The ‘Last Chance Saloon’ is finally closing its doors and it now seems inevitable that English football will undergo fundamental reforms, following a major overhaul of the way the game is played.
Former Secretary of Sport Tracey Crouch has given her first judgment on the state of affairs and, as many expected, she is heading for industrial-scale change.
Ms Crouch and a panel of experts spent two months gathering the views of supporters, clubs, participants, leaders, academics and administrators as part of the government’s fan-led assessment of football.
Fan protests spread across the country after proposals for a European Super League were unveiled, but they quickly spread to wider criticism of football governing body
“I and my predecessors as Minister of Sport often stood by the Despatch Box, claiming it was the ‘last chance’ for football to reform itself,” Ms Crouch, who is a qualified FA football coach, wrote in a letter to the Secretary of State for Culture, Oliver Dowden.
“It is with some sadness that I note that they have not heeded those warnings and that it is therefore time for outside help.”
The politician, who served in the Cameron and May governments to cover the sports briefing, added: “It is absolutely clear from our sessions that the football authorities have lost the confidence of the fans, as in a number of cases clubs themselves. …
“This ongoing lack of coordination significantly diminishes my confidence that football authorities are able to successfully address the issues identified.”
MP Tracey Crouch leads the ‘fan-led’ review of football and Culture Minister Oliver Dowden will receive her final report in October, with ministers ready to legislate
And in her interim report, Crouch has revealed that she has already come to one firm conclusion: “To protect the future of key aspects of our national game, a new independent regulator for English football is needed,” she said bluntly in the statement. first paragraph of her letter.
The final report, due in the autumn, will contain detailed recommendations for the government, which must then decide what action to take. However, Ms Crouch has been pretty clear where it’s headed and Mr Dowden has previously indicated that he looks forward to seeing it and expects to act.
While the need for an independent regulator is the headline of her half-way house report, Ms Crouch, a Spurs fan, has highlighted some key issues that she also plans to address in the coming months.
She is determined to establish mechanisms that prevent the re-emergence of European Super League plans or other breakout projects. The ill-considered plan unleashed the ire of football fans, whose protests soon spread to the way clubs are run and the game is played.
The ex-minister has been assisted in her deliberations by an all-star cast of Roy Hodgson, Clarke Carlisle, media executive and president of the Women’s Super League Dawn Airey and Everton CEO Prof Denise Barrett-Baxendale, as well as Kevin Miles of the Football Supporters’ Association.
Manchester United fans have called for changes to the club ownership model of supporters
In her letter, the Conservative MP promised Chatham and Aylesford to investigate charges from agents being diverted to the base game, giving the FA more freedom in spending the surplus and allowing the League Two teams to use synthetic turf pitches. to generate revenue. .
She will develop proposals for the introduction of a ‘Golden Share’ from the fans to veto important decisions such as a club’s emblem, colours, location and the competitions it participates in, as well as proposing the inclusion of the Vanarama National League in the EFL.
And while she is concerned about parachute payments for clubs relegated from the Premier League, which she says is distorting competition, Ms Crouch has yet to find a solution, urging “strongly” the top flight and EFL to “go to the country themselves.” to find a feasible solution’.
Demand for a new football regulator is widespread among fan groups
After 100 hours of oral evidence, 70 documentary evidence and 16,000 responses to an extensive online survey, Crouch was clear on the key challenges.
Among them, she identified the financial mismanagement of clubs, the flow of money through the game, fragmented views on what needs to change and how to achieve it, plus insufficient progress on issues of equality, inclusiveness and diversity.
“The dangers facing many clubs across the country are very real, with an uncertain future and in most cases dependent on owners’ willingness and continued ability to fund significant losses,” Ms Crouch said.
“When this is multiplied by poor financial controls, reckless behavior by owners and a reluctance by authorities to intervene, the results are clear – as evidenced by the recent fate of Bury and Macclesfield. Historic and beloved clubs are going under. Loyal fans robbed and communities decimated.”
Ms Crouch and her colleagues will now go over the details of their recommendations.
However, she outlined the scope of the proposed independent regulator, including financial and corporate governance and club ownership controls.
More specifically, the review would like to see club-level cost control, real-time financial monitoring, inclusion of independent and non-executive directors on boards of directors, further testing for owners and directors, as well as a licensing model and further fan involvement to protect against future Super League plans.
There seems to be little doubt that Mrs Crouch will do nothing when the final report is delivered.
“I believe this is the opportunity to address some of the very real challenges facing the English game while building on its many strengths to make it even stronger,” she concluded.
Somewhat ominously for the existing authorities, the Premier League, EFL, FA and National League: ‘This is just the beginning.’
The Big Six’s plot for a European Super League unleashed fan anger in English football