Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
Shaun Harvey, John Bowler, Barry Kilby and Julian
15 March 2011
Q247 Chair: Good
morning, everybody. This is a meeting of the Culture, Media and
Sport Select Committee as part of our inquiry into football governance
and I would like first of all to again thank Burnley Football
Club for hosting us this morning and looking after us yesterday
I should also say that I have received apologies
from the Chairman of Leeds, Ken Bates, who is unable to be with
us since he is suffering from bronchitis, but I am grateful to
Shaun Harvey, the Chief Executive of Leeds who has agreed to take
his place on our panel, and I would also like to welcome on the
panel Julian Tagg, the Vice Chairman of Exeter, Barry Kilby, the
Chairman of Burnley, and John Bowler the Chairman of Crewe Alexandra,
and I am going to invite Damian Collins to start.
Q248 Damian Collins: Thank
you. The first question to Barry Kilby; could you tell us why
you got involved with Burnley Football Club and what is your motivation
for being Chairman?
It's where I come from, it's our club.
My dad brought me here as a lifelong supporter I suppose is the
correct answer, and also in a town like Burnley I think the football
club really is one of the central pillars of the culture that
I come from, so when I got the chance to take over and strengthen
that and move it on that's what I chose to do. It's as a super
supporter that I took over as Chairman.
Q249 Damian Collins: Mr
Harvey how did you become involved with Leeds United?
Leeds United is my third job in football, having previously worked
at my profession at Scarborough and Bradford City, so every failed
footballer's dream. I was an amateur player at school, always
loved football, so what better way of earning a living than actually
being involved in the professional game.
Q250 Damian Collins: How
long have you been with Leeds United?
Shaun Harvey: This
is my seventh season.
Q251 Damian Collins: Mr
Bowler, how about you?
John Bowler: I
moved to Crewe from London on business, had a young family; what
to do at weekends? So we thought we'd go and support the local
football club. I probably then made the mistake of suggesting
how they could run it a bit better and was invited to join the
board and ultimately asked to take over as Chairman, so it started
as a supporter and went on from there.
Q252 Damian Collins:
Julian Tagg: My
involvement started as a coach in youth football at Exeter. I
started off the Centre of Excellence from nothing and built that
up. When the club got into trouble, as a born and bred Exeter
personand I'd seen the trust beginning to evolve into something
that was credibleI saw the football club getting into such
a terrible situation and condition, owing so much money. I'm not
sure I knew the full details when I got involved, but the football
club was very pressured. But it's more important; it's not just
about football, it's about providing something for the city, and
that was probably my main motivationwhether that might
have been the rugby club or the football clubproviding
something for the city alongside those people. I thought the trust
were beginning to become organised and looking like something
that could help us; that's the primary reason I got involved.
Q253 Damian Collins: Barry
Kilby, you are the Chairman of Burnley Football Club. Could you
tell us something about the ownership structure of the club?
Barry Kilby: Yes,
essentially there are four directorsfive directorson
the club. Between us, we have about 85% of the share capital.
I'm the largest shareholder with about 35% of the company, but
we have over 200 shareholders, many holding one or two shares.
Some have been held since 1936 and held in families, so we have
a wide shareholder base and essentially the directors of the club
control the company with the majority of shares.
Q254 Damian Collins: The
other directors, are they people like yourself, so local businessmen?
Barry Kilby: Yes,
certainly four were born here. Two have businesses down in London,
but they still remember their Burnley roots and want to support
it. Two others live up here, but all of us have been Burnley supporters
since we were boys. Our fifth director came up here in the 80s
and he has been a director for 25 years as well, so essentially
we are local people who support the club.
Q255 Damian Collins: Mr
Harvey, could you tell us something about the ownership structure
of Leeds United?
Shaun Harvey: Leeds
United Football Club is owned via a holding company. The majority
shareholder is a company called FSF Limited who are based in Nevis
and own 73% of the issue share capital.
Q256 Damian Collins: Could
you tell us something about the majority shareholding?
Shaun Harvey: FSF
Limited is owned by three discretionary trusts that are all managed
by trustees out of Switzerland. There are two management shares
issued that are held and it's those people who are responsible
for Leeds United Football Club.
Q257 Damian Collins: Who
are the individuals who are the major investors in those trusts?
Shaun Harvey: The
question is the discretionary trusts. The trustees have appointed
two members to run the trust's interest in Leeds United Football
Club; Mr Patrick Murrin and Mr Peter Boatman, who asks Mr Ken
Bates to chair the board and look after their interests in Leeds
United Football Club.
Q258 Damian Collins: So
is Ken Bates answerable to those two trustees?
Shaun Harvey: That's
Q259 Damian Collins: So
they would have the power to remove him as Chairman or put a new
Shaun Harvey: They
must have by definition.
Q260 Damian Collins:
Do you know that?
Shaun Harvey: Well
they must do. They are the shareholder or the trustees to the
shareholder, so that must be a power that they have.
Q261 Damian Collins: You
know who the trustees are, but do not know who the shareholders
Correct. They are discretionary
Q262 Damian Collins: So
you cannot point to a named person and say those people are the
owners of Leeds United?
Shaun Harvey: No,
and that's why the ownership statements that have been made are
made in the way that they are because they are a true and accurate
reflection of the ownership structure behind Leeds United Football
Q263 Damian Collins: Do
you know personally who they are?
Shaun Harvey: Do
I know personally who the trustees are?
Q264 Damian Collins: No,
do you know who the trustees act on behalf of? Do you know the
people who are the owners?
Shaun Harvey: No,
Q265 Damian Collins: You
do not. As Chief Executive, you do not know who the major investors
in that trust are.
Shaun Harvey: I
don't know who the beneficiaries of the discretionary trust are,
Damian Collins: Okay.
Q266 Damian Collins: You
have worked at other football clubs, so do you not find that slightly
Shaun Harvey: Not
particularly. If I was the Chief Executive of a football club
that was quoted on the stock market I wouldn't expect to know
every single shareholder.
Q267 Damian Collins:
Does Ken Bates know?
Shaun Harvey: Not
to my knowledge.
Q268 Damian Collins: Right,
well he obviously has not told you. Do you have any relationship
with the trust other than through the trustees?
Shaun Harvey: No,
my responsibility is to deal with the trustees who represent the
Q269 Damian Collins: But
is that something people in Leeds are concerned about?
Shaun Harvey: It
depends on your definition of "concerned about". At
the moment, we're fifth in the Championship, everybody seems to
be relatively comfortable with how the club's proceeding. We've
gone from a very low point and are ascending the ladder of success.
That's not to be translated as we've achieved anything yet, because
there's still nine games to go this season, but the reality is,
it's the Board of Directors that are responsible for running the
football club, not the shareholders.
Q270 Damian Collins: But
so long as the team are doing well the fans don't care.
Shaun Harvey: I
wouldn't be quite as bold as to make that statement, but if things
are going well and there are positive results, then that's what
a Board of Directors are there to try and ensure, within its powers.
Q271 Damian Collins: But
is there any sense of commitment for the trust for their investment
in Leeds United? Could they withdraw it at any time? Are they
committed for a number of years?
Shaun Harvey: The
football club has got no debt, so they hold the shares and, yes,
they are committed. There's no indication that they have any desire
to move away from their investment.
Q272 Damian Collins: Given
the financial problems Leeds United have had, do you think there
is a legitimate concern about the transparency of the financial
organisation of the club and its ownership?
Shaun Harvey: It
depends how far you want to go back in time. If we go back to
the year 2000-01 when the club was owned by a plc and competing
in the Champions League European semi-finals, then there was a
vast array of owners of the club run by its directors. Yes, the
club got into trouble under the plc board first and foremost,
and sold through a group of local businessmen, which is the model
that you've heard Barry Kilby explain to a certain extent as to
how Burnley's arranged. Without speaking for John Bowler I think,
Crewe was the same basically, but he's capable of confirming that
That got into trouble very quickly. They bought it
from the administrator of a plc, so it was in trouble very, very
quickly, because they didn't have sufficient funds to run the
business. So, yes, there has been a potted history and a concern,
but I'm convinced now that the light of the Elland Road tunnel
is in fact the way out, rather than a train coming in the other
Q273 Damian Collins: Yes,
I understand that, I think there will be a concern with the nature
of the football club. In the case of Burnley, it is very simple
to understand where the money comes from, who the investors and
directors are, and with a club like Leeds United the majority
shareholding is owned by a sort of mysterious trust and we don't
know who the investors are, and I think that's a legitimate concern
for a football club.
Shaun Harvey: You're
entitled to draw that conclusion.
Q274 Paul Farrelly: Just
one question, because we are looking at the application of fit
and proper rules and I don't want this to be dominated by the
controversy of the Leeds mysterious shareholders, but does the
Football League know who the beneficiaries are?
Shaun Harvey: The
Football League have exactly the same information that has been
made public, and the statement that has been made complies with
every single part of the Football League's regulations, as indeed
every single football league club has to do.
Q275 Paul Farrelly: Just
one follow-up. If you are fortunate enough to get promoted to
the Premier League, do you expect the Premier League to ask you
the same question about the beneficiaries?
Shaun Harvey: We
expect to be able to comply with the terms of the Premier League's
rules at the time and the statement that we'd be making is no
different from the statements made public now, because it is a
true and accurate record of the ownership structure of Leeds United.
Q276 Chair: True, accurate
and also rather uninformative.
Shaun Harvey: Well,
you can't answer a question that's not got a direct answer; there
is no individual. That's the nature of discretionary trusts, which
are a perfectly legal and a much used ownership structure in many
different industries, not just football.
Q277 Mr Watson: I'll
allow Mr Harvey time to take breath. If I could go on to John
and Julian; how far up the English football pyramid do you think
your clubs can realistically go?
John Bowler: We
would hope to certainly play regularly in League One, and we would
hope to be able to challenge to get a place in the Championship.
To stay there is difficult because of the financial pressures
that come along with running a Championship club.
Julian Tagg: Our
journey started in the Conference, and we got ourselves to League
One, which was our target, in five years. In ten years, our target
now is to establish ourselves in that league, which in our second
year seems exactly what we've donewe avoided relegation
on the last game last season. This season, we've probably already
established that, so we've made that progress. Our target will
be to get in the Championship and do the same. I think that's
the compelling thing about football; it's always possible with
the right kind of management, with the right kind ofI mean
Crewe particularly and ourselveswith the right kind of
youth policies behind us, it is possible, I believe it is. If
I didn't think it was possible, I don't think I'd be sat here,
unless there's some purpose. If we got to the point where anybody
in our club said that, you know, we're happy where we are, that's
the time I think my involvement wouldI would always support
the youth sidebut I would probably stop unless there's
some target. That target is the Championship, the next stage then
will be, as everybody here knowspardon the vernacularit's
bums on seats that count.
If our ground gets to the point where that stops
us going any further, say in five or ten years' time, that is
where we look again for the next step. I believe our city is big
enough to take a club that will go even higher. Blackpool have
done it, and as I say, football is compelling in that sense. So,
yes, I think it's possible. It may take a little bit longer to
get there and I would be looking once we did to take the next
Q278 Mr Watson: Okay,
Barry and Shaun could I ask you, is the measure of success for
Burnley and Leeds a Premiership place? Staying in the Premiership?
Barry Kilby: Yes,
we've tasted it once. I think we want to go back there again,
to be in the top tier of English football. So I think our supporters'
aspirations are that we should see Blackburn, Bolton as clubs
we're on a par with. So I think it is realistic for us, if we
could just set ourselves right, to think we could compete in the
Premier League. How far we could climb up that ladder is open
to question, but certainly I think it's realistic that we could
on that level perform in the Premier League, and that's our aim.
Shaun Harvey: Yes,
Leeds United's objective on the field is relatively simpleit
is to get promoted as quickly as is practically possible.
Q279 Mr Watson: Shaun,
I don't want to revisit the mysterious trust question, but your
Chairman is quite a remarkable character in the sense that he
took Chelsea from the Third Division to second in the Premiership
on a sustainable budget and appears to be doing that with Leeds,
whatever the financial arrangements. Do you know what the secret
of that is?
Shaun Harvey: Hard
work, dedication and experience, I suspect. There's no magic formula.
If there's a magic formula of how to make a football club successful,
there'd be a lot less clubs who have suffered financial problems
and there'd be a lot more success around. It's about maximising
every possible element of income and hopefully surrounding yourself
with a manager and coaching staff who have got the ability to
maximise a return from players.
Q280 Mr Watson: You said
earlier that you are a sort of professional Chief Executive in
football. Would you like to outline what the difference is between
working for the Chairman of Bradford and the current Chairman
Shaun Harvey: I
actually said it was my profession. Others are probably better
placed to judge whether it's professional or not. The answer is
the Chairman of Bradford City and the Chairman of Leeds had some
similar traits. They had very small boards with the ability to
make answers quickly. The one thing for certain is the quicker
you're able to make decisionsand effective decisionsin
the knowledge of the full circumstances that surround the issues
you're dealing with the easier it is to be effective.
Q281 Mr Watson: So would
you say a strong agile board structure is vital to the success
of a club?
Shaun Harvey: I
would say so, yes.
Mr Watson: That's interesting.
Q282 Mr Sanders: Why
have so many football league clubs gone into administration in
recent years? Who would like to have a stab at that?
Julian Tagg: I
can only talk from personal experienceand I would imagine
it's the same elsewhereit's all anecdotal across the board,
because every situation is so different. I believe our club was
in quite considerable difficulty and the people in control at
that point then wanted anybody to take it from them, and they
passed it to some people who put it into a ridiculous state of
problems and debt, and that's part of the danger. When a football
club does get into trouble the people who are responsible at that
time are very keen to, as you can imagine, offload that responsibility
The fit and proper person is very, very sensible
from personal experience. Hopefully that's beginning to solve
that problem to a degree. It's usually, in terms of Shaun's point
about managers, about wages in the end. Getting the success with
a wage bill that you can't maintain means you go down a league,
get lower numbers, and so the whole thing escalates. Usually underpinning
it is a wage problem.
Certainly in our situation, we were paying wages
in the Conference because of the football creditors rule that
you wouldn't even considered having to payit was probably
commensurate with two leagues aboveand I think there are
a number of clubs that are in a similar position. They suddenly
drop out from the Championship for instance into League One and
that is a big gap. Same all the way down. If you're paying players
from the division above or perhaps even the top wages for players
who could play in the division above that and then suddenly you
find yourself two leagues down but with a contract in place you're
pinned to that. There's probably more experience at the other
end of the table, but that's what we are so very, very careful
of avoiding; that's where we think the major pitfall is.
Barry Kilby: I
think they are different, but there are the more spectacular ones.
Last season, Portsmouth, a Premier League team with their revenues
coming in well over £50 million, still went into administration.
The reason to me was that it was saddled with debt, but it was
irresponsible debtthe debt on the club. I think there is
a danger sometimes with the foreign owner who can walk away if
it doesn't work out. Really, it didn't cost them that muchit
was the club that suffered and there was no responsibility.
There are other examples, and I believe that when
Leeds went to administration that all stemmed back to an extremely
ambitious set up that was all geared towards being in the Champions
League and at the top of the Premier League. When that kicked
in, there were problems there. So really it is clubs getting into
trouble and being saddled with debt that they can't get out of.
Shaun Harvey: There
is a combination of two things. There are two common denominatorsrelegation
or failure to reach the levels at which you're budgeting; and
players' wages. If the incomes you're expecting from your success
on the field aren't realised, the players' wages have to be reduced
accordingly, otherwise those are the factors that get football
clubs into trouble.
Julian Tagg: There's
one other factor which is probably in capital investment. Often,
people will stretch to build a stand. The capital aspect is sometimes
something that stretches people too far, and when you're trying
to do both things, you're trying to maintain the pitch or gain
success on the pitch and you're trying to reinvest capital, then
certainly from experience I believe that was another indicator
of why they got into trouble.
Q283 Mr Sanders: So what
lessons have you learned from the Exeter experience?
Julian Tagg: Don't
build another stand for the moment. That's what we're trying to
work out; the way forward without taking those risks. Everybody
has a different background in terms of their ownership, and our
model and how we raise the capital that goes with it is the one
that's taxing us at the moment. But at the same time, it's about
having a manager who understands the nature and ethos of the club,
which he does very well, and has good control of what is actually
happening, not necessarily just on a one-year basis but perhaps
on a two or three-year basis. You need a budget if this happens
and a budget if it goes in the other direction, and that's how
we tend to plan. We try and plan in the middle by being pro-active
rather than retro-active and it's when you get into that retro-active
situation it sometimes becomes a spiral that you can't get out
of, so as Shaun was saying, it's about planning and hard work.
Q284 Mr Sanders: Have
you passed any of this advice down the A38 to Plymouth?
Julian Tagg: We
have an excellent relationship with Plymouth. We're always there.
We will specifically be helping them to try and raise money, so
even though they're our major rival we'll help them. I personally
haven't been asked but certainly members of our trust have been
down there to help their trust to try and form something. So yes,
we have helped wherever we can and we'll continue to do so even
though they are a bitter rival.
Q285 Mr Sanders: What's
been learned from the administration that Leeds went into in 2007?
Shaun Harvey: The
2007 administration fortunately is traced back, as I spoke about
earlier, to the time of the plc board, who raised circa £60
million by the securitisation of ticket seats. The 2007 administration
was the final action of a board trying to resolve the financial
issues with which it was left, but the source goes back to those
days. The answer is we always stated from the start that we believe
Leeds United could trade profitably if it wasn't saddled with
the financial burdens of the past and the trading since 2007 is
proof of that.
John Bowler: The
other issue is thatand this has been referred towe
have to recognise that running a football club as a business is
not a difficult task in comparison with other businesses. One
of the big issues I think that a lot of football clubs face is
this demand for success, and the demand for going forward and
getting results. We live in a very results-oriented environment
today. It's not a long time ago when a manager of a Premier League
club said to me, "John, you do realise that coming third
in the Premier League is failure", and it's this balance
between running a tight ship and yet trying to satisfy the demands
and the wishes of the supporters to take the club forward, be
ambitious, try to get up to that next rung up the ladder. The
problem is if you do outstretch yourself then it's very difficult
and you've got a rough period if you come back down again.
Q286 Mr Sanders: Is financial
prudence rewarded in the football league? Should it be rewarded
in the football league? Is the emphasis too much on places or
positions in tables and trophies in cabinets? Should there not
be some reward for being a well-run club?
John Bowler: I
don't think that that really is the issue. I think the football
league is working hard, as all football league clubs are working
hard. They recognise that with the various salary capping mechanisms,
the reporting that we do is encouraging that well-run football
club, and I think that is the way to approach it. That won't in
any way offset what I'm talking about and that is the demands
and the encouragement that supporters give to their football club
to go on and to be even more ambitious and that's when the trouble
Q287 Mr Watson: Just
a supplementary; sorry to come back to you, Shaun, but you talked
about the plc days. When Mr Ridsdale was living the dream at the
turn of the century is it your contention that the club failed
because of the plc structure itself, or because of poor financial
management, or both?
Shaun Harvey: I
think it was poor financial management. The gamble was too big
in essence and it's that that saddled the club ever since, until
the administration in 2007.
Q288 Mr Watson: So you
wouldn't actually argue against a plc structure per se.
Shaun Harvey: Not
at all, it's the management inside it that's actually the key
Mr Watson: Okay, thank
Q289 Chair: Can I just
ask Barry; you've tasted Premier League success, but you've also
kept your feet firmly on the ground and you didn't go out and
spend huge amounts of money on players. You said to me that you
did invest in a pitch, but did you come in for criticism for not
doing so? Did your fans suggest to you that actually if you'd
gone out and bought a couple of really star players you might
stop in the Premier League?
Barry Kilby: Yes,
that's always there. The word "ambition" always crops
uplack of ambition is one of the usual ones you get in
the phone-in programmes. You've just got to be careful you don't
bet the ranch on this and I think it is easier in the Premier
League. It was easier if somebody came up with a Championship
team, so you could improve the wages, and it was still very manageable.
If you get to a second year that's when you start swimming in
the waters of established players in that league, and the costs
do tend to start to rise. Fans want you to win matches. We all
should have prizes for good governmentwe don't, and that's
what sets the theme and the pressure is enormous.
When we got up, it was a bit easier at first. We
were new, we hadn't been in the Premier League for 30-odd years,
so perhaps it was easier to keep the fans' expectations; we are
being sensible, we're clearing our debts, if we do go back down
we'll be able to handle it. I think they did understand, but I've
a feeling if we had been in another year or so the pressures would
have built to spend more. We've just lost five-nil to Liverpool
at home, Match of the Day says you're a load of clowns
and jokers, and that's the sort of pressures you come under.
The big problem is that players' contracts don't just last
the season you buy them. You have a three-year commitment, and
there's a big difference between the two divisions. So we did
opt for prudence and I think the fans more or less did realise
that, being our first season in there, but I know the pressures
would have built up as time went by.
Q290 Chair: You are a
very successful businessman with a good business brain, and ultimately
you have the final say. Other clubs would have been less prudent.
Essentially would you say that their problems stem from poor management?
Barry Kilby: Yes,
poor management or a reluctance to look ahead; maybe not face
facts and thinking it'll be all right on the night. I think that
subtle bit is pushed into the future"We'll deal with
that when it comes round". Unfortunately it does sometimes
come around and you've got to keep a weather eye. Essentially
it's your players' wage bill, it's 80% of your costs or whatever
you want to make it, but it can get as high as that and you're
committed to that. It's just knowing to keep a weather eye on
where we might be in two years' time.
Q291 Damian Collins: Just
a follow on from that question; if you wanted to keep a club like
Burnley in the Premier League, become a kind of Wigan or Stoke
or a club like that that's broken through and stayed there, how
much money on top of what you get from gate receipts, prize money,
TV money, do you think the directors would have to put in every
year to a club like this so you could compete?
Barry Kilby: In
the Premier League you're now starting to get into really big
money, £40 to £50 million on top, and even that doesn't
make a big impact. So I think with a Championship Club it is directors'
loans and so on. Once you get into the Premier League it is getting
exceptionally rich people who can put their own personal money
in so you try and work it within the revenues that are there normally
Q292 Damian Collins: So
for a club of Burnley's sort of size, and there are other clubs
that are similar, unless you've got benefactors putting tens of
millions of pounds every year on top of the income the club can
earn, you can't sustain being in the Premier League.
Barry Kilby: Certainly
most clubs do have quite big debts. Clubs of our size in the league
now have benefactors who are owed quite a lot of money. I think
you can keep within that. It's more the problem if you come down.
You can afford a wage bill of £45 million to £50 million,
the way the Premier League is set up with the TV money and the
normal trading of the club. The big problem is if you come back
downhow to deal with it; that's the real thing. It is difficult,
because essentially in the Premier League you're competing sometimes
against people who don't care. They don't even care about the
economics of the thing. If I'm Joe's Corner Shop, and Marks &
Spencer's is next door to me, at least we both have to make do
and make sure our income's in front of our expenditure. In the
Premier League, you come up against people who don't care, so
that's really difficult to rationalise in a way, and how do you
compete with that.
Q293 Damian Collins: In
one of our previous evidence sessions, the Chairman of the Football
League said that he could find no moral argument in favour of
sustaining the football creditors rule. Do you think he's right?
Barry Kilby: It
does seem unfair on the face of it that some people are protected
within the industry and some people aren't, but it is a difficult
one. It is almost like the rules of a private members club, and
certainly I know if there had been no protectionthe football
creditors ruleclubs would have disappeared because they
could only survive with the league members. I think it's quite
fair to say, "Look, if you want to play in our league you've
got to pay your dues". So nobody's comfortable with some
people being protected and others not, but there's a proper reason
for it in the football family. You know players need to be paid,
transfers paid. If that went, I think the competition would be
in great jeopardy and everybody would shrink into their shell
and it wouldn't happen.
Q294 Damian Collins: Heaven
forbid that Burnley would be in this position, but what would
you say to your local suppliersyou know, the caterers,
printers and their staff; local businesses that would not be covered
by the football creditors ruleif the club went into administration,
and you are paying the football debt say to Charlton Athletic.
However, a firm in Burnley won't get paid or will only get pennies
in the pound. What would you say to a local business like that?
Barry Kilby: I
don't think you'd be comfortable, but for creditors to get anything
we need to remember that that club would be worth nothing if it
couldn't play in the leagues. It needs to have credibility and
to be able to play, for anybody else to come across and have a
CVA. Maybe they might get some more money down the line if it's
worked properly. I think if you've got to pay everybody, then
it would just disappear.
Julian Tagg: Damian,
can I make one comment? There are lots of those and we've had
that situation where a lot of people weren't paida lot
of those people are within our business now and major parts of
that business. They realise what it brings to the city and they
would rather have 10p in the pound, and have the money that's
come over the last 10 years and the trade that they're able to
do because the football club is still there. So there is that
side to it. The second side is that if it weren't there probably
some clubs wouldn't exist in the end.
I can't justify it. You're quite right, I'm not going
to sit and justify it; I'm just going to say that there are reasons.
The point is that lots of those companies that you're talking
about are major sponsors of ours and are still involved as suppliers,
whereas if that club weren't there they wouldn't be supplying.
So nobody can sit and say that that's right; not paying anybody
is wrong. I think the rules as they've tightened are closing in
on that, but those companies that have been stung, for want of
a better word, or have not been paid, are still integrated in
the football club. We've gone a long way to make sure that they
were looked after at that point for those very reasons.
Q295 Damian Collins: But
in that case football clubs are effectively using local businesses
like a bank and using that money to artificially sustain their
level within the league to the detriment of the clubs they play
Julian Tagg: Bad
ones are; you're correctI'm not arguing against that.
Q296 Damian Collins: Mr
Harvey, if you would like to comment on that I would be grateful
for your views. I just want to ask, as you've been at Leeds for
a number of years, Brian Mawhinney told us that he tried on a
number of occasions to accept or ask for league clubs to end the
football creditors rule and continually failed. I would be grateful
for any insight you can give on that.
Shaun Harvey: Just
to deal with the issue of football creditors to start with. Football
creditors exist in football and don't just crystallize in the
period of insolvency. The football creditors principle runs through
every club throughout its membership. So if, for exampleand
using people round the tableLeeds United owed Crewe some
money on a transfer fee and didn't pay it, then Crewe have the
right to collect that money from money that would otherwise be
sent essentially to Leeds United Football Club. I understand the
rationale for why to focus on the endi.e. the insolvency
situation and why it appears that one set of creditors are being
treated preferentiallybut the football creditors principle
is of football clubs that are working day in, day out, allowing
each other to sell tickets, which is massively important. If Leeds
defaulted in this example on a payment to Crewe, which meant Crewe
had to sell their players to keep in business, that cannot be
a fair and rational position for Crewe to be put into, particularly
when it's a closed industry. The only people we can trade with
on a football level are a professional football club. Nobody else
can buy or sell a registration of a player. Normal businesses
if they get into trouble would sell an asset. The only people
a football club can sell their asset to is another football club,
so that's why I think the principle of the football creditors
is massively important.
I will come back to the comments and the report you've
made reference to from the former Chairman. I think coming from
an area from outside football, looking in, I can say that the
Crown lost its preferential status with the advent of the 2002
Enterprise Act. There was preference as well as football creditors,
so it's only recently with the change in law that this has become
an issue, and the law says that businesses do go insolvent and
the Enterprise Act is there to bring them back. Why do I think
he would have been unsuccessful in bringing the matters forward?
Because the integrity of the competition and not gaining an unfair
advantage over the clubs that you are competing with on the field
on a Saturday afternoon was of paramount importance to all those
Q297 Damian Collins: But
do you not think the rule does help artificially to sustain competition
for clubs, because they can be involved in transactions with other
football clubs and those clubs have got the security of knowledge
that they will get paid even if other people won't?
Shaun Harvey: Well,
they'll get paid in an insolvency provision when the club re-enters
the football league, which is usually via a new company. So it
means that they can't gain an advantage over the other clubs,
and the justification is difficult. St. John Ambulance are often
quoted as the party that has been affected, and that case is usually
cited because, whilst it's still very significant, the amount
is usually small in comparison to the overall debt. When Leeds
went into administration, 49% of the debt at the time was to the
Q298 Damian Collins: When
the Premier League Chairman and Chief Executive gave evidence
to us last week, their view was that without the football creditors
rule, clubs would be more responsible about buying and selling
players to each other; they would take a greater interest in the
balance sheet of other football clubs because they've got more
commercial risk, and in terms of business practice that sounds
like a sensible thing.
Shaun Harvey: Yes,
and I think that's borne out of a position of looking down on
everybody else from a lofty height. The ability to say that also
comes from the fact that the majority of the transactions are
for player transfers; it's not just player transfers, there is
day to day trading between football clubs as well which often
gets glossed overa lot of that's going overseas. If you
sell a player to an overseas club, you take your life in your
hands sometimes in relation to getting paid and certainly getting
paid on time.
John Bowler: Yes,
I was just going to say the other important issue is that transfer
fees very often are a means of, if you like, trickling funds down
to smaller clubs. To use Shaun's example, we sell a player to
Leeds, but if we've bought that player from another club there
is often a sell-on clause for the other club, and so the transfer
fee mechanism does in actual fact feed other clubs rightly with
money and with funds available to them. My belief is that if that
creditors rule was not allowed, then there could be a number of
occasions where a football club might go into bankruptcy, but
it would also take probably two or three other clubs with them
because of the fact that the transfer money that ought to have
come down to those other clubs hasn't come.
Q299 Damian Collins: We
are going over the same ground, but in a world without it, clubs
might be more cautious about entering agreements where they're
taking payments from another football club if they're not certain
whether that football club can afford to honour them or not and
that might help spread best practice.
John Bowler: I
accept that point, but on the other hand, I think that the information
available to a club when it's selling a player to another club
makes it difficult to decide whether in fact the club that you're
selling to is as financially sound as it might be.
Q300 Damian Collins: Perhaps
getting rid of the rule would create an incentive for clubs to
be much more up front about their money, and where it comes from.
John Bowler: I
don't think it would. I think in actual fact the information there
is often not available for you to assess just how financially
sound the club is that the player is being bought from. Don't
forget some of this trickling down of funds could go on for a
number of years. Players move on from one club to another. All
I'm saying is don't underestimate the value that the creditor
rule does provide as a means of feeding funds down through the
Julian Tagg: Really
the rules that the Football League are putting in placethey
have done it with League Two and are attempting to do with League
Oneare about that due diligence that you talk about. The
Football League are trying to do it on our behalf to strengthen
those clubs up for that reason, which, if you were expecting clubs
to do that every time you did business you'd spend a lot of time
doing that due diligence. It seems to me that that's what the
football league clubs themselves are signing up to. Certainly
League Two have done it and I think League One has an appetite
to do the same.
Q301 Paul Farrelly: Not
to get hung up on this, but surely the football creditors rule
rewards poor financial management. If you are not a member of
the club, it discriminates against Nantwich Town or Stafford Rangers
does it not?
John Bowler: Why?
Q302 Paul Farrelly: Because
they find it far harder to get into the club.
John Bowler: I
wouldn't have thought so. I think the other thing that the football
creditors rule does in terms of the fact that those football debts
have got to be paid off is that the people probably coming in
to take over a club that's gone into administration do their due
diligence, and in fact recognise the rightful debts that they've
got to face before they come in, rather than taking it out on
Julian Tagg: I
think one of the thingsand it's a very difficult oneis
the risk of what you might lose. As we said, a company might
lose the opportunity to trade, whether or not they are one of
the ones that have been defaulted against. You also leave a large
hole in the community, and I think that's huge. What football
clubs do across the country for that community; that's the risk
of what you may lose. If that club does disappear for that reason
because they're no longer allowed in the family, as Shaun has
explained, that is the risk. I see those two things certainly
from a personal point of view and from personal practice as hugely,
massively important. I would be worried about supporting what
you're suggesting because of the risk, whether it be my club or
whether it be Leeds or anywhere else. Knowing as I do what happens,
what those clubs mean to and do for the community, it would be
a big risk to start to lose some of those.
Q303 Damian Collins: I
hear what you say. On that basis, any kind of rule, any kind of
practice that all clubs employ which people might question can
be justified on the basis that while the club might go into administration
the community might lose their club. Therefore let us do almost
anything we can to avoid that no matter how "morally dubious"to
use the Chairman of the Football League's wordsthat might
Julian Tagg: But
certainly from a personal situation, it is the people who came
in from outside who were wilful in what they did and how they
did it, and that was nothing to do with any supporter, nothing
to do with anybody in that city, and it's perfectly feasible that
it could happen again. So a couple of individuals could do something
to a football club, rip it out of the middle of that community
and the rule would no longer be there to protect that community.
So I absolutely take your point and I don't feel good about it
at all, but in terms of the balance between the two that would
be something I would hate to see somebody else lose, knowing how
important it is.
Barry Kilby: If
a club went out of existence there is no football creditors rulewe
all lose the club; if it disappeared, that's it. It's surely right
for us to say to the new club coming back in, which wants to get
back into the league and play alongside us again, "Listen,
you've got to make sure that you honour those contracts if you
want to come back and play in our league". That's the real
reason there. I mean certainly if it disappears, if Burnley Football
Club is owed a million quid if that club goes, that's it, full
stop. It's only when the new club that's coming back in its place
wants to take its place in the league that we can say, "Well
if you want to come back into the league it's only right that
you make sure your players were paid and you were dealing with
your debts before we allow you to come back in".
Q304 Damian Collins: I
think we'd all agreed with that, it's just a question of whether
it should be at the expense of other creditors.
Shaun Harvey: Chair,
I sense you're keen to move on and I think one or two over here
are happy for you to move on as well, but I think the biggest
element of football creditors that is carried forward to a new
company is actually the players' wages. It's the players' contractual
obligations. They're employees. Employees are preferential creditors
certainly for arrears, usually to, I think, about an £800
limit. But that's the biggest liability that is taken on by a
new company. If players don't have that level of security of contract,
then I suggest the asset value of their registration and the arrangements
that are in place with the PFA could well be put into question.
It's a bigger question for you to take up with others but it's
just worthy of leaving you with.
Chair: Right, thank you.
Q305 Paul Farrelly: John,
a question for you. Crewe are legendary. I think Dario Gradi took
over from the late and great Tony Waddington as the longest serving
manager in football history and he's renowned for spotting players
and youth development. Do you think there's a lesson that we can
learn in football development from the likes of Crewe that the
Germans have learned and the French have learned that might involve
the bigger clubs sharing a bit more money out for what might be
at the end of the day in the national interest?
John Bowler: Yes,
but I think every football club has got to decide how it's going
to run its business. When I first got involved with Crewe 30-odd
years ago, we had a record that we'd applied for re-election more
than any other football club in this country and therefore we
were still in existence but only just, and we took a long hard
look at, as a business, what the future held for us. We don't
have a large catchment area. We have a lot of very well known
clubs around us that attract traditional family support outside
of Crewe and therefore despite whatever we could think of, one
thing became apparent and that was we couldn't generate the commercial
revenue and the support that would sustain us going forward anywhere
other than in the bottom league.
You're quite right, Dario joined us at that time
and his passion was youth development, and therefore our business
strategy was simple. It was, look, the only way we're going to
kick on here, the only new revenue that we can find is to concentrate
on youth development and developing young players; firstly to
populate our own team and secondly for those who were going to
play at a much higher level than we could play at, then hopefully
that would generate commercial income. Through his success we've
been successful there. Over those 30 years that he's been with
us, he's been responsible for generating transfer income that
redeveloped our stadium. That built our academy and has got Crewe
to where it is today. There was always going to be some calculated
risk, but we were prepared to support a budget loss situation
on the basis that we would have sales coming through to offset
that and that's how we balanced the books.
We have been grateful for the support that we have
received from money handed down to us from the Football League,
the FA and so forth. It is a struggle today and I think that if
we want to have the kind of community clubs Exeter is talking
about, and if we want to sustain community clubs and smaller clubs,
then there is no doubt that against the competition that we have,
yes, we would welcome more central funding being provided to us
and through whatever mechanism there is. It doesn't tend to feed
its way down as efficiently today as it used to do.
Q306 Paul Farrelly: Is
there anything we can learn from other countriesperhaps
the legalities of being able to contract young people, which would
mean that smaller clubs got a fairer crack of the whip or is that
too esoteric a question?
Julian Tagg: I
think the system actually as it stands at the moment, like anything,
can do with improvement. Everything can be improved, everything
can be bettered, but I think the system is there and across the
board, pretty much every club is involved in it and what I see
from first hand is a lot of people striving constantly to improve
and to do that, and I think the system is very much in place.
I think the focus at a national level often is the England team
and why isn't the England team winning everything. I think if
you look at the under-17s, under-19s, under-21s, you'll see that
a lot of the boys who have been developed, not only in the League
but also in the Conference, and that's where players have come
from. There's a lot of very, very good work going on, which again
I do understand can be improved, but the systems that are there
I believe are working quite well. They can be improved upon, but
I don't think there's a massive amount that needs to be fixed.
Perhaps the coaching and the levels and ability of those coaches
can be worked on, and certainly the focus that there has been
recently on the number of hours and so on, without going the whole
way of what is being suggested, I think there's mileage in that
Q307 Paul Farrelly: How
does it look from Yorkshire?
Shaun Harvey: Youth
development policies are different at every single club, and again
there's no one magical formula that says do this, this and this
and you generate a professional footballer at the end of it. For
me, the system only breaks down when clubs lose the opportunity
to develop the players in their academy to the full potential,
and that means where another club's come and taken them out of
your academy at a young age to place them in their own. If that
happens, by definition what you're actually losing are the best
players, because a Premier League club would not come and scout
a player from another club's academy or centre of excellence unless
they believed they are going to better the players that they've
already got in their systems, who are supposed to be the best
So I think the biggest challenge that we all face
is ensuring that there's an adequate compensation system in place
that actually protects the interests of the clubs that are developing
players from the youngest age. Statistics prove that each club
can bring through one player per season who becomes a regular
first team playerand this is defined as being 25 first
team appearances by the age of 21but because there's no
magic measure, if new systems are put in place for compensation
that doesn't accurately reward the investment that's made in the
whole system by that club, many clubs will stop their youth development
policy because it is no longer economically viable for them to
have one. John described the model at Crewe, and a lot of clubs
have lived on running the senior team by the proceeds of income
generated from the sale of younger players, and there is absolutely
nothing wrong with that.
There are two measures; getting players to play in
your first team and producing players to sell to move on for a
transfer fee. Both are equally valid arguments, and if we aren't
careful and that particular mechanism is affected negatively,
what we will see is a lot of clubs stopping youth development,
running community-based schemes and then picking up players who
have been cast aside by bigger clubs and Premier League clubs
at the end. The sort of social effect that has on the players
that are released is anybody's guess, so we are playing with dynamite
at this moment in time.
Julian Tagg: There
is a deeper effect as well when you develop your players and you
have three or four in your team, you know by definition as they've
come through, their wages are lower. That's been the focus a lot
of the time about the wages, so if you have developed two, three
or four players that have come through, if you were a club that
wasn't developing and you're bringing in players from outside
they would cost you probably three or four times as much. When
you have one that's a significant saving but if you get two or
three into your first team, never mind whether they're sold or
not, which of course hopefully they are, that's a significant
saving which would make life much more difficult for the lower
Q308 Paul Farrelly: Barry,
maybe you can help me on this, without being naïve and taking
everything that we're told at face value, we did get a sense in
Germany that there was more of a collective ethos about their
game that's perhaps not evident here, in that there was a very
strong statement from lots of people we talked to that the German
performance in Euro 2000 was absolutely rubbish and was a national
disgrace and they needed to do something about it, and they did
it with youth development. We've seen that with the young German
team that ran England ragged but got caught out with the maestros
from Spain, but still they are where they are. Bayern in particular
said, "Okay, we can't just not pinch players because otherwise
Arsenal will come calling and nick all the best talent",
but there's a gentleman's agreement to not be aggressive about
it. Where are we failing in our game?
Barry Kilby: What
we're talking about is the success of the national team, and I
think on the whole the Football League does very well in nurturing
its talent and coming through. One of the problems for the England
team as opposed to Germany is that the Premier League hoovers
up the very best talent. The big problem the Premier League has
is that once they get to 19, 20, those real vital years of football
development, there are so many foreign players in hereand
it's even imported foreign young playersthat players are
not getting that chance to develop as they would do in Germany,
where they would have a much easier chance. Those are really vital
years where you get match intelligence and a strong mentality.
I don't think it matters that much if we spend even more hours
on trying to trap a ball or whateverit's those vital years
that are being missed in the national team.
I don't think you can go back and say the youth system's
failing. I think the players are there, it's that vital competition
that they're missing now. The famous Manchester UnitedBeckham,
Giggs, the Nevilles; the famous one when Alex Ferguson in the
early 90s put those lads in and they came through to be top players
for twenty yearswouldn't happen now. It's so foreign dominated.
We can't say we might have one season where we will finish tenth
and then we'll pick up again; success has to be there and the
best way is to import ready-made talent. I think that's more on
the national team than what you start doing by messing around
with what the clubs are doing in the football league, which I
think is an excellent job.
Julian Tagg: I
think I mentioned before, you're doing exceptionally well at under-17,
under-19 and under-21 from a European perspective, so something's
not going terribly awry. I'm worrying whether some of what's suggested
is going to exacerbate what Barry just describes; players getting
to the top end and getting frustrated with no situation or no
opportunity to play in real football. It would seem that the clubs
at the very top are actually bringing them back down into our
divisionsthe Championship and One and Twoto, whether
you call it blood them or educate them. They're going to take
them away, yet they want to bring them back, so unless there's
another opportunity where they can get that kind of experience
I think what's being suggested, that's going to be its flaw.
As I say, you get the 17s, 19s and 21s. The other
comment you made about was that there seems more unity, and of
course even with the process that's going on hereand I've
been part of the Youth Working Partythe Premier League
are driving it quite rightly, because they're trying to improve
and I applaud that, but that's not been done with the FA and the
Football League and the Premier League all sat around the table.
All those people have interest and so it becomesyou're
quite right, Pauldisparate rather than a unified group
of people trying to achieve something. It may have been a faster
process and a more effective one were that not the case.
John Bowler: I
think my own personal perspective too is that, yes, we are concerned
about the growth of foreign ownership in the Premier League, and
will that foreign ownership have as much interest in the future
of the national game and all that goes into this wonderful sport
that we've got, which is our national game, and the wellbeing
and development of it. I think we're in a changed process, with
new ownership and foreign ownership coming in to the Premier League.
The Premier League have been very supportive of us so far but
I think a number of us have got concerns about how will this relationship
nurture itself and develop in the future, so I think the concern
that you raise is a fair concern.
We've got to be sure that we want the finest Premier
League in the world. We want to be sure we've got a very strong
and successful national game, but we have to try to ensure that
we don't lose the family of football, because the family of football
really does depend on making sure that the grass roots are taken
care of, so we must make sure that as many of the local communities
nationally spread throughout this country have their own football
team and hopefully their own league football team. That's what
we need to ensure.
Julian Tagg: Many
of those England footballers are coming from Conference Two, One,
all the way up. I can't quote them specifically but that broad
base, which is what's happening in the footballing communities,
is hundreds and hundreds of children starting off. They go into
development centres, advanced development centres, into the centres
of excellence. There's a massive amount of work that goes on before
these children get to 12 years old, and the depth and breadth
of that is hugely important. Some of the proposals might close
that off and the pyramid at the bottom wouldn't be so stable,
and, if that wasn't there and those children weren't doing that,
they would be doing something else. Hopefully they'd become a
great rugby player or a swimmer or something else, but if we're
concerned about football, it is that baseand keeping that
base strongof football in the community that raises all
the way through with the football clubs' involvement, and will
ultimately be the strength of the England team end, because that,
if you pardon the pun, is the grass roots. That's where they're
John Bowler: And
to support what Barry was saying, in our experience of developing
young players, the most successful players or the players who
have had the most success that we've developed have actually left
us during their first two years as professionals after playing
in our first team, rather than those who have left us during their
academy years. That is an important issue that we mustn't lose
Q309 Chair: We need to
move on because we are lagging behind. Can I ask you a quick question?
It appears likely that the sale of exclusive broadcasting rights
on a territorial basis within the EU may be declared illegal.
That's obviously going to have a huge impact on the money coming
into the game but it also may mean that the existing three o'clock
blackout can no longer be maintained. How serious would it be
for your clubs if that blackout at three o'clock no longer applied?
Julian Tagg: Just
from seeing what happens on a Tuesday night when Manchester United
or Arsenal are playing, we feel that direct effect on our gates.
Every time we lose a Saturday game and it comes back as a Tuesday
one, we know that's quite a considerable drop in income, because
nine times out of ten there's a football match on the TV that
people would want to watch, and I don't blame them in a way. If
that were to happen on Saturdays it would have serious ramifications
from a financial point of view to every football club.
Shaun Harvey: It's
the floating fans. A Crewe fan will always be a Crewe fan, a Leeds
fan will always be a Leeds fan and they are going to hopefully
go and be able to turn up and watch their team play live at the
stadium of choice. The floating fans are the problem, those who
want to go and watch football and pick and choose a game. Why
pay to go and watch a game through any stadium turnstiles if you
can watch arguably a higher profile, greater quality, higher division
game on TV? So I think three o'clock on a Saturday afternoon has
to be tried to be kept sacrosanct for the purpose of getting people
through the turnstiles at their local clubs.
From a financial point of view and the value of the
loss of exclusivity to the TV companies, whether we like it or
not, Sky effectively acts as paymaster general to the world of
football as it stands. The TV rights are where income is mainly
generated and anything that fundamentally affects that will have
a bearing on every single club. As I said earlier, what causes
clubs financial problems is loss of income, usually created by
relegation in the examples that we're talking about, but with
a significant loss of centrally distributed income without sufficient
time to adjust, we will see problems. ITV Digital proved that
when it went bust, at football clubs. With a loss of income that
clubs had been told realistically they could expect and plan for,
you saw a spate of administrations. It was also an excuse in some
circumstances but it is a real fear that fundamentally it could
affect the very fabric of football.
John Bowler: And
don't forget that really the drive that a lot of clubs are making
now, particularly smaller clubs, is to encourage the new supporters,
encourage families. As Shaun is saying, for the die-hard Crewe
fan, he'll come and it doesn't matter what's on television, but
we're really interested in encouraging schoolchildren to be coming,
families to be coming, and to have that competition when we're
playing could not only have a serious impact today but it can
have a serious impact for the future.
Q310 Mr Sanders: You're
familiar with the idea of limiting clubs' spending on player wages
to 60% of turnover, which is now the practice in League Two. Do
you think a similar rule should be brought in to other divisions?
Julian Tagg: I'll
give you a quick answer; yes. We experienced it in the Conference,
experienced it in League Two and not in League One, but, yes,
I would invite it and there's already a lot of discussion, a lot
of work and analysis that's going on with financial committees
within the football league to achieve that and I hope they do
and will be voting for it.
Q311 Mr Sanders: The
quick answer was yes.
Shaun Harvey: I'll
give you as quick an answer as I can but with an example; 60%
of our turnover would mean we could spend approximately £16
million a year on wages. We spend nothing like that.
John Bowler: I
was originally against it, because I felt that football clubs
have really got to take responsibility for running their own businesses
and running them prudently and profitably. I've changed my position
on it because I think it's just part of a package of things that
the football league is looking at to try to ensure that we do
have good financial governance and to encourage best practice,
and therefore I accept that that is one of a number of measures
with which the football league is putting its house in order to
ensure the wellbeing of the sport overall.
Barry Kilby: I'm
slightly wary of it somehowjust that little bit of straightjacket
coming from above that you must do this and do that. The season
we went up, when we were getting close, we increased our spending
a bit and that was directors' loans. We knew what we were doing
and how we'd cover if it didn't come off, so there's a little
bit of flexibility there. It just seems very rigid to me for somebody
to say, "Whatever your circumstances you cannot do X".
I'm a little bit worried by that. It's very sensible, 60%, I think
it's a decent percentage of your wage bill that the club can handle,
but everything by diktat, I'm just a bit uneasy with.
Q312 Mr Sanders: Do you
think it's more complicated between Championship and Premiership
than perhaps between Leagues One and Two?
Barry Kilby: There
has always been that thing where some benefactor might come in
and give a club a boost. It's a bit rigid. Leedsthat's
£13 million, but for us it would be a lot less, and that
would be forever. Whereas sometimes you might get a son of the
city or the place who decides to give money, and that's gone on
in football since time began, with somebody funding the new centre
forward and so on. I'm just a bit wary of it being in all circumstances
a straightjacket and it's imposed from above. It would tend to
reinforce the status quo.
Q313 Mr Sanders: It's
interesting that two members of the panel who have experienced
this are in favour of it but the two who have not fear it, and
of the two who've experienced it one of them said he feared it
before it came in.
Shaun Harvey: Yes,
I think just to support what Barry is saying, it's not how much
you're paying that's the issue, it's your ability to meet that
debt, and as long as you've got the ability to do it and the football
club isn't in a worse position as a result of it, then that should
be the measure. That is more along the lines, shall we say, of
a financial fair play model that UEFA have got than a fixed salary
cap. If you can fund it, if you can manage it, if you're prepared
to spend it then you should be allowed to do so as long as the
patient at the end of the day is not the football club.
Q314 Mr Sanders: It's
been suggested to us in this inquiry that the Premier League's
parachute payments for relegated clubs distort competition in
the Championship. Do you think parachute payments should be reduced
or even abolished? They are at the end of the day a reward for
Shaun Harvey: You
can either view them as a reward for failure or a mechanism to
try and self-adjust you back into normal life. We talked earlier
about the players' wages, which I think we've all identified are
probably the single biggest issue that you have to manage, and
coming down from the Premier League it takes time to adjust with
Q315 Mr Sanders: Well,
why don't you have contracts that say, "In the event of us
being relegated I'm afraid you're going be paid less"?
Shaun Harvey: In
principle, there's nothing wrong with that statement, but I'd
challenge anybody to sit in front of an agent and a player and
say to them, "We want to sign you for three years. We're
a Premier League club. We're going all out to stay at this division.
However, if we fail we want to reduce your wages by half".
To which the player and his agent say, "Well you're not really
that confident that you're going to stay in the Premier League
then are you?" "Well, yes, we're going to give it every
go." "But that's contradictory to what you're asking
my client to sign up to, and Club B down the road will do this,
this and this", because it's a competitive market. Now the
model is fine. I understand it and it's something we all try to
do. In practice, it isn't as simple as that and those players
do get injured periodically.
Barry Kilby: I
think it does distort the market, but the answer is that the gap
is massive, and as I said before average teams now in the Premier
League have a wage bill of £50 million. How do they handle
that when you come down? I'll back up what Shaun says there; it's
competition, isn't it? They say, "Well, we want you to halve
your wage if we come down". If somebody else is in the market
for a player, they might drop that, and they don't operate that
clause. It's terribly, terribly difficult in the market place
to force that through.
Q316 Mr Sanders: But
isn't this actually all linked back to this creditors rule that
the reason they do this is because they're on a no-lose situation?
Barry Kilby: Again,
I just come back to the Premier League, and sometimes you're competing
against people who don't care. They've got billionaires who are
prepared to lose £600 million about that. You're competing
in those circumstances. They won't care about the relegation clauseit's
very difficult. Last season, we came up from the Championship
and the players got an increase. It's easy to say, "Well,
if we go back down it comes back down." That follows a logic
that is easy to enforce. If you're trying to get an established
Premiership player, it's very difficult to say, "You do know
if we go down we halve your wages". That's not an easy one
to pull off. But I agree, I think it does distort the competition
somewhat, but I would say it's not always guaranteed that the
ones that come down with the parachute payments with that advantage
are able to go back because invariably they're shedding players,
still with the parachute payment, and they've got to try and get
their house in order and get back on an even keel.
Shaun Harvey: If
you get relegated from the Premier League or any league, the only
players other clubs want to take off your hands or your books
are those they believe represent better value for them. By definition,
you end up with the players in your squad that nobody else wants
to take off your hands and they're not arguably the ones who are
best equipped to get you back out of the division that you're
Q317 Mr Sanders: So it
didn't pay offering them contract in the first place did it?
Shaun Harvey: It
didn't, and if we all had hindsight we would be a lot better off.
Q318 Mr Watson: Just
to wrap upand I will take you last on this, JulianI
will get to fan involvement. Could you tell me what role if any
should supporters' trusts play in the governance of their clubs?
Shaun Harvey: You
heard me say earlier that I think the best model is a small dynamic
board that's able to make decisions quickly and on that basis,
that's the view that I would support. Consultation's fine but
when it comes to the decision-making process, for me it needs
to be left in the structure that I described earlier.
Q319 Mr Watson: So no
fan on a small agile board.
Shaun Harvey: Not
for me, no.
Q320 Mr Watson: Okay,
John Bowler: I
take a different view, but that probably relates to the difference
in size of clubs. I think that smaller clubs like ourselves that
are hopefully making a major contribution to the local community
and have a big community involvement would like to see a Supporters
Trust with about 25% of the shares with a seat on the board. I
have to say, because it's me who's been leading it rather than
the supporters, it's not been easy to put into place. We have
regular meetings with our Supporters Association and we have good
relationships with them, so I started with them, but we couldn't
find a group of people who wanted to take it forward, because
it's no mean task setting up an efficient Supporters Trust and
there are a lot of bodies in the cemetery already where it hasn't
So my recent approach has been to try to get a group
of local business people and the local professional people to
work with supporters to see if that's a way of putting it together,
on the basis that we think it will have a good chance of success
and getting established. So the answer is yes for us, but we've
got to be sure that we do set it up properly and it runs properly
rather than paying lip service to it.
Barry Kilby: We
have fans on the boardthat's our directors with their own
money, quite a lot of itand we have the Clarets Trust.
If you buy enough shares in the club you can have a seat on there.
I do agree with Shaun, but I must come back when you say, "a
fan on the board". There are some tough decisions to be made
that most fans wouldn't like, so where do we stand on that one?
If we do any guarantees for a financial deal, is the fan
going to put his house on the line and say, "Yes I'll join
in that one". I think there's nothing better than people
having a big financial stake in it. We do have the Clarets Trust,
we have meetings with them, quite often very interesting and they
make good points, but also we must remember the wide shareholders
thingwe've got over 200 shareholders. We are responsible
to them and they do criticise, but we are talking about an actual
somebody imposed on the board who's not there on the same footing,
which is essentially the shareholding in the club, and him putting
his money in there. If he's a representative of the Trust, who
is he and what's he like and does he want to tell everybody what
the team is the next day, do we sack the manager, do we all go
back and have a vote on that? There have to be quick decisions
made, and with the responsibility of money there's nothing better
that makes that decision.
Q321 Mr Watson: Julian,
Shaun takes a slightly different view from you on this, I suspect.
He's happy for the fans to be shareholders in a mystery trust
running out of SwitzerlandI'm joking Shaun, I'm jokingbut
you've got a slightly different model. You've heard criticism
from Shaun and Barry that essentially if the wrong kind of fan
ends up on a board they can reduce the ambition of a club. Would
you share that view?
Julian Tagg: I
submit that it's very possible from personal experience that the
advantages and disadvantages are at the other end of what Shaun's
actually described. Of course the disadvantage is the slow decision-making
and taking everybody's opinionwith the bigger decisions,
sometimes that makes things very, very slow. You need to evolve
as a football club as you improve what you're doing; you evolve
on the pitch all the time. The analogy is a good one that is understood,
and beginning to be understood better by the fans, and it is that
we need better peoplemore experienced, with the right kind
of skillsas the football club progresses and the board
needs to evolve. Certainly the club board and the board of trustees
as we call them, which is where the ownership of the club stands,
are also important.
The other thing that becomes a disadvantage is the
constant need for information. If you give some information then
it means there's another question for some more information and
so it goes on, so that's something that we do our best to handle.
We have financial groups that meet, we have trust groups that
meet, so those three things are the upside of it. It gives us
particularly long term security, and I think one of the things
that attracted me in the beginning was that it's not going to
come along later on, something's going to go wrong and it's going
to fall into different hands. All that work and effort of the
community, with lots of volunteers involved, gives us an ethos
which is a very useful one to havea lot of people want
to be involved. I think there is a culture in football that we
talk about all the time; the fans want you to improve, they want
the best centre forward, but they want the prices at the gate
reduced, and it is about trying to find the balance.
Our model in our club is changing the culture a little
bit in the sense, as the fans sing proudly "We own our football
club", and there are fans who literally can come off of the
terraces and can go into that board. Ultimately, if they're the
right ones, they can come on to our board, and there are two of
them. That's the way the flow goes, and the closer they get to
the responsibility of it going wrong, the more realism there is.
There's still a long way to go; there are still the fans' forums
saying "We want to do this immediately", and are vociferous
about it, but the majority and the wider change in the culture
of what we're actually beginning to achieve, it would seem, is
that you can lose a game and it's not the end of the world and
we don't want to sack the manager, and that we need to be prudent
financially rather than gambling money that we don't have in the
hope of moving up the league. So there's still the same thing
that runs underneath it but I believe the nature of the club is
beginning to change.
Q322 Mr Watson: So you're
describing a situation where you have to explain your decisions
more thoroughly to fans but it doesn't seem to me slowing you
up in making tough decisions when you need to. Does that characterise
Julian Tagg: It
has slowed us up and there are a number of things that we've tried
to change. It's been really difficult to make those changessomething
that becomes very obvious because you're in a boardroom. These
things need to be changed and you have to go back via the trust
boardwe've got a large board of 16and convince them,
so we're far from perfect, I think everybody realises that. There's
no blueprint for this. We've made it work. Sometimes those two
boards come to a head and they clash. We have a mechanism which
we call the Joint Boards. We have four from each side if you likeI
never used to call it sides but I do nowwe have a group
of four and there are no minutes to that and we try and thrash
out what the club really requires. At that point, if you can get
some kind of agreement that we need to change a certain aspect,
whether it be the Chairmanship or whether it be who sits on the
boards or whether that be the club board, then that's where you
really make the real progress.
Then of course the rest cascades out in the normal
day-to-day business, but a lot of the time, I'm taking a lot more
care to make sure people know what's going on in advance, as opposed
to the decision-making. They want to know that it's happening
before it happens rather than necessarily, "Why didn't I
know about that? Why don't I know?" That's probably the most
difficult thing because they're keen fans and it's a good job
that they do care that much about it.
Chair: I think that probably
leads us neatly on to our second question session, so can I thank
the four of you very much?