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The behaviour of some Government ministers in recent times has been nothing short of a disgrace and has impacted upon the reputation of all politicians, however unfair that may be. It is currently the most despised profession of all.

Many on the Government benches have been stressing how important it is to follow formal processes before they can comment on, for example, the bullying claims (some 24) against Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab or the £800,000 loan allegedly arranged by the BBC Chairman Richard Sharpfor Boris Johnson or the tax affairs of Nadhim Zahawiand the HMRC fine imposed. Not to mention the £37 billion scandal around the ill-fated Covid test and trace system where we still don’t know where the money went.

Rather than chastise Boris Johnson over his Partygate behaviour, the same MPs now suggest that because Sue Gray has taken up a role with the Labour Party that in some way her report must be discounted and based on political bias, which of course is nonsense as the huge number of fines issued by the Police in relation to Partygate demonstrate.

Despite the fact so many MPs cannot possibly comment on all of these issues, they have had no problem in piling into Gary Lineker in the past 7 days for a tweet he put out. The substance of his post was that the offensive language used around migrants was synonymous with the language used in Germany in the 1930s. 

An unlikely voice of support for Lineker has come from former Tory Chancellor George Osborne, who has backed Lineker, criticising the rhetoric around asylum policy by some in his party. "Personally, I think some of the language used on immigration by some Conservatives - not all - is not acceptable," he told Channel 4's Andrew Neil Show. And that in a nutshell was Lineker’s point. You can argue against the comparison Lineker used but not to his right to free speech. How many times do you hear politicians berating Russian and China for denying freedom of speech and lauding our own freedoms. You can’t pick and choose on free speech.

As for the BBC, they had no problem in refusing to show the opening ceremony of the Qatar World Cup and to getting Lineker to call out the human rights record of the Qatari regime. Additionally, the BBC have zero enthusiasm to suspend their own chairman in the way they have Lineker. This is why so many presenters and pundits have walked out in solidarity with him.

This whole episode is riddled with double standards and hypocrisy. Politicians argue that the impartiality of the BBC is the most important issue here, but everybody recognises these are Lineker’s views and not the BBC’s views and as Greg Dyke (a former BBC Chairman) has pointed out, the supposed requirements that politicians and the BBC are referring to have not previously been applied against freelance sports presenters.

Free speech is the foundation of our democracy, and we seek to stifle it at our peril.

The simple truth is that football cannot be trusted to regulate itself and run the game in the interest of its most important stakeholders - the fans.


The so called big six clubs would be off to join a European Super League given half a chance because the money they would earn from joining would dwarf the current riches they earn from the English Premier League, but the matches would largely become television events because of the travel costs involved. You can be sure that as with the school holidays, airlines would fleece fans to the hilt.


Having spent a startling £800m in the January transfer window, the focus of the Premier League clubs involved would be on an upward spiral of even bigger transfer fees and higher wages whilst at the same time and particularly in the current economic climate the cost of attending matches will continue to rise and once in the stadium the cost of food and drink is already way out of line with what you would pay anywhere else. When Liz Truss became Prime Minister she made it clear she was opposed to independent regulation in football and that made me fear for the future direction of the game we all love.


Fortunately, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as a Southampton supporter has a different view and the Government is poised to issue a white paper on football and the central tenet will be the introduction of independent regulation into the top 5 tiers of the football pyramid from the Premier League to the National League.

The regulator will require every club in the top 5 leagues to be licensed and clubs will have to satisfy the regulator in a number of ways.

Clubs will be required to have sufficient funds and follow a new corporate governance code to ensure financial stability.


Owners and directors will face tough tests to make sure they are suitable people to run a club.


Clubs will have to keep a minimum standard of fan engagement in key decisions around its cultural heritage. Added to that, teams will only be able to compete in tournaments that have been approved by the regulator so hopefully that will kill off the prospect of the divisive European Super League.


Importantly, there will be a specified requirement for the Premier League to increase financial support for clubs in the lower divisions.


One issue I would like to see the independent regulator tackle head on is the splitting off ofstadium ownership from the football club. For the overwhelming majority of fans, the home ground is as important to them as the team itself. Players come and go but the stadium is a constant.


What has happened at both Charlton Athletic and Coventry City is unacceptable and the split of the stadium from the team is what has in Charlton’s case in particular led to a series of disastrous ownerships. This practice must be stopped now and if it is left to those responsible for the current governance of the game nothing will change.


I already have my letter ready for the regulator as soon as he or she is appointed!

We saw during the peak of the COVID Pandemic that the absence of fans at matches rendered football totally soulless.


You would think that because of that those running the game and the clubs at all levels would do everything they could to show they appreciate those who are the lifeblood of the game. Put simply, fans are currently the last consideration of those in power.


If you look at the VAR system, more often than not big fans are left in the dark as to why a particular decision has been made and communication with fans is way down on the list of priorities of the governing bodies which only serves to undermine some of the contentious decisions that are made. In cricket and rugby for example, the process is so much more informative.


On Saturday I travelled to Peterborough reassured by various statements that no pitch inspections were planned and that the match would go ahead. These are difficult economic times, and many fans stretch themselves to be able to travel to away games so making sure travelling fans do not incur unnecessary expense should be a priority, but it isn’t. The match referee called the game off just 90 minutes before kick-off, and it then emerged that one half of the pitch was frozen. Officials at Charlton claim they called Peterborough on a number of occasions over two days to check the game was on and were told it was not in doubt. 


Most groundsmen have an intimate knowledge of their pitches so how this situation can happen is incomprehensible.


To his credit, Peterborough Chairman Darragh MacAnthony has apologised and promised to instigate a review of all the circumstances including the poor communication throughout the week leading up to the game and on the day from his club officials. He has also committed to pay for coach travel for the away fans for the match on the re-arranged date. 


It is clear that football’s governing bodies need to establish clear and transparent rules around pitch inspections and postponements that take account of the costs incurred by travelling fans. If football continues to take fans for granted, it will suffer the consequences - financial and otherwise.


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