Finally, this other one from the now-defunct Business and Politics website.
How many times do I have to rail against Football Fascism before people in this country get the point?
It started off with Labour’s Football Fascism. Now it’s spread to the unlikely pages of Conservative Home and Tim Montgomerie no less, a horrible communist sneeze spreading its germs far and wide over unsuspecting and otherwise reasonable people.
Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, could quite properly argue that the problems of Britain’s football clubs are nothing to do with government. I would argue, however, that he’d be missing a massive political opportunity.
I’m not recommending that he uses a penny of taxpayers’ money to help these extravagant clubs but he could do two things. At the very least he could loudly demonstrate sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of supporters who hate what is happening to their teams.
More significantly he could look at legal changes which would, for example, give fans the first option of buying a club in the event of a change of ownership.
There is a fine legal maxim: Nemo dat quod non habet: No-one gives what he does not own.
Who, pray, is to ‘give’ fans the first option of buying a club? The government can’t give that right! Because the right to decide who buys what in a free country comes from owners, not from the government.
If the government did try to ‘give’ so-called fans some sort of legal first refusal to buy a football club, look what would be happening:
• The state would be looting the lawful rights and expectations of the current owner
• The state would be arbitrarily setting the rights one group of people (‘fans’) ahead of other would-be buyers, therefore looting a fair chance from those other would-be buyers
How can stealing the rights and property of some to reward others be acceptable? What’s the difference between that and petty theft?
Put it like this. A high-street shopping chain is to be sold. Should ‘shoppers’ be ‘given’ the first option of buying it? No.Why not? Because it’s none of the shoppers’ business who buys it. They have bought stuff there, as in other shops. That’s all.
Change of ownership happens. It’s a good thing – it’s sending myriad market signals now and into the future about what works and what doesn’t, thereby helping get the things we want to buy made, distributed and sold. Deal with it.
Perhaps more worrying even than the calamitous ignoring of the basic principle of civilised life in this case is the rationale given by Tim for thinking like this:
He’d be missing a massive political opportunity… Jeremy Hunt isn’t quite standing before an empty goal but not far off. If he becomes the champion of football supporters and is seen to be at the forefront of their demands for change in the way their teams are run, there could be big electoral dividends for the Tories in the North West.
Now that is really scary. Looting not because it makes much sense on the merits, but rather just to show that a politician ‘cares’ enough to win some votes.
This amounts to conceding the central psychological terrain of politics to the worst sort of collectivist – those who insist that their own ‘feelings’ are so intense as to trump reason, and that the state as defined by them is the ultimate (and indeed proximate) vehicle for redistribution of private property towards those who, they say, deserve sympathy.
Good grief, I thought that the whole point of voting Conservative at the last election was to start putting an end to this sort of giddy folly. To start to say in a very loud voice:
The state is not there to deal with any footling problem that comes along. Above all, Conservatives aren’t looters! The state is there to uphold the right to own and use private property, not to steal it!
Alex Massie says all this much more politely than I can:
… [Tim’s] desire that Westminster do something is somewhat, to put it mildly, misguided. Not least because when central government decides it should referee the ownership of a football club there is nothing that it won’t consider within its purview.
World to North Western (and all other) football fans.
This neat thing called the Internet has been invented. It allows you to network with lots of people speedily and well. If you want to buy a football club, run around, devise a plausible structure for organising a bid, collect a big pile of money from everyone who actually cares, then dangle it in front of the current owner.
Who knows, it might work. It’s called freedom. And freedom embraces the right of owners to mess up, and the right of fans to stop buying tickets for badly-run clubs.
Maybe we should try it sometime?