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Published on June 1st, 2014 | by Bill

Who is Shaun Harvey?

Despite being appointed Chief Executive of the Football League in 2013 many people, aside from Bradford City and Leeds United fans don’t know Shaun Harvey from Adam. Amitai Winehouse, regular contributor to quality Leeds United fanzine The Square Ball gives us the lowdown and explains why we should be worried if we’re looking to him to face down the FA over the so called B-Team proposals.

The FA’s League 3 plans have swollen into a full-blown controversy. At the heart of the issue is the restructuring of the pyramid, something hugely sacred to the English game. The organisations most affected by the plans would be the Football League and Football League clubs. Strength is required from both to rebuff the financial pressure placed on them to allow the entry of B teams.

The man who leads the Football League is none other than Shaun Harvey, who, for a relatively controversial figure, remains somewhat unknown. Harvey’s suitability to lead the Football League has been repeatedly questioned by fans of the clubs he has previously run. For many reasons, Harvey may not be the ideal man.

One of the Football League’s new duties is administering Financial Fair Play. Harvey will be the first Chief Executive of the Football League to be tasked with this. Strange, therefore, that the man selected to aid the cleanup of football finances is one who has had three administrations to his name whilst running football clubs, two at Bradford and one at Leeds. In fact, as evidenced by Leeds’s most recent accounts, the state Harvey left Leeds in in June 2013 was not great either. The club lost £9.5m in the last year he worked as CEO. Leeds will probably fail the first round of FFP tests under Harvey.

Furthermore, Harvey’s organisation is responsible for the Owners and Directors Test. Again, questions have to be asked over his suitability for this – Harvey worked under Ken Bates at Leeds for years without Leeds’s ultimate owners being publicly known. When asked in 2010 by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, whether he knew who his employers were, he replied, “no”. Transparent ownership did not seem an issue to him before his new role.

Gulf Finance House’s ownership of Leeds has been a relatively huge disaster, and before Massimo Cellino’s takeover the club seemed destined for deep deep peril. Harvey played a key role in pushing for the takeover, travelling back and forth between countries to ensure it was completed. A bonus in Leeds’s 2012/13 accounts of £400k was paid to an unnamed director.

As for the League 3 proposal itself, Harvey’s willingness to fight on behalf of football supporters and popular opinion might be limited. In March 2012 Harvey and Bates banned members of the Leeds United Supporter’s Trust from buying tickets, simply for questioning the regime at the club as it stood.

When questioned over the incident at the time, Harvey told the Football Supporter’s Federation that: “we are exercising our right only to sell tickets to those who we wish to do so”.

He went on to lay out his philosophy behind the roles people play in football, saying, “players play, managers manage, and supporters support”.

Fans were to be seen and heard but not listened to. Their opinions were not to be considered. I wonder, therefore, whether pinning hopes on Harvey to resist the Premier League’s push might be questionable.

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