The Football League's member clubs have thrown out an attempt by Leyton Orient Chairman Barry Hearn to increase the punishment for sides that fall into administration. Mr Hearn had tabled a motion for clubs to be given a 'double relegation' for using the route of administration to junk their debts. The news has come out of the ongoing Football League AGM that has taken place in Malta over the past few days.
The only concession in this area is for the Football League's board to review the penalties levied on clubs to see if they require strengthening. Hopefully Mr Hearn will not let this matter rest entirely, and will continue his campaign against a course of action that he regards as "cheating". Certainly in this site's eyes, the current 10 point penalty is insufficient to ensure integrity within the game.
A couple of tweaks have been made though in this area. The League's regulations have now been tightened up to confirm that such Sporting Sanctions will be effective in instances where the football club is part of a group company. League One side Southampton fell foul of this when their holding company went into administration. Saints argued that the Football League had no right to do this within their rules - they now definitely do have that right. This would mean that the annual accounts of the Huish Park Stadium Partnership Limited and the newly formed Yeovil Town Holdings Limited companies would be as relevant to interested Glovers fans as the health of the main Yeovil Town Football Club (Yeovil Football and Athletic Club Limited) company. If any of those companies go into administration, or even the club's Community Trust or Centre of Excellence companies, then the club as a whole would be hit with a Sporting Sanction.
Furthermore, clubs that fail to lodge their accounts with the Football League at the same time that they are required by Companies House, will be hit by a transfer embargo until those accounts are filed. Recently clubs such as Swindon Town and Norwich City have filed accounts several years late, and have struggled to bring their financial affairs back up to date. This will provide a welcome incentive for such clubs to do so.
There are also going to be new Squad Registration rules brought in. Clubs will now only be able to register up to 25 players over the age of 21, of which at least 10 must be 'home grown' players. A home grown player must be registered in domestic football for three seasons before their 21st birthday. We're not sure whether 'domestic' includes countries such as Wales or Scotland. The 'home grown' rule had already been introduced in part, and is unlikely to have an effect upon any other than the biggest Championship sides. The squad limit may affect significantly more clubs. There will be no restrictions upon the number of players registered under the age of 21.
Finally, a rule that needed some serious over-hauling has instead merely got a badge change. The Fit and Proper Persons Test will now merely be known as the Director's Test. This has been chosen to bring it in line with similar rules adopted by other footballing bodies.
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