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Unread 20-01-2010, 10:22 PM
Default emails and replies

i sent out three more or less identical emails the other week.


don foster mp, shadow culture, media and sport secretary (lib dems) <[email protected]>

jeremy hunt mp, shadow culture secretary (conservatives) <[email protected]>

gerry sutcliffe mp, minister for sport <[email protected]>

the text of the email was as follows:
Gerry Sutcliffe MP, Minister for Sport

Dear Mr Sutcliffe

I write to you in your capacity as Minister for Sport with a request for clarification of government policy with regard to the regulation of football and, specifically, UK government policy with regard to the proposals recently outlined by the UEFA President, Michel Platini.

As you are no doubt aware, the issue of prudent governance in football has recently been thrown into sharp relief by the travails of Portsmouth FC, though this is hardly the first club to face such problems, and the increasingly clear difficulties of Manchester United FC. It is, of course, the loyal supporters of each club who suffer most and, by extension, the local community.

It is a sign of the times in which we live that supporters of their local clubs have become customers of 'the matchday experience' but the corporate terminology should not be allowed to mask the fact that football clubs are not typical businesses. The globalisation of football is a fact, but clubs - even the largest - are still anchored in their local communities and represent an element of local culture and tradition which transcends mere businesses and which forms a community asset and value - a common good as well as a private business. In this context, it is my belief that M. Platini's proposals are not merely worthy of support but in fact represent potentially the last opportunity to pull the sport back from the dangerous direction in which it is, with increasing speed, heading.

The proposals themselves - a cap on spending set as a proportion of revenue for each club and a ban on the international transfer of players under the age of eighteen - while eminently sensible, require strong support as a change in European law will be required, likely in the form of an exemption from certain elements of European labour law for football clubs. Therefore it is imperative that those with the broader interests of our national game at heart should throw their weight behind M. Platini's proposals. I trust that the UK government has these interests at heart and has the wisdom to recognise the need for both action and leadership.

I would be grateful if you could outline for me the UK government's position in this matter and any steps the government proposes to take at the national or European level.



the emails were sent on the 13th, see below for replies.

i've added my comments after each reply, suggesting how i think each might be best followed up. in general, all three replies are typical non-committal blather, more or less sympathetic, without specifics and without commitment of any kind. our aim should be to pressure them to produce specifics and to make commitments. that's not as hard as it sounds, but it needs pressure.

Last edited by borsuk; 20-01-2010 at 10:28 PM.
Unread 20-01-2010, 10:22 PM
Default Re: emails and replies

first to reply were the lib dems*

Dear Mr ********,

Thank you for getting in touch with Don Foster regarding the suggestions made by Michel Platini. Don has asked me to respond on his behalf.

The Liberal Democrats believe the integrity of English football is a priority equal only to the experience of its fans. If it comes apparent that their dedication is being taken advantage of - as we believe it frequently has in the past - then this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Although a change in European law would be a difficult thing to bring about, we are happy to consider Mr ********'s suggestions to see if they would provide a better deal for fans, as you argue.

Once again, thank you for contacting Don on this matter.

Kind regards ,


Oliver Campion-Awwad
Parliamentary Researcher
Office of Don Foster MP
Liberal Democrat MP for Bath
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport
Tel: 02072194805 | M: 07746957588

credit to him for replying fairly promptly - email sent on the 13th, reply arrived on the 15th. shame his english is barely grammatical :shakehead:

my comments:

the first part is typical blather, nothing of interest there. the second part is more interesting, especially the comment 'If it comes apparent that their dedication is being taken advantage of - as we believe it frequently has in the past - then this is a problem that needs to be addressed'.

four questions need to be put here:

1. how will it become apparent that fans are being taken advantage of? what are the criteria? are these criteria not already being met in the case of portsmouth fc and manchester united fc?

2. related to the above, at which points in the past were fans taken advantage of? how is the current situation different from these cases?

3. how specifically will the problem be addressed? in other words, what concrete steps would a lib dem government take?

4. m platini's proposals are in the public domain, having been accepted by uefa's governing committee. are the lib dems in favour of their implementation or against?

* probably bored tbf, what the fuck else are they going to be doing? and who the fuck else would be sad enough to write to them?
Unread 20-01-2010, 10:23 PM
Default Re: emails and replies

the second reply was from the conservatives

Dear Mr ********,

Thank you very much for your email about football regulation and the proposals outlined by Michel Platini. It was very kind of you to let us have your views.

The Conservative Party are great supporters of the game of football and the good it can do in local communities. We have seen, first hand, the power of football up and down the country and absolutely agree with you that football is more than just a business.

However, we do believe that the financial regulation of clubs should be done on a national rather than European basis. We will look to protect the specificity of sport and maintain subsidiarity and autonomy from Europe rather than cede control of our national game to UEFA.

If we win the next election, we will look very closely at the issues you have outlined, and the solutions proposed by UEFA, but with a view to finding a solution at a national level.

Thank you again for your e-mail.

Kind regards,

Nicola Sheldon
Researcher to Hugh Robertson MP
Shadow Sports and Olympic Minister

reply arrived on the 19th

my comments:

this is a much less promising email, seemingly more concerned with defending national regulation than actually assessing the value of uefa's ideas. looking at the tone of the email, i wonder if the author of the email is capable of distinguishing uefa from the eu, or realises that uefa's proposals represent requirements for participation in european competition, not for participation in the english leagues. all in all, this reply hardly fills me with confidence that nicola sheldon has the vaguest clue about the game, its rules or its governing body, or about much of anything apart from a vague but all-encompassing distrust of all things 'europe'.

all sorts of questions present themselves. perhaps the most pertinent:

1. the proposed regulations relate to clubs participating in european competition, not the national leagues; they therefore represent an attempt to ensure a level playing field, preventing the kind of state-supported spending conducted by real madrid in recent years. the issue of ceding control does not arise - the fa will still govern the premier league, the football league will still govern the championship and lower divisions. uefa's proposals will affect only those clubs participating in the champions league and the europa league. given that, does the conservative party see the specific suggestions of m platini as worthy of support or not?

2. given that this issue is very much a current one and one of great importance to many voters, it would surely be appropriate for the conservative party to take a position before the next election and not, as you suggest, only in the case of electoral victory.

4. if the conservative party is determined that football regulation should remain purely a national matter (though, of course, it is already a matter for fifa (at a world level) and uefa (at a european level), in addition to the fa and the football league), then what changes, if any, would the party implement at the national level once in power?
Unread 20-01-2010, 10:23 PM
Default Re: emails and replies

last to reply were the labour party

Dear Mr ********

Thank you for your e-mail of 13 January addressed to the Minister for Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe, regarding football regulation.

We are following closely the proposals that have been made by UEFA to introduce what they have termed ‘financial fair play’ to their European competitions. The football authorities in this country are now involved in the discussions and consultations with UEFA on how to turn those proposals into practical effect. The hope is that for the long-term good of the game those discussions reach a positive outcome, whilst ensuring that our clubs are not put at a commercial or sporting disadvantage.

I can understand why fans are becoming increasingly concerned at the level of debt accumulated at some clubs from takeovers. We have asked football to look at a single, strengthened fit and proper persons test to improve the financial scrutiny of new owners. This is something that we will continue to raise with the football authorities in our ongoing discussions with them.

To their credit football has recently made significant moves to toughen regulations, with an early warning system for tax debts and a ‘going concern’ test introduced. But more can still be done. The level of debt that football clubs carry has to be sustainable and not result in fans incurring unaffordable hikes in ticket prices.

However it is for the football authorities to run football and not the Government, but we have an interest as an investor in its grassroots and role as a critical friend to the game. We would also like to see more supporters trusts established to provide elected fans with a voice on the board of clubs to provide additional scrutiny.

Kind regards

Robert Gardikiotis
Department for Culture, Media & Sport
Public Engagement & Recognition Unit

reply arrived on the 20th

my comments:

of the three replies, this is the most concrete and detailed. it at least gives the impression that the author is aware of the issues and has an informed opinion, however wishy-washy that opinion may be.


1. a stronger fit and proper persons test will indeed be welcome, but will do little to affect debt levels, or potential debt levels. i don't think malcolm glazer, for example, would fail any such test, but the levels of debt he has placed upon manchester united are, in many ways, more dangerous to the club than the presence of an individual such as flavio briatore would be, however questionable the behaviour of the latter may have been. what concrete steps would the labour party suggest to deal with the problems of increasing debts in football?

2. the comments of the previous secretary of state for culture, andy burnham, regarding levels of debt incurred (especially but not exclusively) during takeovers were very well received amongst supporters groups; the more lukewarm response of the fa was also noted. what steps does the labour party propose to push the apparently less enthusiastic fa towards stronger regulation, and does the ministry have concrete proposals to achieve this end? as you say, 'more can be done', and surely there is no doubt now that ticket price hikes are not a hypothetical worst-case scenario but a harsh reality.

3. the statement 'it is for the football authorities to run the game' is seductively simple. however, government still has a role to play in regulating an industry which represents an important part of the nation's cultural and social fabric. further, where there are concrete proposals from the governing bodies (uefa) it is surely incumbent on the government to take a clear and loud position on these proposals and to use what pressure it can bring to bear to effect such changes as it can.

4. your comment on supporters' trusts is welcome. what concrete steps can the government take to bring this about? as i am sure you are aware, the presence of supporters trusts on the board of football clubs is, sadly, not seen as an undiluted boon by the owners of most clubs. it appears unlikely that such enlightened policies will be introduced without regulatory coercion; what, therefore, does the labour party propose to do to bring about such an outcome?
Unread 20-01-2010, 10:26 PM
Default Re: emails and replies

comments, thoughts etc please

i think it would probably be a good idea to inform in the thread if anybody writes to their mp (etc) - post the letter/email and reply, with your comments. hopefully we can set up some kind of pressure with a concerted campaign.

as i said, imo the goal is

1. to get the politicos to take a concrete position (rather than just witter on and churn out the platitudes)

2. once they have taken a concrete position to pressure them to (a) change it to a better one and (b) take concrete steps to bring change about
Unread 20-01-2010, 10:29 PM
Default Re: emails and replies

Do you mind if I take your letter as a basic template? I posted in the ideas thread that a template and list of e mail addresses for MP's would be a good idea as it would spur people into action, like myself, who aren't good at letter writing.
Unread 20-01-2010, 10:39 PM
Default Re: emails and replies

Originally Posted by TravellingRed81
Do you mind if I take your letter as a basic template? I posted in the ideas thread that a template and list of e mail addresses for MP's would be a good idea as it would spur people into action, like myself, who aren't good at letter writing.
go for it. it needs to be coordinated, though, as sending dozens of identical emails to people is counter-productive.
Unread 20-01-2010, 10:39 PM
Thumbs up Re: emails and replies

fantastic work borsuk.
Unread 20-01-2010, 11:08 PM
42ndstreet irregular
Default Re: emails and replies

Good start Borsuk. I'll adapt them slightly so they are not identical and get some fired out myself tomorrow. I'll put the replies on here as you suggest. Let's see if we get the same response.

What about sending it to the FA as well
Unread 20-01-2010, 11:15 PM
Default Re: emails and replies

the fa has the likes of david gill on its board, i think it's not the best body to deal with the issue. on the other hand, all pressure helps and i certainly wouldn't ignore it. i just think that any change will have to be forced on the fa; the fa will not, unless i'm mistaken, be a force for change.

on the subject, and as i mentioned andy burnham, this is worth reading:

Premier League to bring in test for clubs overloaded with debt

The Premier League is planning to introduce a "going concern" test aimed at ensuring its clubs are not laden with dangerous levels of debt. The test, according to Premier League sources, will work out if debts are manageable by assessing a club's financial health, including its turnover and cashflow.

The test is being planned as a response to the culture secretary, Andy Burnham, who called last October for "football to reassess its relationship with money" and posed seven challenges to the game. One was for "greater transparency and scrutiny of clubs' ownership", including the level of debt used to finance a takeover and whether that debt is "sustainable and in the wider interests of the game".

The Premier League plans to publish its reply next month, including the "going concern" test to address the debt question. The league is understood to be keen to avoid a discussion about how debt was taken on – whether to fund investment such as a new stadium, or imposed by new owners to finance their takeover, as the Glazer family did in 2005, giving Manchester United, previously debt-free, £667m in borrowings.

Although Burnham explicitly asked for scrutiny of "debt used to finance a takeover", the Premier League is likely to argue it is not important how debt was incurred, but whether it is sustainable.

The FA is preparing a separate response which is expected to go further; the governing body's chairman, Lord Triesman, is understood to stand by his warning last October, that football clubs' debts are too high.

Triesman includes in his concerns "soft loans" made by owners because, he argues, clubs are vulnerable to the owner's circumstances changing. The Premier League's response is also likely to propose strengthening the "fit and proper person test" for club directors and 30% shareholders, in the light of Thaksin Shinawatra's 2007 Manchester City takeover. The former Thai prime minister was labelled "a human rights abuser of the worst kind" by Human Rights Watch after 2,500 people were allegedly killed by Thai police in 2003. Thaksin denies ordering extrajudicial killings.


burnham (mp for leigh, probably represents a few on here) is one of the brighter sparks on the issue, it's a real shame he got moved on from culture imo.

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