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Dec 10, 2006
Hi all...these days I usually respond to threads something around 7-pages in which takes about 2 seconds thought and isn't very serious, just the usual tired crap of taking the **** out of RM, (which lets face it isn't hard, I mean every time he opens his mouth to the press it's bloody hilarous in the most insulting way imaginable to us). This is a bit of a rant and probably not the best time to post this given our best win of the season last friday but anyway, I did give this some thought and I would genuinely like to hear people's views on this...

There is insufficient legislation to protect football. It's a unique industry in that unlike other industry sectors the brand loyalty is unflinching, no matter how badly the football club is abused by its owners they know that they will always be guaranteed a revenue stream from the fans though season tickets and match day revenues. There is no other industry I can think of that has that kind of brand loyalty. People say that football is a religion, they're right in so many ways...

Like it or not, brand globalisation means that the richer get richer and the poorer get poorer but unlike any other industry there is this quasi-religious loyalty to the club you support. We may note the loss of a local supermaket when it gets put out of business by the likes of Tesco but we'll quite happily shop at the new Tesco because it's convenient. If SUFC no longer existed I would never support Manchester United et al and nor would most Southend fans I imagine.

Back to the point, half-hearted and ill-conceived government intervention such as HMRC no longer being a preferential creditor has backfired spectacularly. Instead of giving football clubs protection, all it has meant is that club owners can act with impunity with the knowledge that no matter what happens the goodwill (in an accounting sense) of the asset of the football club in terms of the fan's money from turnstiles and season ticket sales is undimished. Simply put, if SUFC got relegated to Sunday league football, instead of the crowd being one man walking his dog it would be thousands. We'd do an Aldershot or a Winbledon AFC (and better, with no disrepect to either of these clubs Southend's fans base is substantial..5000+ attendances in league 2 given what has happened over the last few seasons is testament to that). HMRC may be a dirty name to many Southend fans but in a sense they were the voice of reason. They don't care about football fan loyalty, if a company is insolvent they wind that company up with the result being that the incumbant owner would be removed from said company. Simple as that...except for football clubs where it seems the rules are different. With the threat of HMRC winding a club removed...where's the threat to a football club owner?

This is what I want, as distateful as it may seem to some. Firstly HMRC MUST be given their preferential creditor status back so they have the clout to stop chairmen using football clubs to fund their other businesses without fear of bankrupcy. A club is bigger than it's chairman and will always endure given a big enough fan-base. Secondly, the FA need to grow a pair and force clubs to appoint independant financial auditors to each club from the conference league up rather than allowing clubs to appoint their own auditors. These audits can then be published so that fans know what is really going on and not be fobbed off by incomprehensible accruals or asset movements. And finally the government needs to grow a pair too and pass legislation that football club owners from the conference level upwards must put at least one season's club running costs based on the previous season independently audited accounts into an eschrow account at the start of each season otherwise they cannot compete in that league. Make the 'golden share' or whatever its called actually mean something. It won't hurt the likes of Chelsea and Man City with their billionaire backers but it will mean that football club chairmen are held to account and are forced to run their clubs in a responsible manner within their means.

Make no mistake, football clubs are ripe pickings for businessmen with no interest in football but who are looking for a safety-net for their other business ventures. For the record, I am categorically stating that RM and other football chairman are acting totally within the law, but from what I see as a purely hypothetical viewpoint there is nothing to stop football chairmen from running their other business activities under this 'special' previlege that football has with HMRC with complete impunity. This has to stop.