The Football League admits that it is powerless to intervene to halt the mismanagement which has caused Blackburn Rovers' rapid decline, with the club still to agree a pay-off for sacked manager Michael Appleton.
The League's Memorandum of Association states that it exists to "regulate the activities of member clubs and their respective officers, employees, registered players and agents" – a mandate which has led the League Managers' Association (LMA) and others in the game to urge the governing body to act, after the High Court farce which led a judge to order the payment of £2.25m to sacked manager Henning Berg, a week ago: £39,473 a day for each of the 57 days he was in charge.
The League's chairman, Greg Clarke, has not responded to The Independent's request to discuss the Blackburn situation, but the body has now issued this newspaper with a statement declaring that it simply has "no mandate to intervene in the running of individual clubs" and can only do so where specific regulations have been breached. "In the specific case of Blackburn Rovers, we have seen no evidence that the club has breached any of our regulations," the statement read.
The League's unwillingness to comment directly on Rovers' conduct will surprise supporters. Privately, the League points to sanctions it has imposed against Chesterfield, Swindon Town and Watford in the past as evidence that it will act if specific rules are broken. But it considers article 3.3 of its Memorandum of Association, governing the behaviour and activity of clubs, to be too broad to allow it to step in.
Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters' Federation, said last night that the lack of power available to member organisations, such as the Football League, to intervene, should compel the Football Association to introduce new rules to stop clubs being ruined, as Blackburn are. "The goings-on at Blackburn are just the latest example of a club where the normal and proper financial and personnel management don't seem to apply," Clarke said. "They're an example of the need for a much stronger regulatory framework to ensure that football clubs manage their affairs properly, but they're not the only ones.
"The problem with the League bodies is that they are member organisations. You need a body standing outside of it, to introduce a change of rules, and the FA, as the governing body of the game, is the right body to do this. All too often people on Planet Football seem to think they can live outside the rules, regulations and law that all organisations have to comply with."
With Appleton still waiting for written confirmation from Rovers a week ago about their intention to pay him in lieu of the contract which was terminated by the club on 19 March, the LMA has been ready to pursue Rovers' Indian owners for the wages, as it had for Berg. The Independent understands that the Appleton situation will not be resolved for at least another week.