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Football Has an Ownership Problem

We, as people, are at a time when men’s mental health is at an all-time low, and suicide rates for males are at an all-time high. Now, football isn’t a cure. However, the ability to escape from reality, meet up with your friends, and all support the same team, as well as forget about your issues for a whole day a week, can be so impactful and helpful. Football helps build a community and a sense of togetherness like no other. Football is for the fans, and below are owners who don’t understand what it is like to support a football club. They aren’t fans of the club; they have no care, no affection. These owners don’t travel up and down the country, witnessing the highs of last-minute winners or the lows of a 4-0 defeat’s

These owners do not care, and it’s evident in their ways of running the clubs. They put fans through turmoil and were on the brink of extinction, sucking any life out of the club. The owners always forget that the club would cease to exist without the fans.

These owners listed below do not care for the fans. They don’t care how they feel, feel no emotion towards the club, and don’t do their job adequately. These owners create havoc for clubs and leave fans with no option. The fans are powerless, watching their beloved club fall, crumble, and sometimes cease to exist right before their eyes. They are given false hope with countless promises that never come true, and instead, they get punished with points deductions, unlike the owners themselves.

Torquay United’s Ownership story

general views of sport venues after events postponed due to covid 19

Torquay United’s downward spiral is a sad story. It is a club run into the ground by a man who knows nothing about football, at least according to their fans. Clarke Osbourne is a real estate agent whose venture into football has ultimately led to disaster. “He wanted the club for his benefit, and he was a businessman with no clue how to run a football club.” The club was on the brink of promotion but crumbled on penalties in the playoff final. “It has been nothing but a downward spiral since the playoffs.

Torquay United entered the next season ready to bounce back. They had their eyes set on promotion back to League Two. However, they would ultimately fall short. The club, led by Gary Johnson, finished outside the playoffs in 11th place. Despite calls from fans for Johnson to be sacked, owner Clarke Osbourne stuck with him. The decision to do so was the final nail in the coffin. The following season, Torquay were relegated to the National League South. They were just two points away from safety. It was a devastating moment for the club and its fans. But much worse was about to come.

The Cornwall-based side would have hoped for an instant bounce back to the National League; however, this won’t happen. Fans’ relationships with the owner and manager are in tatters. The club currently sits in twelfth; Torquay fans said: “Performances in the league against teams I’ve never heard of have been disgraceful and unforgivable.” To make matters worse, Clarke Osbourne recently stated he could not fund the club, and administrators would be appointed. This led to long-time manager Gary Johnson leaving the club, which was essentially fighting for itself. The misery compiler has also just hit the club, with them being handed a 10-point deduction after the club intended to appoint administrators.

“The supporters were sold that we would win the league this season hence why so many got season tickets however, that has been further from the truth. We were promised as supporters a new stadium, this never happened we were promised league 2 football this also never happened. He has absolutely no clue at any point and wanted to use us for his benefit and when he couldn’t he chucks us away like we are dog sh*t”

Danny, Torquay United fan

How Clarke Osbourne passed the fit and proper test from the EFL is a disgrace, and this is a prevalent theme among these clubs: that the governing body has failed to impose its legislation correctly. Rather than try to solve the issue, they constantly punish fans and the club rather than the owner.

Is it the end of Reading Football Club?

reading v derby county sky bet league one
READING, ENGLAND – JANUARY 23: Reading fans protest against the clubs owner Dai Yongge during the Sky Bet League One match between Reading and Derby County at Select Car Leasing Stadium on January 23, 2024 in Reading, England. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

As of the time of writing, awful news has just been reported: Reading is set to sell its Bearwood Park training ground to Wycombe Wanderers. This has a chance to be the final nail in the coffin for the Berkshire Club, as it was a significant attraction to prospective buyers. Now that it will no longer be owned by the club or be available to use, it will hinder any chance Reading had of being “sold before they died.”

Reading fan-led protest movement Sell Before We Dai released a statement on the news around the club’s prospective sale of their training ground. Some keywords from the statement.

“The news that Reading FC owner Dai Yongge, his sister and fellow owner Dai Xiu Li, and CEO Dayong Pang, are selling our training ground shows that they never intended to sell the club. They’re intent on only one thing – killing Reading FC – a club with a proud 152-year history. This club is firmly on life support.

The statement also had a section directed to the EFL and their lack of competence in this situation, this read: “To Rick Parry and the EFL- who said ‘never again’ after Bury’s demise, but are walking by on the other side while our club is dying in front of them”

Sell Before We Dai (@SellBeforeWeDai on X)

This was a woeful treatment from Dai Yongge and the total asset stripping of the historic football club Reading FC. The list of disregard and mistreatment of the club is lengthy; however, let’s go from the start. How the EFL deemed him, in their own words, ‘fit and proper’ is abysmal, especially after his proposed acquisition of Hull City was denied because the Premier League deemed him unfit to take over and run a football club. However, the disgrace that is the EFL welcomed him with open arms. There is a severe failure on their behalf. I say this because Mr. Yongge previously owned two other clubs. Firstly 2007, he purchased Beijing Renhe 2007; by 2020, they were relegated, and in 2021, they ceased to exist. The second club, KSV Roeselare, was taken over by his sister in 2016 and relegated to the third tier; it was dissolved three years later.

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How did the EFL react when Mr Yongge and Ms Xiu Li proposed to buy Reading Football Club? After seeing their history, deem them ‘fit and proper.’ This is a disgrace, and the EFL should be held accountable for the ensuing actions. In no chronological order, the events that occurred are: (Via The Tilehurst End)

  • Without intervention from a fan-led sponsorship group, repeated failure to pay players’ wages in full and on time on three separate occasions would have occurred even more.
  • Six points were deducted for failing FFP in November 2021
  • A further six in April 2023 for breaking a business plan agreement with the EFL.
  • Another point in August 2023 for not paying players wages.
  • Finally, an additional three were suspended and then activated because Dai did not pay 125% of the wage bill to a designated account.
  • Failure to pay HMRC in full and on time led to numerous transfer embargoes
  • Non-playing staff were unpaid in November 2023 during a cost of living crisis, leading to Christmas!
  • Several non-playing staff made redundant weeks before Christmas
  • Key players lined up for sale without the agreement of manager Ruben Selles or head of football operations Mark Bowen.
  • Drastic cost-cutting measures such as the removal of catering for players at the training ground, hotels for away games, and the lack of heating for office staff
  • They attempted to sell their only attractive asset, the Bearwood training ground

Yongge’s multitude of disregard has shown that he isn’t just an atrocious football owner but also an awful person with no regard for the quality of life and doesn’t care about anyone else other than himself. Reading Football Club needs saving; a club of that stature, that size, and that pedigree can’t go under. The EFL also shows a complete lack of empathy. Why give a club a points deduction for off-the-field actions? Why increase their chances of being relegated, which would mean even less finance being available for issues around not paying staff?

Since writing this, Reading has entered a period of exclusivity with potential new buyers as the club sale from Dai Yonge concludes.

Sheffield Wednesday’s awful Chansiri

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SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 09: Fans of Sheffield Wednesday hold a protest showing a pictures of owner Dejphon Chansiri prior to the Sky Bet Championship match between Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham City at Hillsborough on February 09, 2024 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

In January 2015, Thai businessman Dejphon Chansiri took over Sheffield Wednesday, and a downward spiral ensued. There is a long list of events, which include multiple season ticket increases—for example, £415 being the cheapest ticket in the Kop stand—several financial investigations, kit changes without fan consultations, and awful signings made for record fees. One example is rejecting a fee for George Hirst just for the player to be frozen out and then leaving for free.

He made the stadium all about him by removing ‘SWFC’ across the seats and replacing it with Chansiri. On several occasions, the sale of kits didn’t start until after the season had begun. Players were not being paid, and point deductions were only around the corner. Banning BBC Sheffield Radio and forcing fans who wish to listen to matchday coverage to pay £4.50 for the club’s version. This is just a tiny, brief look into the events that have occurred in the eight years Chansiri has been at Sheffield Wednesday.

The club was placed under transfer embargoes on several occasions. In October of last year, Chansiri released a grotesque statement suggesting fans should raise £2 million to clear the HMRC debt he created himself. He would pull any finances into the club, as fans should pay for it themselves if they love it so much, effectively blaming Sheffield Wednesday’s poor, helpless fans.

“Without calling him every name under the sun i’d say he’s someone with absolutely zero football nouse and therefore requires well picked advisers, which he has categorically failed to do so leading to catastrophic decisions. He is the luckiest man in Britain at the moment, he has pretty much won the lottery with Danny Röhl”

Tom Crothers via X @TomCrothers

Attacking Football also gained fascinating insight from the guys at The Wednesday Week podcast (@TWWcast on X). We talked to Simon, and he had some words to say about Chansiri and his shambolic tenure under him.

“I’m not really sure if Chansiri did his homework on Sheffield Wednesday nor on how football club’s are run successfully” “The problem is, is that Chansiri doesn’t seem to learn from these mistakes and ploughs on doing the same. He struggles with criticism and from what i’m led to believe ultimately wants a say and decision in everything.”

Simon also talked about how Chansiri shot himself and the club in the foot.

“The points deduction effectively falls at the door of the chairman, who despite selling the ground to himself to effectively balance the books, posted the figure in the wrong year of the account meaning the EFL found it fair easy to sanction the club. However an appeal clawed six points back but the EFL ultimately wanted to make an example of someone and if it wasn’t going to be Derby County it would be Sheffield Wednesday.”

Simon (@TWWCast)

Damage has already been done, and Chansiri isn’t a man fit and proper to run a football club. He has made countless small mistakes that have led to huge consequences and financial issues that are being blamed on fans. This is simply unacceptable.

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Bolton, just hours from the deathbed

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BOLTON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 21: Andrew Taylor of Bolton removes tennis balls thrown onto the pitch by the home supporters in protest to chairman Ken Anderson prior to kick off during the Sky Bet Championship match between Bolton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion at University of Bolton Stadium on January 21, 2019 in Bolton, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Bolton Wanderers and Bury were in the same battle to keep their club afloat in August 2019. Sadly, Bury did not make it, and they now cease to exist and have a Phoenix club created as a replacement. However, Bolton survived by the skin of their teeth, literally hours before the deadline; the sale of Bolton was completed and saved by Football Ventured Ltd. Sharon Brittan owns this, and she is the saviour Bolton needed. However, questions need to be asked. How did a massive and historic club like Bolton get so close to extinction? Let us dive in.

]To help Attacking Football out, we got Colin from The Fanzone Podcast to give us insight into their near extinction. To access their podcast, just type ‘The Fanzone Podcast’ into Youtube, X, Instagram, and Spotify, and you can access all their incredible content.

The Bolton nosedive started in 2018 after a promising start to the campaign. They sat third with three wins from four; however, it was a false hope. Bolton went on to host Sheffield United, losing 3-0, and to this day haven’t recovered. This was the story of Anderson’s reign. Bolton fan Colin summed it up as “a roller-coaster of emotions. After the promising start, Bolton tried to sign Forrest Green Rovers striker Christian Doidge for an initial loan but then a £1m fee in January. However, Ken Anderson refused to pay the fee, and Wanderers almost slipped into administration a mere fortnight later.

Colin told us the feeling of “betrayal and letdown; seeing our beloved club face the threat of extinction due to unpaid wages and winding-up petitions was heart-wrenching.”

Bolton’s finances plummeted, with Ken Anderson refusing to pay wages after points deductions and administrations and having to field a youthful squad for the start of the campaign with only four senior players left at the club. Bolton fans were left with a “feeling of helplessness.” The club, fans, and community were utterly let down by the EFL,as the very institutions meant to safeguard the integrity of the sport seemed impotent in the face of Anderson’s mismanagement.” However, in the summer of 2019, Anderson was gone.

“The fans rallied together, organising protests and fundraisers, determined to fight for Bolton Wanderers survival. It was a time of uncertainty and anxiety for all involved at our beloved football club, but also a testament to the resilience and passion of the fans who refused to give up on at times their very young side.”

Colin from The Fanzone Podcast

Bolton fans saved their club. Without the protests and the community effort, the club would have ceased to exist and was mere hours from doing so.

During this time, Anderson had been bought out; however, when this occurred in 2019, the club was only 48 hours from the transfer deadline and already had a 12-point deduction. The club was, at times, unable to complete fixtures, and in 2020, they were unable to complete them due to COVID-19; however, they were 21 points from safety and were relegated to League 2.

Fast-forward to 2024. Bolton is in the midst of a promotion battle in League One, with the possibility of going up to the Championship being real. They are a step closer to the return and the remarkable comeback of Bolton Wanderers from the depths of winding up petitions to a possible return to the Championship.

“Throughout this ordeal, there was a prevailing sense of disappointment with the English Football League (EFL) for its failure to intervene effectively when the owners turned sour and drove their clubs to ruin. We weren’t the first example of this! The EFL’s ‘fit and proper test’ was exposed as a shambles, failing to prevent individuals like Anderson from taking control of clubs despite their questionable financial backgrounds and lack of genuine commitment to their long-term sustainability. Anderson had previous during his time at Southampton!”

Colin on the EFL’s failure to adequately serve their duty as a cooperation

Yet again, the same story line prevails; the EFL’s inability to intervene and take action against these leeches of people is a disgrace.

Oldham’s demise—The Abdallah Years

oldham athletic v hartlepool united sky bet league two
OLDHAM, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 18: A plane flies over the stadium with a message in protest of Oldham Athletic owner Abdallah Lemsagem during the Sky Bet League Two match between Oldham Athletic and Hartlepool United at Boundary Park on September 18, 2021 in Oldham, England. (Photo by James Gill/Getty Images)

Big shout-out to Jim Booth (@JimOAFC85 on X) for providing an excellent timeline of events summarising Oldham Athletic’s downfall.

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The story starts in 2017 with Abdallah Lemsagam purchasing the club, and the downward spiral begins, and it never ends. It has been a torrid six years for Oldham fans, with the club being sold just under a year ago to Oldham Fan Frank Rothwell. Here is a summary of events under Abdallah from an 18-tweet-long thread from Jim.

  • In 2017, the club was purchased.
  • August 2017- Mystery players appear in the squad without the manager’s knowledge.
  • The wage bill almost doubled, with new players on high salaries and poor loan negotiations. Loans went from £4,000 to £12,000.
  • Players paid late for February, March, April, May, June, September, and October 2018.
  • In May 2018, the club was relegated to League Two.
  • Wellens was sacked while on holiday via text message.
  • Ex-directors are refused season tickets.
  • Managers, including Paul Scholes, have suggested interference during their tenure.
  • Players argue with Abdullah for entering the changing rooms.
  • The captain was released with no acknowledgement or thanks.
  • Employment tribunals.
  • Players are not paid again.
  • Fans Protest.
  • Players not paid in January, February, March and April 2020
  • Police are involved in a fictional case.
  • Manager Harry Kewell is sacked after saying the board backs him.
  • Fans begin to protest even more, even starting a fund.
  • Bullying rumours.
  • A petition arises to sell the club.
  • MPs get involved.
  • A former player publicly shames owners and their wrongdoings.
  • The club doctor leaves after DECADES after allegedly being unable to withstand the culture of bullying any longer.
  • Fans ask the owner to leave; he suggests racism and threatens to involve the police.
  • Placed in an embargo after requesting an EFL loan.
  • The club withholds tickets from fans.
  • Fan protests on the pitch with flares and tennis balls.
  • Abdallah sends an open letter to the fans, suggesting five promises (none were kept) and that the club is not for sale.
  • EFL realised the issue (way too late) and offered an experienced CEO to help, but Abdullah refused.
  • Oldham is actively seeking new ownership.
  • Abdallah bans protesting fans and then proceeds to rant on national radio, saying they deserve it.
  • Abdallah doesn’t reply to prospective buyers.
  • Supporters of Abdallah begin a smear campaign against supporter groups.
  • Oldham are relegated to the National League.
  • Fundraisers were set up to try to save the club.
  • The club was sold to Frank Rothwell, an Oldham fan.

Ludicrous. Almost instantaneously, as he arrives, he causes havoc. How these bad guys within football pass the fit and proper test is ridiculous. The carnage and damage Abdallah has caused long-term to fans, players, coaching staff, and board members is beyond belief. That is not a man who is ‘fit and proper’ The EFL is yet again making massive failures when owners come in, and more stringent measures must be taken.

Oldham Fan Harrison had some words to say on the matter:

“Shambles from the beginning to end. Clueless and mistake-riddled tenure is how i’d describe it. Ignoring fans and turning on them, banning flags to stop protests whilst also banning anyone and everyone. They killed the atmosphere when we needed it the most. They started to barge managers about and bullied them. Forcing certain lineups and blocking player moves for selfish reasons.”

Harrison (Harrison_1895 on X)

The most damning few sentences, “Ignoring fans and turning on them,” “They killed the atmosphere when we needed it most,” and “They started to barge managers about and bullied them.” These three sentences summarise number one, the importance of the fans and how vital they are so much so that a self-conscious, greedy owner feels the need to ban them as he would have felt threatened by the fan’s power. Secondly, the blatant bullying and mistreatment of the staff is an absolute disgrace.

The EFL should have stepped in when fans started to get mistreated, and there were early signs of managers being forced to select players they didn’t want to. However, they did not. They sat there and watched another club come so close to their death.

F**k The EFL

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BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – APRIL 15: Birmingham City fans hold up a banner to protest against the Football League and Birmingham Sports Holdings Ltd during the Sky Bet Championship match between Birmingham City and Coventry City at St Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium on April 15, 2022 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Football is for the fans, and without us fans who travel week in and week out, the game wouldn’t be as large as it is today. It’s the community that football creates that makes it unique, unlike any other sport in the world. As Southampton legend Dave Merrington once said, “You, you are the heartbeat of this club and this city; never ever forget that.” The quote illustrates the importance of fans and how crucial they are to the functioning and running of football clubs. The EFL’s failure to recognise this and take action quicker against owners is a disgrace, leaving fans in the dark and uncertain whether their club will survive. The number of clubs that have gone through this is ridiculous; however, the EFL’s failure to adapt and realise that there is a problem within football and that football has an ownership problem.

The EFL needs to buck up their ideas and step in before the worst happens. ‘Never again’ was quoted when Bury went under; rather than never, it’s just ‘again and again.’

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