Yesterday supporters from fan groups in the FSA’s League One & Two Network gave evidence to the government’s fan-led review. The chair, Tracey Crouch MP, and the rest of the panel heard from a number of supporters’ trusts and fan groups about the big issues in the third and fourth tiers.
Supporter 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.
“It was a passionate plea from supporters who have been worried in the past, are worrying right now or who could be worrying about their clubs in the future.
“The topics were varied and vastly different, but across the country we were united about one thing: the desire to protect our clubs.
“There were examples of what is good and what is being done well, but there were clear examples of how the system has failed clubs and fans.
“Luck shouldn’t govern our football, it shouldn’t be luck that is the difference between having a good owner or one that strips assets or takes your club to the brink.
“Across the network our belief is that independent regulation is needed to protect our clubs from rogue owners; to ensure assets aren’t stripped; to make sure Fan Elected Directors are not marginalised; to insist on full financial transparency at all clubs and to guarantee every club engages with, and are responsive to, their fans.
“But most importantly, clubs have died under the current watch and the current self-regulation is a busted flush. Change is needed, to ensure what happened to Bury and Macclesfield Town – and to others before them – must never, ever happen again.
- James Young, chair, Robins Trust
“On behalf of Leyton Orient Fans’ Trust I summarised our story of how an owner can be allowed to take a stable, well-run community football club and trash it within three years, walking away when fans started the mildest of protests at his regime.
“LOFT has been campaigning for an independent regulator ever since, as a regulator would have prevented the worst damage the ex-owner inflicted; he would have been judged unfit and unproper, he wouldn’t have been able to drag out the sale process for six months, and a bond would have prevented the unpaid wages and winding-up orders.
“This is the best chance to reset football and protect clubs as community assets.”
- Jonathan Kaye, secretary, Leyton Orient Fans’ Trust
“By continuously engaging with supporters through the trust, in a clear and transparent way, Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt is building a great asset at the heart of the community.
“Using social media, fans forums and the Memorandum of Understanding the owner and trust develop a level of understanding from fans which ensure all buy into the direction of travel and more importantly the reasons behind it.
“A sustainable community club is the short term objective for all.
“As an owner Andy has regularly called for Independent regulation as well as a more equitable financial distribution throughout the EFL and has been extremely accessible to fans from all clubs on Twitter.”
- Peter Leatham, chair, Official Accrington Stanley Supporters Trust
“At Northampton Town Supporters Trust, we feel that the three planks of meaningful reform of English football, certainly at our level, are those of accountability, sustainability and transparency.
“Owners have to be more open and explicit about their governance and finances, both to a club’s shareholders and its supporters.
“To that end we would support independent regulation, underpinned by a licensing system, which ensures that regular ‘fit and proper’ checks on owners are regularly undertaken.
“And we would welcome supporters owning a ‘golden share’ in their club.
“Could this share be enforced by solidarity payments to each club, academy or community trust, managed by a ‘Football Finance Authority’, to reflect the stakeholding of the club’s supporters?”
- Andy Roberts, Northampton Town Supporters Trust
“Financial sustainability is a key goal for our club. Plymouth is the biggest English city to never have seen top-flight football. Our owner has published a five-year plan to take Argyle to a sustainable position in the Championship, but that goal is made challenging in no small part due to the wage inflation caused by the parachute payments in that division.
“The Argyle Fans’ Trust reminded the panel that the gulf from League One to Championship is both very real and growing, and measures should be taken to reduce that gap.
“We’re also arguing for greater levels of transparency across all clubs, including requiring them to publish full accounts regardless of size or turnover, perhaps with additional reporting during the season.
“The Argyle Fans’ Trust also believes the priority should be to protect clubs rather than the owners. Our owner has put the club first by very generously providing his support in the form of equity, not as a loan.”
- Tim Chown, secretary, Argyle Fans’ Trust
“At Grimsby Town, we are one of the few clubs with two fan-elected directors who have full participation and as such a supporters voice within the boardroom. As chair of the Mariners Trust and recently-appointed fan-elected director on the club’s board, I explained to the panel on how the two directors on the board works.
“As a trust we feel that it is important for fans voices to have real meaning at the highest levels of football clubs and it was great to emphasise how the relationship works positively at the club.
“We covered how the process of selection to the club board works and that the two fan-elected directors are fully involved in the decision making process. We were also keen to emphasise that whilst this works well at our club, blanket legislation requiring a fan-elected director on every board will not work but fan representation at board level is a must to safeguard the future of our great clubs.”
- Kristine Green, chair, Mariners 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.