Football fans could have more of a say in the management of their clubs in one of the biggest upheavals in British football history.
Tracey Crouch says the government’s endorsement of the fan-led review she chaired is “a huge step forward” for major football reform.
But she added that the unspecified time frame for the change to be implemented is “worrying” for clubs and fans.
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The government today gave its formal support to the 10 key policy recommendations set out in the review, published last November.
These include the creation of an independent regulator to ensure the financial viability of the game, greater consultation with supporters via shadow boards, additional protections for key elements of the club’s heritage and a fairer distribution of money. from the top of the game to the bottom of the football pyramid.
It also includes a commitment to work with relevant football bodies and the police to examine safety and economic arguments to drive the sale and consumption of alcohol in view of the pitch at matches in the men’s lower leagues.
The government will deliver its full response on Monday afternoon following a statement in the House of Commons from Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston, with more details to be published in a white paper this summer.
Crouch gave a cautious welcome to the government’s initial response and said in a statement to the PA news agency: “I am grateful to the government for publishing its response to the review of football governance being carried out by the fans.
“I am exceptionally pleased that he has accepted or supported all of the review’s policy recommendations, including committing to legislation for an independent statutory regulator that will regulate financial resilience as well as club ownership. This is a huge step forward in the much-needed reform of football.
“I am also very pleased with the commitment to an overhaul of women’s football, as well as the long overdue review of outdated legislation relating to football fans and the sale of alcohol.
“While fans will be reassured by the commitment to an independent regulator and its powers, they will remain nervous that this commitment will be delayed or watered down by the vested and conflicting interests of the game that have resisted much-needed reform for so long. .
“Fans fully recognize the complexity of the recommended reforms, but the unspecified timeframe for implementation due to a white paper at some point in the summer is concerning.
“Further delays could be catastrophic for clubs, communities and fans seeking a safer and more certain regulatory environment.”
The government backs the idea of a regulator backed by primary legislation to give it statutory powers to license and sanction clubs and have financial oversight of their operations to ensure they are sustainable.
Deloitte found that in 2018-19 – before the Covid-19 pandemic – Championship clubs spent 107% of their income on salaries, well above UEFA’s new financial targets of 70%.
The government backs the idea of the regulator applying improved tests for owners and directors, to replace those run by the Premier League, EFL and Football Association, including a new ‘integrity test’ to eliminate unscrupulous owners at the time of purchase. and continuously.
It is not yet clear whether such a test would include human rights issues in its scope.
On financial distribution, parachute payments and the controversial transfer tax recommended in the review, the government prefers that the football authorities can reach a solution, but is open to the regulator having powers of support if they can’t, with government sources of the opinion that, as the richest league in the world, the Premier League can give more.
The fan-led review suggested the Premier League and EFL should have until the end of 2021 to reach an agreement on financial redistribution or seek external support, which has not happened.
“It is remarkable and disappointing that there has been no progress in discussions between football authorities on the redistribution of finances, and I share the government’s view that this needs to be addressed urgently,” he said. added Crouch.
Further details on the increased involvement of supporters in the day-to-day running of their clubs via shadow boards and the creation of a ‘preferred share’ to give supporters a greater say in matters relating to club heritage such as stadium, kit and badge will be set out in the white paper, the government said.
The fan-led review was promised by the Tories in their manifesto for the 2019 general election.
It was initially delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic but was ordered by the government a year ago after the scandal surrounding the founding of a European Super League.
Huddleston said: “It has been just over a year since the failed European Super League bid, but it is clear that step change is needed to protect the future of our domestic game. We will work at the pace necessary to establish a strong and independent regulator.
“However, football authorities can act now to address the issues that football is currently facing, such as the question of the fair distribution of finances across the football pyramid and giving supporters a greater say in the management. of their clubs.”
Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell said: “While Labor fully supports football reform and a new statutory regulator, there is no way they can pass off this announcement as a huge disappointment. for fans across the country.
“After a government review and many previous promises to legislate, the announcement of further consultation later this year and delaying legislation until at least 2024 is a kick in the teeth for the proud football communities across England.”
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