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Southend United and Scunthorpe United playing at Roots Hall in December 2020 (© Alamy)

Club crises show desperate need for football regulator

We’ve reported a lot on the crises at Southend United and Scunthorpe United in recent times but we are hopeful that a corner has been turned at both clubs in the past few days.

It’s important not to get carried away, there’s still uncertainty and a lot of hard work to come in the months ahead – but unpopular owners Ron Martin and David Hilton are now on their way out of their respective clubs. 

Yesterday’s BBC report indicated that “three lifelong Southend United fans have been named as part of the consortium taking over the football club” alongside a business consortium led by Australian Justin Rees.

Meanwhile a statement on Scunthorpe United’s website said that “a takeover has been completed for the club by local businesswoman Michelle Harness.” She is a current director at the club where she’s been involved for 15 years. 

Supporter campaigns

Supporters at both clubs have played a huge part in pushing things forward with various groups at Southend United joining forces to replace Ron Martin as owner. FSA members Shrimpers Trust and Proud Shrimpers have played a key role in uniting fans at Roots Hall, while the Iron Trust have led the way alongside other fan groups at Glanford Park. 

As we have seen elsewhere there has been solidarity and a cross pollination of ideas between the clubs, with the Shrimpers Trust and Iron Trust crafting a joint “enough is enough” statement earlier this week.

It’s a great example of fans working together and, once again, we’d implore all supporters to join and get involved with the democratic supporters’ group at your own club.

Credit is also due to The Athletic for a forensic investigation into Scunthorpe United’s former owner David Hilton, while Matt Slater ensured Southend United’s predicament was kept in the spotlight too. Follow Matt @mjshrimper 

Where next?

Here at the Football Supporters’ Association we’ve offered a lot of support to both sets of groups behind the scenes and tried to help keep their stories in the national spotlight. We will continue to work hard and try to ensure both club’s enjoy the future they deserve.

The near catastrophe we have seen at the Iron and the Shrimpers are just the latest in a long list of examples which show why an independent regulator is needed and needed now. 

Such a body must have power to intervene BEFORE things got as far as they did in both these cases. A convicted fraudster like Hilton should not be allowed to own a football club.

The Premier League and the EFL have recently updated their Owners and Directors’ Test (OADT) with new disqualifying conditions while the FA, which oversees National League football club ownership, is doing the same.

Amazingly though none of their new rules would disbar Hilton from buying another club as he’d have to have two fraud convictions, rather than one, for their disqualifying conditions to apply.

As promised by the Government repeatedly, November’s King’s Speech must include a commitment to an independent football regulator which has the appropriate powers to protect our historic clubs. Fans will accept nothing less.

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