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Fan-led review: EFL fan reps provide evidence

The Government’s fan-led review of football is underway and, yesterday, its chair Tracey Crouch MP and panelists met with supporter representatives from the FSA’s Championship Network.

Supporter groups spoke at length to the panel and we caught up with a few of the groups to hear about the issues they highlighted which had taken place at their clubs.

“The Brentford Supporters Trust, Bees United, gave our own 20-year history as a case study of a successful partnership between fans and an owner leading to promotion to the Premier League.

“Bees United have a representative on the club board and a ‘golden share’ which gives certain vetoes. These two examples of good governance could be mandated on all clubs.

“We also recommended that in setting new controls and sanctions against ‘bad’ owners the review should avoid measures which would deter ‘good’ owners.

“We felt our arguments got a good hearing.”

  • Stewart Purvis, chair, Bees United

“There is so much we could have said to the panel but we focussed on the need to address the financial imbalance across football, particularly between the Premier League and EFL that drives owners to gamble with club sustainability.

“The need for better and independent regulation of clubs as history has shown that clubs will not regulate themselves effectively.

“The need for owners of football clubs to be tested, not on whether they can buy a club, but instead on ‘can they run it well?’

“The need for P&S rules [Editor’s note – rules relating to earnings and tax] to be focussed on actually delivering sustainability which they now fail to do. The case for regulatory action that is proactive and preemptive – identifying potential problems and sorting them before they become critical.

“There should be far more transparency and accountability with fans being consulted on club strategy and plans, and having timely access to financial information. Strict new rules to scrutinise, and block where needed, any separation of key assets, such as stadiums, from the ownership of football clubs.

“High standards for engagement with fans being built into club regulation and for delivery in practice to be tested.”

  • Steve Walmsley, vice-chair, Sheffield Wednesday Supporters’ Trust

“The Blues Trust appreciated the opportunity to speak with the panel – we presented ideas around independent regulation and redistribution of finances in football, supporter engagement backed by supporters to have a majority vote on fundamental issues at the club such as selling the ground.

“We also spoke about supporters rights to buy into ownership and the ground over a period of time to support continuance of local community within clubs. We were pleased that the panel showed interest in our presentation and they said it was helpful in the detail it provided.”

  • Cliff Horrocks, chair, Blues Trust

“Various representatives of the FSA and individual supporters’ trusts presented to Tracey Crouch and the panel on widespread issues affecting the game – and particularly the Championship.

“We covered the increasing gap in revenues between the Premier League and the EFL and how that and the parachute payments to relegated clubs is destroying competition whilst also encouraging other clubs to make significant losses to try to compete. We also highlighted issues in governance and ensuring clubs are well run and involve supporters.

“On behalf of RamsTrust I highlighted the difficulties the club has had trying to compete; with previous owners who ran out of money or were jailed for fraud. Then our current owner who has put approaching £200m of his own money into the club but has had to separate the stadium from the club to avoid breaking Financial Fair Play.

“I highlighted the issues with club debt, but also the lack of supporter representation on the board to promote long-term sustainability for the club rather than relying on continued contributions or debt.

“After all the presentations the panel asked a number of insightful questions to trust representatives and appeared to fully understand the issues we had explained. I came away optimistic that the panel recognised the problems, and understood why the game has to be reformed to protect our clubs for the future.”

  • Jim Wheeler, chair, Rams Trust

“The Sky Blue Trust are proud to contribute to the fan-led review with our members overwhelmingly (90%) in support of its aims. In this evening’s panel, we provided evidence to illustrate:

– Premier League ambitions and the structure of the football pyramid lead Championship clubs to take too many risks. The reward of the Premier League is seen as attractive enough to risk financial stability.

– Whilst we’d love for Coventry to be in the Premier League, we advocate for a business model based on avoiding unsustainable debt with profits being reinvested directly in the club, which ultimately supports long-term success.

– Over the past 15 years, Coventry City has suffered immensely as a result of weaknesses in football governance. We support any steps that improve transparency of club operational and financial information, endorse the FSA proposal to require owners’ support to be through equity investment not loans, and argue that any new regulations should require any person seeking to become an owner of a football club, produce a robust business plan for the club to be approved by an independent regulator.”

  • Grace McKenna, The Sky Blue Trust

How does the fan-led review work?

The FSA’s member supporter organisations will lead dozens of evidence-gathering sessions throughout May and June, at which the advisory panel will listen to their experiences and proposals for improving football governance. An interim report will be made available in July 2021, with the final report published in October 2021. It will cover clubs who compete in the English pyramid system.

The advisory panel will offer specialist advice to the chair of the fan-led review (Tracey Crouch MP) but it will not write the report. In past reviews the involvement of the football authorities gave them a veto on proposals – this review is not structured in that manner. The chair alone will write the report.

  • The panel features the FSA’s chief executive Kevin Miles – see all members here.
  • You can see the panel’s full Terms of Reference here.

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