The Premier League: an accident waiting to happen

At last, the back pages of our national newspapers have woken up.

Beginning to go is the unjustified criticism of Rovers’ fans for being unreasonable in the face of adversity; to be replaced by some understanding that this is no ordinary relegation.

What it raises are very big questions for the Football Association, the Premier League – and their paymasters, Sky, about how top flight football in this country is governed.

Every football fan knows that each season, three clubs go up, and three go down.

It wasn’t funny when we went down in 1999.

But – and it’s a very big ‘but’ – there was still confidence in the club itself.

Jack Walker was alive, John Williams his very capable chief executive. We all knew that Jack cared, that he would never hollow out his Club.

Rovers was safe, whatever league it was in.

Now, with Venkys, there is no certainty whatever about the club’s future.

Paul Hunt, the acting chief executive, and a decent man, has been sacked for telling the truth about the club.

More players will be sold; other staff face likely lay-off; the administration has been severely weakened.

The Premier League wash their hands of all this.

We’ve been relegated – so now we’re someone else’s problem.

But the Premier League bear a high responsibility for this mess.

They need to wake up to the fact that if they don’t get a grip, the worm will turn.

Take heed from what’s happening to Sky’s biggest shareholder – Mr Murdoch. He was omnipotent; now severely weakened. It’s called hubris, reckoning.

At the heart of the Premier League’s wilful negligence of its responsibilities is its so-called “fit and proper person” test.

This is the test which the foreign owners of Birmingham City (trapped in Hong Kong), Portsmouth (in administration for the second time) – and Manchester United (victim of ‘Glazer-economics’) all passed – as did Venkys.

The test is laughable, and almost everyone in the business knows this.

This ‘test’ allows no period of probation for new owners, no assessment of their managerial competence, no disclosure of the insidious role of the agents.

Unless and until there is change, the Premier League itself is an accident waiting to happen.

Author: Jack Straw

Jack Straw was elected as the MP for Blackburn in 1979 and is currently the Secretary of State for Justice.

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