Crouch review will fundamentally change English football for the better... an independent regulator is vital

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

So this is what change looks like. It is very hard to describe the feeling you get when you see the words and ideas you, and those you’ve worked alongside, have been pushing for years set out in a document that signals the biggest step forward for English football in decades.

The recommendations from the fan-led review chaired by Tracey Crouch MP set out sensible, achievable solutions to some of the biggest problems facing the game we love. The creation of an independent regulator for English football (IREF) is a positive and vital step.

So too is the requirement for clubs to obtain a licence from that regulator, and for that licence to specify minimum standards of governance and supporter engagement.

There is some irony in the fact that it was the attempt by the self-styled ‘Big Six’ to break away from, and thereby destroy, the English game that proved to be the catalyst for this report.

Because make no mistake, it will fundamentally change the English game for the better if it is properly implemented. That breakaway attempt proved once and for all that the game could not be left to reform itself.

Of course, that also means being co-chair of a trust at one of those six clubs is particularly challenging.

Those of us who have worked for years to try to ensure fans really do have a voice at their clubs have bitter experience of promised reforms being slowly undermined and whittled away as clubs and the game’s authorities put huge effort into ensuring they have to do as little as possible to comply with even the most modest proposals. And so there’s inevitably some trepidation.

But the big difference this time is the sheer weight of opinion that is behind these proposals. Supporter groups from 130 different clubs submitted evidence to the review. Experts from the fields of finance and governance were consulted.

A panel of experts with a range of skills scrutinsed proposals and pushed those putting forward ideas hard on how they could work and why they were necessary.

It would be a truly cloth-eared, foolish and disconnected person who failed to recognise the direction of travel.

Particularly pleasing is this quote in the recommendations, making it clear that a requirement of getting a licence will be for each club to “develop and deliver a strategy for engaging with and listening to its fans, community and stakeholders”. Exactly.

Martin Cloake is co-chair of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust.

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