Leeds will have to reveal owners if promoted
Wednesday 06 April 2011
If Leeds are promoted they will have to reveal who owns them; there will (probably) never be another financial collapse like Portsmouth's; and the Premier League will neither cut matches nor move to the summer schedule to create a winter break. Those were the headline revelations from yesterday's evidence session of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry into football governance at the Houses of Parliament.
MPs finally interrogated the men whose tanks are often said to be parked on the Football Association's lawn, the chairman and chief executive of the Premier League. They failed, though, to extract any confessions of guilt from either Sir David Richards or Richard Scudamore.
That was only to be expected of the latter, who showed the customary polished command of his brief. Richards, however, tends to be kept out of the public gaze for fear he shoots himself and his employers in the foot. Having been well prepped, he largely managed to avoid this, partly by leaving the complicated answers to Scudamore.
It was Scudamore who admitted the league should have been more pro-active with regard to Portsmouth entering administration, but said they never anticipated a club with Premier League income streams could get into such financial difficulties. He said procedures had now been strengthened to ensure such a situation never arose again. Among these is the requirement that all owners, including beneficiaries of discretionary trusts, are identified to the league.
This will become relevant should Leeds, currently in a promotion play-off position, go up. Last month Shaun Harvey, the club's chief executive, told the committee that as far as he was aware even chairman Ken Bates did not know the identity of the people behind the trust which controls 73 per cent of the club.
Scudamore said the league would "require disclosure from Leeds United". If that was not forthcoming, an independent disciplinary committee would assess punishment. Penalties ranged from a fine to expulsion, though Scudamore insisted the latter was unlikely.
Questioned about the possibility of a winter break being brought in to aid the England team, Scudamore said the problem was fixture congestion, and "the culprits" were Uefa and Fifa. He added there was "no way" the league would be cut to 18 clubs [a stipulation in the FA's original prospectus for the league] and "we would fight strongly against a summer calendar to protect the UK's sporting culture", by which he meant cricket.
Richards denied he had "bullied" the FA Board, an allegation made to the enquiry by former FA chairman Lord Triesman. He said he was "saddened and dejected" by the claim which "hurt" as he had campaigned against bullying for the NSPCC.
"It is a fair and democratic vote," said Richards, "to think the [three] Premier League chairmen could block nine others is ridiculous." This defence was undermined when he revealed that in his 16 years on the FA Board there had only been four issues put to a vote. That suggested Triesman was right to claim the game is governed by deals, threats, and meetings in corridors.
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