English FA: Clubs should open up finances to fans

The head of the English Football Association told a

parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday it was ”unacceptable” for clubs

not to disclose full information about their finances and ownership

to supporters.

Manchester United fans are unhappy about the lack of

transparency from the owning Glazer family about how they paid off

around 220 million pounds ($342 million) of high-interest debt used

to fund their leveraged 2005 takeover.

United Chief Executive David Gill told an earlier session of a

British parliamentary hearing into English football that the club

would not ”open a dialogue” with fans ”at war with the

owners.”

But David Bernstein, the chairman of the FA, told Tuesday’s

session of the inquiry that such a stance was unacceptable.

”Supporters are entitled to full information from their clubs

and proper dialogue about ownership … and finances,” Bernstein

said. ”They are the key stakeholders and there should be a free

flow of information between clubs and supporters – anything less is

unacceptable.”

Second-tier club Leeds has also refused to name its financial

backers, who have rescued a club that came to the brink of collapse

after overspending to reach the Champions League semifinals in

2001.

”I think supporters should know who owns all clubs,” Bernstein

said when asked about Leeds.

The existing rules don’t allow the FA to be transparent about

the ownership of Premier League or Football League clubs.

But Bernstein and FA General Secretary Alex Horne, who have both

been appointed in the last year, will meet both those bodies to

discuss the situation

Horne said they want to ”reset the architecture.”

Discussing debt at clubs, Bernstein said English football could

benefit from the wider implementation of UEFA’s financial fair play

rules, which are designed to curb clubs’ spending on players.

Clubs wanting to play in the UEFA competitions are required to

break even starting in the 2011-12 season. Persistent loss-makers

can first be barred from the 2014-15 Champions League or Europa

League.

”I would like to see financial fair play potentially extended

across the rest of the Premier League and possibly the Football

League as well,” Bernstein said.

The inquiry also heard from the Scottish Football Association,

whose chief executive Stewart Regan discussed the problem of

violence between the Old Firm clubs a day before meeting with

Celtic, Rangers, the Scottish government and police.

The groups also met this month following violence at an

ill-tempered Scottish Cup fifth-round replay, which Celtic won

1-0.

But Regan told legislators that it will take many years to

eradicate sectarianism from the Glasgow derby.

”It requires the need to start at school level and look at

education,” he said. ”It’s a big issue, it’s one that’s been

around again for 100 years or more, and we’re not going to solve it

overnight.”