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FSA Survey: Fans overwhelmingly back independent regulation

Fans overwhelmingly back the introduction of an independent football regulator to ensure their clubs are run sustainably, according to the results of our National Supporters Survey.

The findings also reveal the impact that the rising cost of living is having on the amount the supporters have to spend on attending football, as well as widespread criticism of VAR.

Almost 10,000 fans took part in the FSA’s National Supporters’ Survey – last run in 2017 – to give their thoughts on the state of football ahead of the new season.

  • Nine in ten fans (88.2%) agreed on the need for an independent regulator to ensure clubs are run sustainably.
  • Only one in 20 (5.5%) of fans who had experienced VAR in stadiums rated their experience of it as good or very good.
  • Just under half of those polled (46.9%) believed that their club cared about them and their views.
  • Only a third (37.8%) feel optimistic for the future of football.
  • One in five (21.7%) fans said they were attending fewer games because of the rising cost of living, and almost a third (31.9%) had reduced their matchday spending on items such as food, drink and programmes.

VAR

The FSA first asked about video referees in their 2017 survey, and there was widespread support of trials of video referees for game-changing decisions – three-quarters (74.6%) of fans were in favour.

Now that they have seen the system in action, only a quarter (26.8%) of fans said they were absolutely or somewhat in favour of it, compared with almost two-thirds (63.3%) who were against it.

More than three-quarters of matchgoers (79.1%) and two-thirds of TV viewers (65.4%) rated their experience as either poor or very poor.

Delays

The delays to the game in terms of the length of time it takes to come to a VAR decision are a major negative factor – an overwhelming majority (91.9%) agreed that decisions take too long to make.

The lack of clarity around the process is also an issue – four in five respondents (80%) said that fans should be able to hear discussions between the VAR and the on-pitch referee.

Cost of living

The rising cost of living has had an impact on how much people spend on attending football, with two in five (40.1%) of respondents saying they were already spending less on football due to the current financial climate.

One-fifth (21.7%) of fans said they were attending fewer games because of the cost of living.

Of fans who said they were attending less than in previous seasons, the most commonly cited factors are work/family commitments (30.9%), high ticket prices (30.3%), an inability to obtain tickets (22.8%), and changes in financial circumstances (21.9%).

On the back of the EFL’s record TV deal, there was strong support for an away price cap as there is in the Premier League to help keep football affordable – almost nine in ten (88.2%) were in favour of such a measure.

FSA Chair Malcolm Clarke said: “Football has said for years that it can regulate itself. The findings from our survey show that it has become apparent to the overwhelming majority of fans that it can not, and that independent regulation is required to safeguard the future of our clubs, and the game itself.”

“Football clubs can’t continue to be allowed to mark their own homework, and so we will be pressing the Government to make sure that the regulator laid out in their White Paper becomes a reality.”

“The results also reveal the extent to which football fans, as with many millions of others up and down the country, are feeling the pinch due to the rising cost of living. We support any initiative which keeps football affordable and available to all.”

The results of the survey will be discussed at this weekend’s FSA AGM – register here – , which is to be held in Manchester as part of the European Football Fans Congress run by pan-European fan body Football Supporters Europe.

Speakers at the event, which runs from Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th June, include UEFA president Alexander Čeferin, FA chair Debbie Hewitt, and Gary Neville.

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