Monday evening’s draw for the third round of the FA Cup didn’t produce the potential clash of Manchester United versus Salford City. The non-league side still had to negotiate a second replay against Hartlepool before the long shot of facing United could have come true (they ended up drawing Derby County).
But it’s the sort of soap opera scenario football often throws into the mix. The FA had to consider it, due to Ryan Giggs’ part-ownership of one club while being assistant manager of the other, and they came to the wrong conclusion.
There’s no suggestion – especially from this writer – that the FA would give favourable treatment to Giggs just because of his star status or the importance of Manchester United. The accusation has to be that England’s governing body have undermined Salford City while taking the easy option and not exploring the legal avenues to their fullest.
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There are already clear rules in place regarding dual ownership of clubs that protect the integrity of the competitions clubs compete in. In the Premier League the fit and proper person test applies to all shareholders that have over 30% of the club. If this criterion is passed, along with the test, the individual is unable to own another club.
UEFA differs in its application by stating it works to prevent a person having an interest in another club that plays in the same UEFA club competition. While they work to the higher threshold of 50.1% for definition of ownership, they do acknowledge somebody with a lower percentage of shares could still have a strong say across multiple teams.
These rules are in place because it’s common for business men to expand their portfolios. The Giggs situation is a unique one. UEFA and the Premier League never expected to see an owner sat in the dugout for another team. But they need to rethink their current stance.
They have now set a precedent that will give them headaches if someone deliberately tests it to gain an advantage in the future, or if ten years from now Salford City are a league side, with a decent chance of beating United in a cup semi-final, and Giggs has become manager of the Red Devils while retaining his ownership of Salford.
In a time when we are all calling for FIFA transparency, our own FA have made murky waters when the answer was simple: Giggs will have a conflict of interest if United ever play Salford as long as he remains on the bench for one club and the board of the other.
What’s to stop Roman Abramovich now buying a small percentage of a team playing Chelsea in the FA Cup in exchange for a seat on the bench as assistant manager. There he could claim to have the same professional outlook as Ryan Giggs. It would also be a great to help to Jose Mourinho in a time where they could do with buying a win.
Of course that extreme example won’t take place. But the FA have effectively made it morally possible. They have also declared that Salford City aren’t to be taken seriously. Already deciding, before a ball is kicked, they lack a decent chance to compete. As if they are harmless amateurs looking forward to a day out. It’s disrespectful to Salford and the oldest domestic cup competition in the world.
It’s doubtful the FA would have reached the same verdict if Ryan Giggs owned 10% of Liverpool and they were about to meet in a title decider.
All the FA had to do was apply common sense. One person should never have a managerial role for one club whilst simultaneously part-owning a potential opposition. The odds of them meeting made it unlikely, but the threat of it should have made the FA’s decision quick and simple.
Giggs should have be told to resign from one of his posts.