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This ghastly “Conservative” government – a continuing series

The UK government wants, among other things set out in its Parliamentary legislative agenda, to regulate football as an industry. The country that invented association football, known as soccer in certain barbarian regions, more than a century ago, is now to have it regulated by the State. Some form of quasi-autonomous non-governmental body, aka Quango, will be set up to oversee the sport. I am sure there will be keen interest in the sort of worthies who will be nominated to run this body. No doubt all the warnings in the past about how regulators can be “captured” by the entities being regulated will be ignored, as ignored as all the other lessons about the dangers of putting the State in charge of such matters.

It is all utterly pointless: the process is in train. Take the aforementioned linked article by the BBC – all the complaints are that the legislation to bring about a regulator isn’t happening fast enough, or is wide enough in scope. The idea that no such State regulator is needed, and that such a move represents a further assault on the autonomous institutions of civil society, is completely absent. Football leagues and associations are effectively gutted from within. What next: a State regulator for bridge, arm-wrestling and golf?

A mark of so-called “conservatives” is that the importance of autonomous institutions, of the dangers of regulatory “mission creep”, are part of their thinking. (This publication from the Institute of Economic Affairs gives a good summary of why State regulation of such activity is a mistake.)

The administration led by Mr Johnson is not remotely conservative in any profound sense. Of course, dear reader, you knew that. What I offer here is merely further evidence confirming it, and why the drift towards “bread and circus” politics, with a mix of oafish authortarianism, neglect of real reform, and fecklessness on energy and spending, is going to continue.

Bad times.

Update: I have thought about my grumpy words above – and don’t apologise for them – and wondered if there is more that needs saying. To play Devil’s Advocate, advocates of a football regulator would argue, perhaps, that the game is big business; further, it affects cities’ economic welfare quite a bit now. Lots of foreigners with interesting tax and financial affairs play here. As we have seen recently with Chelsea being forced to part ways with Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, some of the ownership of football today is murky, to say the least. And football also has a bearing on health, public order (misbehaviour of fans is, sadly, still a thing). So for all these reasons we need a regulator. But I disagree. First, we already have anti-money laundering/KYC laws to check the financial bona fides of people/firms that want to buy clubs. The laws already exist – the job is to enforce them. Employment contracts, tax, etc, are matters for the existing body of laws in a country. Crowd control is a matter where clubs can agree to work with law enforcement, for a fee.

Given the foregoing, I don’t understand what a regulator will do that could not be done already. If people are worried about corrupt practices, or clubs cheating the rules on buying players, then however annoying this is, these aren’t matters for a regulator, but where relevant, for law authorities.

It is hard to avoid concluding that this regulator will end up being gamed (sorry for that pun) by the industry it is designed to oversee, and will be a focus for the usual political types aiming to appeal to the “Man on the street” by taking postures over football.

7 comments to This ghastly “Conservative” government – a continuing series

  • Patrick Crozier


  • Just when you think they can’t get any worse…

    For me, Boris gets three cheers for Ukraine, two cheers for Brexit, and for everything else, the ‘Conservative’ Party is now the least conservative since the utterly vile Edward Heath ran the party.

  • bobby b

    But is he deviating from his support, or is he simply triangulating the constituency?

    Face it: much of the voting population seems to have lost its minds, and we DO have representative government. BJ is, in my view, abdicating wisdom just like his voters. (Much like here in the US.)

  • Mr Ed

    They do not disagree with the Italian Fascists ‘Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato.

  • Alexander Tertius Harvey

    Ah yes, ‘Edward Heath, man of principle’ (as I believe the election slogan of my childhood once put it). But, as (Groucho) Marx almost said, ‘Here are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have another set here.’

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Comparisons with Heath are interesting, because he was the man who took us into the EEC and lied about the implications of it, and also at the start claimed to be pro-free market, only to turn to reflation and controls as things went sour, as they did when OPEC jacked up prices. Boris Johnson used covid as a general reason to slam on controls, although to be fair he did not look happy about it.

    I think with Boris there’s just no sense of any kind philosophical frame of reference. He reminds of Disraeli, or Macmillan.

  • James Hargrave

    And Macmillan, the old actor manager, had a carefully constructed persona – as well as being a lying xxxt.