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All the clubs have been closed down

Words by Will Holdaway

Whatever the result, today’s fixture against Eastleigh will once again show the current healthy and happy state of Oldham Athletic Football Club. It’s Armistice Day, and the club, through its Veteran Supporters Group, will mark the occasion accordingly. The new-ish ownership have been very good to supporters’ groups apart from OASIS, but our day will come. Our. Day. Will. Come.

His Majesty the King, 74, said the word "football" for the first time this week.

We shouldn’t ever take the Rothwells for granted. With football regulation the way it is, Abdallah could’ve sold OAFC (2004) Ltd to any old crook. He could’ve sold us to a property developer and rapist paedophile; a loan shark; a money launderer; a sovereign state with an undesirable human rights record; or even the Glazers. Anyone at all.

We got the Rothwells. We fell in a bucket of thumbs and came out sucking a lollipop.

The latest news in football governance is that the Government announced this week that they will “bring forward legislation” to establish an independent football regulator, with the intention of preventing crooks and wrong ’uns from owning football clubs, and of giving fans more say in club ownership, including via golden shares.

This idea comes from a recommendation made by the Independent Fan-led Review. The review panel was chaired by Tory MP and qualified referee Tracey Crouch. Given that background, it came as a surprise to many that the recommendations are not a complete load of shit. An independent regulator of football – IREF – to stop bad people from buying football clubs was the main one.

I’m very much pro regulation of this type. The FA and the Football League, and all the other league organisations, have shown no interest whatsoever in stopping bellends from owning football clubs. Something needs to happen to preserve these valuable community assets, and not every town and city has a Rothwell family.

Alas, I am sceptical. Big-time. I am sceptical because of my vast experience of watching the Tories in action. It would not be the first time (although it might be among the last) that they have announced something with no intention of making it so.

One reason it won’t happen is that there is no time to pass the legislation. There are time constraints on passing laws: there will be a public consultation, usually of 12 weeks; the Bill has to be debated in both Houses of Parliament, when it is 100% amendable; and there’s only one year before a general election. The football regulator was announced quite far down the list of the Government’s programme, just before the regulation of London pedicabs, which also won’t happen.

An active and effective regulator also won’t happen within a year because the crooks in football, some of whom are oil-rich sovereign states, will get to work with their lobbyists and their public relations people. If these people get their way, IREF will work in their interests and not in the interests of the people who over-invest emotionally and spiritually in the game. IREF could end up as another FA or Football League – another waste of space, time and money. If the vested interests of football get to decide what IREF can and cannot do, IREF will exist only to rubber stamp the wrong ’uns, just like the FA fit-and-proper-persons bollocks does currently.

As we know from Chelsea’s recent travails, the tide can turn quickly if you are a Russian kleptocrat, or if it is discovered that your sovereign fund also provides money and materiel to Hamas, or to other unpleasant causes. Football clubs are liquid assets, and the liquidity – the ease with which you can buy and sell a club – is a big part of the reason why they are attractive to all the wrong people, at every level of the game. Owners of football clubs may need to offload in a hurry, and the last thing they want is a regulator holding things up by investigating the bona fides of the potential buyers.

The Government’s announcement that it will introduce legislation was welcomed in all the right places, including the Football Supporters Association, by people who should know better than to take these shitbags at their word.

Anyway, if we win against Eastleigh and other results go our way, SkyBet will be under severe pressure to offer more than 13p to get me to cash out of my £5 bet on us winning the league.


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