AS owner and chairman of Accrington Stanley my eyes have been opened.
I call myself an accidental chairman-owner because there was no intention of ever being involved in football, I took the job because there was a real need for someone to stabilise the club.
A football club is a crucial community asset. I watch social interactions take place at what is the only major gathering point around the town of Accrington.
I will never own Accrington Stanley, it belongs to the community and the town. I can’t pick it up and take it home, it will never be mine.
It is massively important and the job description is during my occupation is to give the club a long term stable future by building on its history, that goes back to 1888. Then to pass the baton onto the next person in the long line of owner-chairmen.
The club will be in a better shape when I leave than when I started and if all in football followed this basic principle things wouldn’t be in the mess it is now.
There are really big issues that I had no knowledge of and was ignorant about before I took over, so here are some changes I’d like to see within the game.
I accept I’m new to the game, but I think that’s a positive because I have not yet been forced to conform to the script doled out by the so-called authorities.
1. Stretched-out finances – and it is getting worse
THE gap between the rich and poorest clubs grows ever wider. And the funding strategy employed by both the Premier League and the EFL exaggerate an already bad position.
EFL funding states that for income over £67million the split is 90 per cent to the Championship, with six per cent and four per cent for Leagues One and Two respectively.
I strongly object to this and would do even if our club was in the Championship. This will inevitably lead to PL2 as Leagues One and Two are decoupled from the gravy train.
2. Ban parachute payments
PARACHUTE payments distort competition.
Those in the Championship that have not had the drop money, are completely disadvantaged by it.
If the Prem wants to put around £250m each year into the Championship, give each club £10m rather than distort the second tier.
3. End the transfer window
THE EFL board want to close our transfer window before the season starts, barring loans, to match the Prem without watching how it all pans out for them.
Restricting transfers at our level is barmy and I have made this clear to the EFL. Why would clubs vote to restrict their opportunity to trade?
Sales of players is a critical revenue stream for lower league clubs and rightly so.
We take players in, work with them and if they are successful they move higher for which we are compensated.
If a club in League One or League Two needs to sell a player and there is a suitor, they should be allowed to sell anytime. There doesn’t need to be a regulatory strait-jacket.
4. Bring back loans
EFL clubs are no longer allowed to make emergency loans outside the transfer window after a recent rule change.
This was disastrous to both clubs and players.
The impact on Accrington was that we had to increase our squad to cover injuries and suspensions. This cover added £200,000 to our player budget cost.
Lots of lads sit miserable on the bench and cannot get a game as they are blocked from moving to a club that would get them on the pitch elsewhere.
5. Cap agent fees
MANY agents are good. Sadly, some are not.
There should be a cap on what an agent can get from players and clubs.
There also has to be transparency.
It should not be the press that finds out what an agent is paid as happened on the Paul Pogba transfer.
All clubs should state on record what it pays or earns in relation to a transfer – and a penalty put in place for misrepresentation of facts.
And I mean ALL costs, including expenses for intermediaries. Transparency stops corruption because both buying and selling clubs accounts have to match.
6. Top dogs should engage more with fans
I USE Twitter and I think it is the perfect communication strategy for chairmen.
It allows fans into your inner thoughts and rationale, and gives them a chance to question your strategy.
I have gained much knowledge from fans comments on social media.
I know better what my job is and have saved money for the club by not doing some costly change that the fans neither
want nor value.
I spend matchdays at home with fans, not directors. They keep me grounded and tell me the score.
Remember the club belongs to the town and it’s townsfolk. Chairmen are temporary.
7. Revisit safe-standing regulations
AFTER the Hillsborough disaster, football authorities naturally acted aggressively to get change and stop any repeat.
But many football fans like to stand and it is definitely possible to accommodate this whilst still having a safe stadium.
We need to stop treating fans like we are still in the hooligan age. We have to move away slowly from overzealous regulations that can spoil the matchday experience.
8. Refereeing standards.
REFEREES have the most challenging, thankless task on the pitch and come in for much abuse, no matter what they do.
But the standards are way too low. This is not just my opinion, it is shared by many.
Referees need more pay and more training.
They can and do make more impact on the outcome of a game than any player. Why are they paid less than players on the pitch?
Refereeing needs to be a valuable and highly-paid vocation. The standards should be raised year in, year out.
9. Prevent Prem hoarding of young talent
YOUNG lads do not benefit from being locked in an U23 academy for years. They do not get real life playing experience that lower leagues deliver.
The kids should start low and work up to the Prem. They should not be hoarded by big clubs that have no intention of
playing them in their first teams.
The current system of lower league clubs PAYING the Prem clubs to give their lads experience is abhorrent.
THEY should be paying us or at the very least letting them out for free. They are killing a valuable revenue stream for us and charging us for the pleasure.
The image of the Prem is one of greed and waste and they don’t do anything to help their image here. Quite why they need to take a few hundred quid a week off lower league clubs is beyond me.
10. Thou shalt not speak – no more, I say!
VERY few owners and chairmen are prepared to publicly say what they really think about the football set-up.
This is a real problem for the future of the game. Football authorities actually threaten funding if owners speak out.
The rich clubs in the Prem run the game. They decide the agenda on academies, transfer windows, funding, TV money and the rest.
The EFL has no option but to go along with them because they are the paymasters.
Fans know this and continually tell me this. They are not stupid – they feel the EFL and its clubs bow to every whim of the top flight.
Their feelings are not without merit.
And if we do not want another situation where fans are boycotting their own clubs as in the Checkatrade Trophy, we had better start listening to them and giving them a voice.