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MPs back FSA ideas on football governance reform

Urgent reform of football ownership regulation is required to prevent more clubs going to the wall, according to a report from senior MPs published today.

Following their investigation into the demise of Bury FC, the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) Committee have recommended a raft of proposals to improve the regulation of football clubs and prevent clubs from falling into crisis – including the creation of a supporters’ ombudsman to hear concerns about how clubs are being run.

Chair of the Committee Damian Collins MP said: “We have heard compelling evidence of failings at every level of football governance from the clubs themselves to the English Football League and the Football Association as overall governing body.

“We believe decisive action is now needed from the football authorities to ensure that clubs are complying fully with the EFL’s football finance rules and regulations.

“A failure to enforce these rules effectively will see more clubs entering administration and at risk of expulsion from the Football League.”

Last month, the FSA submitted written proposals to the committee to improve the governance of football which focused on the creation of robust, independent regulator under the auspices of the FA.

FSA chair Malcolm Clarke and vice-chair Tom Greatrex told MPs at a DCMS committee hearing that football’s self-regulatory regime had contributed to the demise of Bury FC and a lack of action could put more clubs at risk in future.

In its report today, the Committee backed a number of FSA ideas on protecting club assets, strengthening the owners’ and directors’ test and more. Their recommendations included:

  • FA, EFL and Premier League should establish a supporters’ ombudsman to hear concerns about how clubs are being run
  • Reformed Owners and Directors Test would disqualify a buyer with record of corporate insolvency
  • Clubs would be banned from borrowing against fixed assets such as stadiums, other than for related capital projects
  • Formal and enforceable licensing system for professional football clubs in the English league system, as recommended in 2011 report on Football Governance
  • Government legislation for independent system of football licensing and regulation if reforms are not implemented.

The Committee were particularly critical of the EFL’s role in allowing Bury FC to be acquired by Steve Dale with Committee chair Damian Collins arguing that the league should formally apologise to the club’s staff and offer reparations for its “failure to protect” the Greater Manchester club.

Their letter was jointly addressed to Jonathan Taylor QC, who is heading the independent Taylor Review of the EFL’s regulations, urging him to investigate the issue further.

FSA vice-chair Tom Greatrex said: “We’re glad a cross party committee backs our proposals and recognises what supporters have been saying for a long time: that football’s self-regulation has failed, and reform is desperately needed.

“It’s sad that it took the League expelling an FA Cup-winning club to get us this far, but all our efforts must now be focused on preventing this happening again. The FSA will seek to work with the FA, the Leagues and other stakeholders to make that happen but the warning to the football authorities from MPs is clear – change or be changed.”

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