James Lawton: Premier League is to blame for owners acting like headless chickens


Having lamented the absence of Uefa president Michel Platini from last week's show of wealth and power at the Etihad Stadium, Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore might now want to tell us how much he regretted the Frenchman's non-appearance at Ewood Park this week.

Or then, when you think about it, perhaps not.

According to Scudamore, Platini's argument that Financial Fair Play regulations provide the light of impending football sanity would have been pummelled by first-hand evidence of the effects of Sheikh Mansour's £1bn-plus investment in champions-elect Manchester City.

Apparently caught in a rush of corporate pride, he declared: "It would have been nice for Platini to have been there. It is a strong point to put to him: this is what you get when you welcome inward investment."

No doubt the devastated supporters of Blackburn Rovers might have made a point or two of their own. They might also have asked a question that has rarely been far from their minds from the start to the finish of a season of ravaged hopes.

It would have asked how it was that if the Premier League was indeed the best-run, most spectacular league in the football world, it allowed a bunch of Indian chicken suppliers to get their hands on one of the nation's proudest clubs, sack an established, proven football man like Sam Allardyce on the doolally basis that the club should have finished in seventh rather than ninth place, appoint a complete tyro in his place and then provide him with an embarrassingly small budget?

Unfortunately, even those only casually acquainted with the recent history of the Premier League could reach for the answer with a certain level of authority. It is because the Premier League's Fit and Proper Person ownership test has once again proved itself not a vital administrative arm but a rather sinister joke.

Even before Venky's put their maladroit hands on the club that the old steelman Sir Jack Walker had attempted to secure against the pitfalls of football's overheated economy, the Premier League had assembled a cast list of owners who might have raised eyebrows even in the murkier corners of polite society.

Before City received their desert windfall, they had Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai politician described by Human Rights Watch advisers as "a human rights abuser of the worst kind". Across town, United acquired the Glazers, whose tortuous efforts to turn one of the most successful sporting institutions into the family cash cow included putting a lien on Old Trafford. Birmingham City's saviour Carson Yeung had the small embarrassment of money-laundering charges in Hong Kong and we all know the long-term impact of Alexandre Gaydamak on the affairs of Portsmouth, another of England's beloved old clubs.

This is, of course, the other side of what you get when you wave on "inward investment". In Blackburn's case it has been mostly the grossest ineptitude, a cycle of failure which became so alarming, we now know, the club's deputy chief executive Paul Hunt made desperate, mid-season entreaties to club owner Anuradha Desai that she come down from the unworldly place where she had persuaded herself that Ronaldinho could be conjured at no greater cost than £4m.

Such stupidities could not exist, of course, in a Premier League which had begun to justify its claim to be the best-run in the world.

In America, the National Football League has regulations over ownership that would not have allowed the Glazers to step inside the front door of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had they presented the kind of business plan which allowed them to take over United.

There are vigorously enforced rules against the stockpiling of debt, and disbelief that a league with the global range of the Premier League should operate with such light restrictions on the financial activities of its members. In the stringent world of major league American sport, the scandals of Blackburn and Portsmouth simply could not have happened – nor the debt loading of United.

Blackburn has happened before our eyes on a slow reel of dysfunctional horrors.

Eastern promise turned into Occidental meltdown. Some fans have screamed their anger while others have been overcome by a numbing tide of disbelief.

All of them have seen something they held very dear, a club Alan Shearer once chose before Manchester United and his hometown Newcastle and one for whom some of its finest days were seized by the brilliant, laconic little Lancastrian Bryan Douglas, first stolen from them, then turned into an object of ridicule.

A pity that Michel Platini didn't show his face in the Etihad Stadium, did someone say? It's a thousand more, surely, that he didn't happen to see the wreckage of a great club on the night they became the latest victims of what passes for football governance.

Premier League debt

Arsenal 97.8m

Aston Villa 110m

Blackburn Rovers 21m

Bolton Wanderers 93m

Chelsea 734m

Everton 45m

Fulham 190m

Liverpool 123m

Manchester City 41m

Manchester United 439m

Newcastle United 150m

Norwich 16.8m

QPR 56.1m

Stoke City 8m

Sunderland 66m

Swansea 0m

Tottenham 78.6m

West Bromwich 2m

Wigan Athletic 73m

Wolves 0m

Arts and Entertainment
TVSabotage, a major meltdown and, of course, plenty of sauce
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
i100'Geography can be tough'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Louis van Gaal looks dejected after Manchester United's 4-0 defeat by MK Dons on Tuesday night
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
REX/Eye Candy
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?