A noise to be dealt with

Foreign ownership of English football clubs wasn't something high on the agenda when I first became a football fan. We at Burnley were under the charges of a certain Bob Lord who was the local butcher and that was how football was back then. Even Manchester United had a butcher in charge in Louis Edwards.

It was all about local communities and the vast majority, if not all, directors of clubs were fans who'd made a bob or two and were able to indulge themselves somewhat. As well as having a bob or two it helped to say the right things and at Burnley you only needed to learn to say 'Yes, Mr Lord' and 'No, Mr Lord' at the appropriate time and you could win yourself a place on the board.

Our club was not alone in that either. I recall a documentary on Manchester City in the early 1980s and whilst being filmed they changed manager after sacking Malcolm Allison. A certain John Bond got the job and the board meeting at which his appointment was rubber stamped found its way into the documentary. It was almost pathetic to see the weak directors quick to fall on the side of the power man, then Peter Swailes.

Still, it worked in the main. Some clubs were bigger than others and some were more successful than others, but at the end of the day that's what sport is all about.

Back then, as a football supporter, I never thought I'd hear about Americans, Russians, Chinese and the likes owning our clubs, let alone having to get my head round 'acquisition debt'.

It wasn't all sweetness and light in the early sixties. We saw the demise of one club with Accrington Stanley failing to fulfil their fixtures in 1961/62. That's only happened once since in the Football League when Aldershot dropped out of the last ever Fourth Division season in 1991/92, losing Burnley six points in the process with our two wins against them removed from the records.

Football in England changed in 1992 with the birth of the Premier League. The breaking away from the Football League by the top clubs was, we were told, to improve the national side. I never quite understood that and I think one national newspaper of the time had a much more accurate view of the new structure.

They called it the GOG League - GREED IS GOD.

This league is now in its nineteenth season and so far only four different clubs have won in those first eighteen years of a hardly competitive league. That compares with seven clubs having been winners of the eighteen Football League First Division Championship during the eighteen years previous to the inception of the Premier League.

Liverpool dominated those years up to 1992 with no less than ten successes; they have failed to lift any league title since 1990 and in their desperate attempts to compete at the top again they made the wrong choices and are now, to put it mildly, in a mess.

We keep being told how good football is today as we suffer the pontificating Andy Gray on Sky telling us about this wonderful product. But in truth football in England is not quite so wonderful.

Outside of the top league we've had a succession of clubs going into administration and more than once, according to speculation, ours could have been one of them. Below the Football League, clubs have been disappearing almost as quickly as the fixtures could be prepared. We've seen the demise of both Darwen and Nelson locally in the last year or so and many others have fallen by the wayside in their desperate attempts to keep up.

That takes us back to the top level and the GOG League. In this part of the world we all remember a certain Jack Walker throwing money at it and just about buying the title for the second winners. We hated him for it; but had I had that sort of money I'd have done the same for Burnley I can promise you.

I understood that; whether I liked him or not (and I certainly didn't) I could understand why he was doing it; he was a supporter just as those directors of the top clubs were back in the 1960s.

Now the game's changed completely. Roman Abramovic took it to a different level at Chelsea and that's been usurped now by the goings on at Manchester City. Such is the obscene level they've taken it to that we'd be set up for years at Burnley if we could get them interested in one of our players.

Some clubs have been unable to compete over the last few years; clubs who desperately wanted to compete. And that's how the Americans landed at Anfield with the club sold to them by a desperate David Moores.

I recall watching the press conference live when Tom Hicks and George Gillett took over. I took one look at wouldn't have trusted these two to run any club of mine. I called them Laurel & Hardy at the time and nothing's changed my view, or perhaps they aren't appropriate names, Laurel & Hardy were actually funny.

It was obvious that these two cowboys were coming in to make a quick buck but what we didn't know then was how they were saddling Liverpool with massive debt. This is not unique to Liverpool either. The only thing preventing roars of laughter from Old Trafford over their demise at Anfield is the fact that it's just the same there with the Glazers.

The successful Liverpool were a well run club. With such as Billy Shankly and Bob Paisley in the manager's chair, John Smith as chairman and Peter Robinson as the man behind the scenes, there wasn't a better run club in the country.

Now we find them in the bottom three in the league, and that's the least of their worries. Hicks and Gillett are now doing all they can to block a takeover by Boston Red Sox. Hicks meanwhile, in response to criticism led by Jim & Barbara from 'The Royle Family' has referred to the supporters as a noise he is dealing with. This week, should these two cowboys be successful in blocking it, the holding company could be placed in administration and with it would come a nine point deduction.

Then, we are now told, Boston Red Sox, would probably pull out of the deal. Journalist Patrick Barclay, speaking on television yesterday, warned Liverpool that with this deal they were going from one set of owners with no interest to another with just as little concern for the welfare of the club. Their reluctance to conclude a deal should the penalty be incurred confirms that.

But given the chance those supposedly responsible for the sale of Liverpool Football Club will conclude this deal and, although the debt might be gone, the club will still be owned by people with no interest in the club, and that's how it is in English football now.

Just take a look at the Premier League clubs. How many of them are owned by fans? Then take a look across at our directors' box next week. When I first started watching Burnley you could see Bob, Hilda, Barbara and Margaret Lord sat there and now you see Barry, Sonya and Tom Kilby.

Barry might not be too similar to Bob Lord and I wouldn't dare suggest Sonya is the modern day Hilda, but they do have one thing in common, they are Burnley fans. At the beginning of this year our supporters, albeit in response to the anti-Glazer campaign at Manchester United, chanted the name of Barry Kilby at Old Trafford. That spoke volumes.

I want Burnley Football Club to be as successful as it possibly can be but I wouldn't change things in that directors' box. I want to see Burnley fans sat there as custodians of the club, not faceless Americans with no interest whatsoever in Burnley Football Club.