We’ve seen where it leads in the financial world. ‘Light touch regulation’, the catch phrase for the Blair/ Brown Labour administration for the past twelve years, has seen the so called Masters of the Universe plunder us mere mortals for all they could, and in the process very nearly bringing the entire rotten edifice crashing to the ground. Hundreds of millions of workers around the globe have lost their livelihoods because of the unrestrained greed of the corporate banking sector and in Britain, as elsewhere; public services will be squeezed in order to pay for the gigantic public bailouts. As for the financial world, so it has been in the world of sport. Light touch regulation has seen the English Premier League grow rich and fat at the expense of all other sport, including grassroot football, to such an the extent that entire community football clubs are threatened with extinction if they don’t attract  wealthy overseas buyers. The ownership fiascos surrounding Newcastle, Portsmouth, Leeds and Notts County are just the latest examples of the mess that the national game is sinking into.   And mirroring the too little too late response from government to the banking sector, the government is belatedly making noises about reforming the state of British football. In an interview with sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe in The Guardian (24/9/09 Owen Gibson) we are reminded of a long succession of failed attempts by the FA to get its house in order. Owen reports, ‘In 2005, the then culture secretary Tessa Jowell told the FA to ‘reform or die’. In 2007 her successor James Purnell angrily challenged its competence, and a year ago Andy Burnham set football seven questions designed to help frame its future. Yet here is the current sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe saying the FA is not competent to run the game, calling for fundamental reform of its structures and demanding recognition that the status quo is not good enough’. The sports minister is scathing of the FA, arguing that if it doesn’t carry out the reforms suggested in 2005 ‘it risks drifting into irrelevance’. There is also a threat of withholding the £25m it gets from Sport England. But you can’t help getting the feeling that it has all the determination of Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling cracking down on corporate greed. The sort of change that the government is pushing for are welcome but cosmetic in nature: two non executive directors to join the FA Board and the 116 member council to be more inclusive with greater representation of ethnic minorities, women and fans. The government is also looking for a speed up in developing the women’s game. Sutcliffe does not mince his words. ‘With the best will in the world, some of the characters that run that (women’s football) you just think-bloody hellfire- that is a barrier to anything happening.’ Sutcliffe continues, ‘Rugby did it with the old farts, cricket has done it and football is in a similar position. The old school can’t continue’. Well turkeys don’t vote for Christmas and the FA, like so many sports governing bodies in Britain are only going to reform themselves when Sport England force them to do so. No reform, no government money. It’s as simple as that. If football is not to go the way of the British banks, the FA must get a grip on dodgy buyouts whether they be foreign or home-grown, and more to the point, they need to establish a system whereby the local community can take controlling interest in their football clubs. These clubs must in turn commit to developing widespread community programmes commensurate with their income. The big Premier clubs for example must be held to account for the community programmes they run. Token gestures are no longer acceptable. I’ve worked with Brentford’s community programme and it was impressive. Imagine what the likes of Chelsea and Man United could achieve if they put their minds to it. The government’s job is to focus minds with some joined up thinking before community sports becomes a total irrelevancy and the nation’s youth become too obese to care.  I can think of nothing more obscene than corporate monsters like Liverpool Football Club and Manchester United growing ever more wealthy while all around them sink deeper into the mire of urban despair. Bread and circuses may work for a while but when the bread runs out don’t be surprised if the mob burn down the circus.     End JPK 5/10/09