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David Conn
The Guardian,
Thursday September 11 2008

The culture secretary, Andy Burnham, will today call on the Football Association to "rise to the challenge" posed to the game's future by unrestrained club takeovers, the dominance of the richest clubs and an era of increased match ticket prices.

In a speech to the Co-operative Party conference in Westminster, his first major statements about football since he became the minister for culture, media and sport in January, Burnham will describe English football as "at a crossroads" and say the FA, the game's governing body, must act more robustly to protect its integrity.

"If football follows the same path in the next 10 years as it has in the last, there is a real risk that the game will lose touch with its core support," he will say. "We need to ask urgently what we want for the future of our game, before something precious is lost."

Burnham, a long-standing advocate of clubs being owned by their supporters - the mutual, democratic model most notably in place at Barcelona - insists his comments should not be viewed as an attack on "foreign" ownership after the recent spate of takeovers.

Speaking to the Guardian yesterday in advance of the speech, he explained that he was concerned instead about the quality of the ownership, the high levels of debt which some takeovers have brought and the competitive imbalance between the rich clubs and the rest.

He will argue that the FA's "fit and proper person test" should be broadened to ensure that new owners have a club's best interests at heart and are not imposing large amounts of debt, as did the American takeovers of Manchester United and Liverpool.

The minister supports proposals for a quota of homegrown players in all clubs' squads, to help strengthen the England team and to restrain rich clubs' ability to buy success. He also believes that the distribution of Premier League TV money should be made more equal to foster more genuine competition.
"Professional football has its origins in the community and community organisations," Burnham will say. "Those origins built the fierce loyalty in clubs, with supporters seeing the clubs as expressions of their identity. That loyalty is actually what makes the clubs so marketable but in marketing them there is a real risk of eroding their place in the community.

"Regulation has to be led by the FA; it is not for the government to run football. I want the FA to step up to the challenge and lead an in-depth look at regulating the finance of football, for the overall health of the game."

Never gonna happen, unfortunately.
Top flight football will go the same way as the housing market, boom and bust.
Restricting overseas players will not work, if those players are from EU countries.

Plus it's about 10 years too late. Fans groups have been warning of this since 1985, and nobody would listen.

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