There has been a lot of negative speculation and discussion in recent weeks about the makeup and format of the league of Ireland. The call for an alternative leadership to map out and plan a clear direction for all clubs is the main topic of discussion.
The FAI currently has a system in place that monitors all clubs on a monthly basis but the governance of this system seems to be in question. My first port of call for change is with the ownership of the clubs?
We need fit and proper people to own the clubs they are involved in, trying to ensure that the debts incurred by many clubs do not become a threat to a clubs continued existence.
There are several models across Europe at present ranging from the stock market model, supporters trust model and foreign investor model in the UK to the wealthy family ownership in Italy, the membership models in Germany and Spain.
All these models impact on the clubs in different ways. Each model has clear advantages/ disadvantages in its ownership model and in particular the club governance. The takeover of Manchester Utd in 2005 is a case in point.
Manchester was one of the wealthiest clubs in the world at the time and now has a combined debt of over €600 million with annual interest payments over €80 million. That’s why it’s so important for them to qualify for the champion’s league year on year.
Now I know some of our clubs are struggling to pay €80 interest payments but can we learn some lessons here?
The supporters trust model has clear implications for the governance of a club.
This model promotes members democracy through the one member one vote principle allowing the members to play a key role in its governance.
This model would help the long term future of the club stay rooted in its local community.
But whatever model we choose we need to increase the transparency, accountability and financial management of how the clubs run as a business and equally important are the appropriate regulation from the football authorities to protect the integrity of our league for generations to come.