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Steven Gerrard is under pressure at Aston Villa
Steven Gerrard is under pressure at Aston Villa

As we approach November one thing is certain and that is that a significant number of managers at all levels of professional football will lose their jobs.

In most cases, changing the manager will placate the fans of the clubs involved but it most cases it won’t change the ultimate league position of their team. It is always the manager that is the fall guy and rarely the players.

A year ago, a significant number of Arsenal fans would have been happy to see Mikel Arteta shown the exit door but now he is a hero to those same fans, and you would be hard pressed to now find an Arsenal fan who admits that he or she ever wanted Arteta sacked.

Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea delivered Champions League success but that ultimately counted for nothing. He conducted himself with great dignity and protected the club during the drama surrounding Roman Abramovich. Scott Parker masterminded Bournemouth’s return to the Premier League last season and again that counted for nothing after losing to Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, which is hardly a disaster, and Bournemouth now sit in the top half of the table. Bruno Lage was credited with making Wolves attractive to watch and last season they comfortably finished in mid table. Now they are considering bringing back the manager Lage replaced in Nuno Espirito Santo.

Social media and media speculation only serves to heighten the pressure on managers and Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, Ralph Hasenhuttl at Southampton, Steve Cooper at Nottingham Forest and Brendan Rodgers at Leicester City are all under pressure currently.

The situation in the EFL is even worse. Giving Rob Edwards at Watford just 11 games in charge before sacking him is ridiculous. It takes time and patience to build success but that is in short supply in football.

Owners and chairmen appoint managers and the main thing managers seek is time and support particularly in recruitment. Owners are often guilty of promising the earth on the appointment of a manager and then moving the goalposts when the transfer windows open which leads to frustration and negativity and a lack of belief from the players in the future direction of the club.

The managerial merry go round will continue of course as in the modern era short termism rules in football but a constant change of manager for the majority of clubs achieves little.

The vociferous protests which took place from ordinary football fans in this country last year when Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham signed up to join the European Super League caused the owners of those clubs to back down and withdraw from the discussions taking place.

If anyone thought that was the end of the matter, then that is naive in the extreme. Greed and self-interest will ensure that is not the case. You only have to look at the finances involved and the sheer disregard the six clubs displayed for their fellow Premier League clubs to see that if other European clubs resurrect the proposal, they will make themselves available to be involved in discussions doubtless on the premise the format proposed in 2021 is to change.

In recent days and weeks, the owners of Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid have spoken openly about their support for a European Super League (ESL). Such is the financial mayhem around these clubs that they see this as their only route to improved financial stability. Added to this the broadcasting revenues for the Premier League far outweigh what clubs in Spain and Italy earn, but if the ESL comes about that will rebalance broadcasting revenues across Europe and will seriously impact upon the finances of the 14 Premier League clubs not seen as part of these discussions.

There will already be private discussions taking place with our so called big six clubs as they seek to impose upon us a league that will for most fans be played out on our television screens.

That is one reason I support independent regulation of the professional game in this country so that fans have a meaningful voice as the key stakeholders in the game. The empty stadia during Covid were a reminder of the importance of fans.

The next big step in progressing the ESL will be affected by the outcome of a case brought against UEFA and FIFA in the European Court of Justice, with the verdict expected just before Xmas. If UEFA and FIFA lose that case the backers of the ESL will be given a massive boost.

It will be interesting to see what public pronouncements will be made in the coming days and weeks by the Premier League and the English FA after these latest developments.

I very much doubt you will hear anything from the owners of the six domestic clubs as the views of their shareholders carry far more weight than those of their fans.

Football is very tribal and most fans understandably only care about the club they support but this is one instance where supporters’ groups need to come together to maintain their opposition to the ESL concept and confine it once and for all to the bad ideas’ wastepaper bin.

Football needs a regulator

It has certainly been a controversial start to the premiership of Liz Truss and such is the magnitude of the issues she and her Government currently faces that you would think the regulation of football would be somewhat low down on her list of priorities. However, it is widely thought that she is poised to announce the abandonment of the plans for football to be governed by an independent regulator. The recommendation to introduce independent regulation into our national sport was put forward by Tracey Crouch, chair of the Government’s fan-led review into the governance of the sport. Crouch reached her conclusion after taking evidence from football clubs at all levels, governing bodies and fan groups. She identified the imbalance in revenue distribution between clubs in the Premier League and those in the EFL as a major issue which football will not solve left to its own devices. Like me she believes the football pyramid in this country must be protected and she shone a light on the fantastic community work done by all 92 clubs which is so vital to the communities the clubs serve be it through food banks or educational, sporting or health programmes and much more. The fiasco around the European Super League and the greed displayed by the so called big six Premier League clubs sent shock waves through the sport and those clubs underestimated the depth of feeling of ordinary football fans. It may have gone quiet on that front, but I have no doubt that we have not seen the last of the European Super League and it is merely a battle to be fought again in the future. If it ever happens the football pyramid as we know it would be no more. So many clubs already operate on a knife edge and owning a football club with the current revenue distribution formulas requires very deep pockets. People have short memories and we have already lost Bury and Macclesfield and there will be more clubs for sure. This has devastated fans of those clubs and damaged their local communities but there has never been a time when so many clubs are targets for unscrupulous owners who have little interest in football but are there for asset stripping purposes. Governing Bodies have been reluctant to get involved beyond imposing points deductions for clubs falling foul of financial fair play rules. Crouch also proposed giving a golden share to supporters’ groups, but club owners will resist that on the basis it is their money keeping clubs afloat and outside interference is unwelcome. I was used to working with a supporters representative on the board of directors at Charlton and it is a valuable and transparent addition to decision making processes. In my view football will never self-regulate as self-interest rules so the case for independent regulation is overwhelming if we want to save the football pyramid in this country and if Liz Truss and her Government dispatch the Crouch recommendations to the waste bin then they will be causing untold damage to the fabric of the pyramid - and that will be a sad day for English football.

If you care about the football pyramid in this country, please contact your MP and get them to oppose this change of direction.

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