The Long Ball Tactic

Premier League takes a great stride backwards

Posted in Uncategorized by mike on June 14, 2011

It may have passed with little to no coverage, but over the weekend the Premier League pulled a stunt that was every bit as stupid and undemocratic as anything that went on in the FIFA congress two weeks ago.

Supporters Direct, the group set up in 2000 to help football fans struggle for greater accountability and democracy within their teams, as well as helping fans run their own teams, had its funding withdrawn by the Premier League, reneging on a previous commitment to provide £1.8m of funding over the next three years.

But for what reason? Had there been allegations of bungs, bribes, corruption, as has been levelled at the upper echelons of FIFA? What great scandal was it that appalled the Premier League so that they felt they had to withdraw their funding pledge? Well, it seems that messers Scudamore, Richards and co. were unhappy with SD chief exec Dave Boyle using swear words on Twitter whilst celebrating AFC Wimbledon’s promotion to the Football League.

In the manner of Mary Whitehouse, or a particularly pernickity conservative pensioner watching a stand-up comedy DVD, the PL decided that swearing would not be tolerated and Supporters Direct chair Pauline Green had not sufficiently reprimanded Boyle for his Twitter outburst, so the money that had previously been pledged to the organisation would no longer be available.

Who knew that the Premier League had such stringent moral guidelines? They seemed to be strangely absent when Thakshin Shinawatra was allowed to purchase Manchester City, or when the son of a then-wanted arms dealer bought Portsmouth FC; or, indeed, in the debt-laden takeover of Manchester United.  All of these ethically questionable actions, which knaw at the credibility of our national game, were allowed to pass without comment but swearing, it seems, was a step too far.

But the decision to stop Supporters Direct dead in its tracks is more than just another example of Premier League incompetence. In an age where Football League clubs are going bust like never before, SD is a vital organisation that helps the fans put their views front and centre and makes them a force to be reckoned with again. It is a voice of the fans which had previously gone unheard in a world of clubs and governing bodies making solely commercial considerations.

SD had helped establish 200 supporters trusts and it looked like we were entering a decade where ventures like these were making real, demonstrable progress. For instance, not only have fan-owned AFC Wimbledon entered the Football League, but Swansea City, whose supporters trust has a 20% share in the club and a full-time representative on the board, have been promoted to the Premier League. These need to set new precedents in fan-ownership, not just be quaint anomalies. The cutting of funding to SD goes against this great endeavour and helps the commercial side of the game gain an upper-hand on the fans once more.

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