That makes the EFL’s judgment on whether they are indeed football debts crucial. According to Derby’s administrators, the EFL is unwilling to clarify this, imperilling a Derby takeover. That leaves the club scrambling to find ways to prove they can afford to see out this season by the EFL-imposed deadline of February 1.
It’s difficult not to conclude that we’ve seen gross EFL incompetence throughout this saga. A worthy governance institution should enforce rules in a timely manner and offer clarity. The FFP regulations are specifically supposed to ensure that members cannot get into these situations. On those grounds, the EFL has failed. While Derby supporters know that ultimate blame lies with Mel Morris, Derby South MP Margaret Beckett spoke for many in saying: “If Derby are to be liquidated, none of those involved will be forgiven.”
Yet just because the EFL has contributed to this crisis, it doesn’t follow that a government-created “independent” regulator is a more desirable substitute. Indeed, MPs and supporters should avoid falling for the “nirvana fallacy” here of comparing the real world problems associated with self-regulation of football to a theoretical public-spirited, nimble, all-seeing financial regulator.
For sure, the downsides of self-regulation are evident in this sorry tale. Not least in terms of how member-driven governance can be prone to appeasing different members’ interests at different times. In the grand scheme of things, though, what’s remarkable about English football is how few clubs fail entirely and how successful and enduring the English football pyramid is internationally.
No regulator can prevent crises at every club. Other “independent” regulators show this clearly. The Financial Conduct Authority has been severely criticised for several perceived mistakes in its regulation of financial firms since 2013. Ofgem, the energy regulator, has hardly covered itself in glory of late, with populist desires for “fair tariffs” creating the intellectual environment for an energy price cap that contributed to suppliers crashing out of the industry this year.