken several steps to ensure there is no undue influence or irregularity between the two clubs. We have acted to protect the integrity of competition and have put important safeguards in place."

After the recent AGM, hopes were raised that Kenwright and other consortia could team up to force Johnson out, but nothing has happened. The lack of a solution prompted a frustrated Kilfoyle to say: "Twelve months ago there was a collective sigh of relief as Peter Johnson said goodbye to Everton, or so we all thought. A year later the football authorities have failed miserably in their duty. Their rules state that no one can own two clubs, but Johnson has pointed two fingers at them.

"Bill Kenwright has failed in his bid for the club unless he can assemble a new package acceptable to Johnson. Meanwhile, Everton stands to lose one of the few successes in recent years, it's manager Walter Smith. I urge all Everton fans to support Walter, write to the club, the FA and the Premiership demanding an end to this farce." Smith has recently made noises that he may have to reconsider his future if the problems are not resolved when his contract ends in 18 months.

A Nationwide League spokesman joined Lee in rejecting Kilfoyle's criticism of the football authorities. John Nagle said: "We are doing all we can but our objective is to save Tranmere. If Peter Johnson was put under pressure he could withdraw his loans to Tranmere and shut the club down.

"Nobody wants to see that. We have one of our own officials - Andy Williamson - on the Tranmere board to make sure the club is run correctly in as far as involvement with Everton is concerned. But we are not in a strong position to force the issue - it could be counter-productive, a disaster."

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