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Fans demand input at board level

Supporters of the teams who threatened to form a breakaway European Super League are demanding radical change at their clubs – including representation at board level.

Fan representatives have held meetings with senior club executives and lobbied club owners to bring about change, with one club already committing to supporter presence at board meetings from this summer.

With a fan-led review on the horizon and supporter news moving at such breakneck speed we thought it was worth rounding up the latest news from those clubs and the football authorities. 

The Premier League and FA

On Monday the Premier League announced “a new Owners’ Charter that all club owners will be required to sign up to, committing them to the core principles of the Premier League. Breaches of these rules and the Charter will be subject to significant sanctions.”

The Premier League also said it was “enlisting the support of Government to bring in appropriate legislation to protect football’s open pyramid, principles of sporting merit and the integrity of the football community”.

This is a big change in direction as officials had previously been of the view that top-flight clubs could regulate themselves. That belongs to a different era as the Premier League says it will “work with the fan groups, Government, UEFA, The FA, EFL, PFA and LMA to defend the integrity and future prospects of English football”.

The FA also said “we have been discussing legislation with Government that would allow us to prevent any similar threat in the future so that we can protect the English football pyramid”.

Arsenal 

Arsenal Supporters’ Trust hit out hard and fast at the club’s owners when the ESL plans were announced with a #KroenkeOut #FansIn social media campaign which made a real impact. 

Earlier this week AST announced they’d had a “constructive meeting” with Daniel Ek and the Invincibles (consortium partners Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira) and were told that fans would be central to their proposals.

AST added: “Change at Arsenal must include the opportunity for supporters to own an equity stake in their club. Fans are the true custodians and should have the opportunity to be part-owners. It is also a genuine opportunity to build an international fan-funded model.

“Fans should also have a greater say in how their club is run. This means direct engagement and involvement with the board and executives. It means accountability through events such as an Annual General Meeting, the publication of key information, transparency and honesty.

“It also means fans having some form of voting rights, or ‘golden share’, that covers key custodian subjects such as the club entering new competitions and playing all home games in Islington.”

Chelsea

At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea said they would be inviting three elected supporter representatives to future board meetings “to ensure general supporter sentiment is considered as part of the Club’s decision-making process.”

The representatives will be there as observers and must sign a confidentiality agreement with Chelsea Supporters’ Trust describing the club’s move as a “step in the right direction.” 

“We hope that this will prevent any catastrophic decisions being made again. The CST would like to emphasise that supporter presence must be more than simply a box-ticking exercise and we urge the club to listen, consult and react to supporters’ views,” said CST.

Liverpool

Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankly met senior club executives, including chief executive Bill Hogan, this week. SoS are asking the club for a reconstitution of the club’s board, to include an elected and accountable fan representative. 

“This initial consultation was positive,” Spirit of Shankly said. “And both parties agreed there is a need for a new structure leading to meaningful and lasting supporter engagement.

“This cannot be token representation, but one that has the ‘golden share’ or veto on the decision-making process. We believe this is desirable, practical and achievable both in the short and long-term.”

Manchester City

The relationship between fans and the club owners at Manchester City isn’t as fractious as some, but Manchester City Official Supporters’ Club have taken a firm line on recent events.

“In our view the club’s owners are the best in world and this is their first mistake – but it’s a big mistake and it’s as a result of not speaking to us,” said MCOSC general secretary Kevin Parker.

“The OSC has been going since 1949 and had an excellent relationship with the club, it is a shame that this wasn’t used for the ESL process. We are speaking to them about how we rectify it and move forward. Is it fans on the board? Golden shares? 

“We don’t know at present which option we need for our supporters but what we do need is dialogue with the club so we can sit down and explain why we never want this sort of ESL proposal to happen again. 

“It highlights to clubs, the Premier League and the FA that when dialogue needs to take place we, as fans and supporter groups, should be their first port of call.”

Manchester United

Manchester United Supporters’ Trust are calling on the owners to appoint independent directors at the club, to work with supporters to put a share scheme in place and commit to a full scale consultation with Manchester United supporters.

“What we witnessed at Old Trafford is the culmination of sixteen years since the Glazer family’s acquisition of the club,” MUST said. “Over that period, the owners have taken £1bn out of the club and we have witnessed decay and decline both on the field and off it.”

Earlier this week MUST wrote an open letter to Joel Glazer, co-chairman and director at the club, calling for urgent dialogue with supporter groups.

“We have felt ever more sidelined and ignored,” they wrote. “After sixteen years not one member of the Glazer family has ever had so much as a conversation with us, the club’s supporters trust. We need to find a way forward.”

Tottenham Hotspur 

Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust said: “The THFC Board has yet to acknowledge the scale of its error, or to apologise to its fans. Following consultation with our membership last week, we called for the immediate resignation of the Executive Board. 

“The attempted breakaway is the latest and most damaging example of the Club’s Board at best misreading, at worst disregarding, fan opinion. We have called for the owners to work with us to constitute a new board that could lead us into a new era. We are reiterating that call now and setting out the first steps in how we see that happening.”

Read more about those steps on the THST website.

What are the next steps for the FSA and what can I do?

The FSA and our members will play a central role in the recently announced fan-led review and fight to ensure that real changes are made.

We are updating our comprehensive 2018 governance paper Improving The Regulation of Professional Football Clubs to account for recent events. The basic principles will align with the core beliefs of our Sustain The Game! campaign – to increase club protection, transparency, financial controls, pyramid strength and supporter engagement.

The FSA would also encourage individual fans and supporters’ groups to contact their local MP and ask if they back the core principles of Early Day Motion 1765? Not all MPs sign EDMs but if they support its thrust ask them to contact secretary of state Oliver Dowden to let him know.

You can see MP contacts, ideas and template copy for any emails or letters here.

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