Blackpool MP Gordon Marsden backs campaign to introduce independent football regulator

Labour MP Gordon Marsden
Labour MP Gordon Marsden
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Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden has lent his support to a campaign which calls for the creation of a tough and independent regulator for football.

READ MORE: Campaign to introduce independent regulator to be discussed in parliament

Labour colleague Chris Matheson will present a 10-minute rule Bill to the Commons this afternoon, where he will argue the way the sport is governed needs to change.

The MP for Chester, who used to sit on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, says such a change will stop clubs being "driven into the ground" by rogue owners.

The 10-minute rule allows a backbench MP to make his or her case for a new Bill in a speech. An opposing speech may also be made before the House decides whether or not the Bill should be introduced.

If the MP is successful the Bill is taken to have had its first reading.

Mr Marsden is sponsoring the Bill, which will mandate clubs that are being mismanaged to face scrutiny from an independent regulator.

The MP previously backed a Bill in 2016 put forward by fellow Labour politician Clive Efford, which called for a number of places on the football club boards to be set aside for supporters (of an accredited supporters group such as the Blackpool Supporters Trust) – a commitment Labour made in its 2015 General Election manifesto.

A spokesperson for Mr Marsden said: "Gordon, who’s regularly met with the BST over the last few years, agrees with Chris and the Football Supporters Association (FSA) who’ve expressed their desire to see the Football Association take on this regulatory role.

"Currently the Independent Football Ombudsman (IFO) only has powers on ticketing policies, accessibility of matches, merchandise and some supporter and other stakeholder involvement.

"Under Chris’ Bill, the new regulator would have powers to undertake an independent and forensic audits of clubs’ directors and financial activities when sufficient concerns have been expressed about a club misconduct in management."

Marsden added: “Blackpool FC fans have been very much let down over the last five years – by the Oystons and with the EFL being slow off the mark to remedy some of these problems - although after a lot of lobbying they made the right decision on the points deduction issue.

"I am very hopeful with the new ownership and appointment of several BST members taking up important and strategic roles within the club, this can be the start of a new chapter for everyone concerned at Bloomfield Road.

“What happened at Blackpool and is still going on at other clubs such as Bolton Wanderers and Coventry City, mustn’t be allowed to happen again.

"Fans up to now have felt powerless but this bill which I am very pleased to support will mean mismanaged clubs facing proper scrutiny and having to undergo an independent audit of their financial activities.

"When I’ve spoken to Christine Seddon and Andy Higgins from the BST, they have said it was often a case of 'marking their own homework' with the EFL and the owners of football clubs.

“An independent body will benefit fans in Blackpool and across the country, ensuring owners act in the best interests of the club and the wider communities they serve, instead of acting in self-interest to the club’s detriment.”

The Bill also has cross-party support with the DCMS Select Committee Chair Damian Collins also sponsoring it.

There have been widespread calls for a change in the way football is governed in this country following a number of high-profile cases, most notably at Blackpool under the previous Oyston ownership.

There have also been crises at a number of other clubs, including Bury, Bolton Wanderers, Charlton Athletic, Coventry City, and many others.

However, no help has been forthcoming from either the FA or the EFL - leading to supporters suggesting change needs to be implemented.

Last year Blackpool Supporters' Trust set up a petition calling for the introduction of an independent regulator after sharing frustration with the EFL's lack of action towards Owen Oyston - a convicted rapist who "illegitimately stripped" the club of millions of pounds.

The petition urged the government to introduce an independent regulator for English football, charged with ensuring the "highest possible standards of governance" for all clubs.

However, despite Blackpool being far from the only English club to experience strife with their owner, it received little traction away from the Fylde coast.

The government responded after the petition gained 10,000 signatures, saying there was no "desire" or "need" to introduce an independent regulator.

The EFL, whose chief executive Shaun Harvey is departing this summer, argue they are a competition organiser and has limited power when it comes to dealing with rogue owners.