When I was younger, maybe seventeen or eighteen, I found myself working with a demolition crew in deepest, darkest Rochdale.
If I recall correctly, it was the summer holidays, and our job was to go into a local high school and create a blank slate for our tradesmen friends to build upon.
After a couple of days spent gutting the interiors, the site foreman pulled me to one side and said, “I need you to knock down one of the walls upstairs.” He led me to the offending barrier and I assured him that I’d get to it first thing in the morning.
And I did.
You see, I brayed the living daylights out of a wall that morning: it just happened to be the wrong one.
In my eagerness to please, I hadn’t paid attention to my surroundings, nor to the precise instructions of the foreman. So instead of making space for a fancy new ICT suite on the Third Floor, I created a sprawling new Geography classroom on the Fourth Floor.
In my defence, I was going through a Luddite phase, and, more to the point, all school corridors look alike. Unfortunately, these two perfectly reasonable excuses didn’t cut the mustard with the powers that be, and after a few choice words, they sent me back over the Pennines with my tail between my legs.
Now, I’m not looking for any sympathy, because although I was eligible for the job—I’d been on the planet and in the country long enough to satisfy all the relevant legislative and regulatory requirements—I wasn’t capable of doing it, since I was lacking both the requisite experience and qualifications, not to mention common sense.
Mutual embarrassment aside, my employer and I learned a valuable lesson, one that applies to pretty much everything: actions have consequences.
These men and their ilk are lucky enough to live in a world without consequences. After all, the English Football League’s (EFL) fit and proper person test is crystal clear when it comes to the criteria for owning a football club: capability counts for nothing.
So long as you’re eligible—which in practice translates as “filthy rich”—you’ve all but got your foot in the door, and once you have, the EFL are adamant that their “powers to intervene are limited.”
Which, when you think about it, is quite remarkable! It makes you wonder what they do all day long at 55 Blandford Street, apart from discussing the finer points of scoreboard etiquette.
One thing’s for sure: they’re not doing anything to combat the plague of incompetent and wilfully negligent owners afflicting the national game—quite the opposite. Not only have Shaun Harvey and his alleged overseers at the F.A. given them the keys to the building, they’ve let them loose with a lump hammer and told the tenants that there’s nothing they can do about it.
And when it all comes tumbling down, who do they ask to pick up the pieces? Why, those very same tenants who warned them against it all in the first place, of course!
Hands up who fancies a trip to the estate agents?
If this article has piqued your interest about the issue of regulatory reform in football, you can find out what’s being done and how to get involved on the Supporters Direct and Football Supporters’ Federation websites.