Fan survey reveals demand for sweeping changes to how football is run

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Fan survey reveals demand for sweeping changes to how football is run - Getty Images
Fan survey reveals demand for sweeping changes to how football is run - Getty Images

Football's power brokers can no longer be trusted and new laws are needed to protect the pyramid, fans will tell a landmark Government review.

As calls intensify again for an independent regulator, a Telegraph Sport survey shows major reform will have supporters' backing. A "golden share" fan vote to stop greedy owners in their tracks is backed by nine out 10 fans in the Premier League and Championship, results show.

The survey, launched in the aftermath of the European Super League fiasco, highlights 80 per cent have lost faith in current governing bodies.

Their damning conclusions come as more than 100,000 fans joined Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Lineker in signing a petition for a new regulator.

With football still at a crossroads following the global furore over the failed club breakaway, the most detailed account of fan feeling shows:

  • Eight out of 10 fans across the two divisions want an independent body to hold leagues, clubs and governing bodies to account

  • 83 per cent want a so-called "golden share" board vote, with just 13 per cent believing their club owner's top priority is sporting success

  • Nine out of 10 want legislation that will protect the pyramid's relegation and promotion system to ward off any closed-shop proposals

  • 67 per cent think securing future survival is the game's most pressing issue, with 30 per cent fearing the pyramid is collapsing.

The results come as Tracey Crouch, the former sports minister, chairs a Government review which could lead to sweeping legislative and non-legislative changes. Governance, new ownership structures, the Owners' and Directors’ test, finance and the fan experience could all change. On Monday the Football League, supporters groups and campaigners urged Ms Crouch to assess Telegraph Sport's findings.

Trevor Birch, the EFL chief executive, said it was notable but "unsurprising" that "the survival of clubs and the financial future of the pyramid are rated as the biggest issues facing our game".

"The EFL has consistently been saying for a long time that our game’s finances need a fundamental reset and football must now grasp the opportunity to fix the financial imbalance that exists between the top division and the rest of football," he added, before underlining the league's vision to scrap "parachute payments" and instead redistribute 25 per cent of pooled TV revenue.

"By resetting economically, we can support all clubs to achieve a sustainable future to protect the principles and long term future of the pyramid, which people have collectively deemed to be sacrosanct in recent weeks."

In addition to support for a "golden share" vote to give fans the power of veto, nine in 10 want more fan representation on the boards. Two of the Big Six rebels, Chelsea and Tottenham, have promised in recent weeks to bring supporters into the boardroom.

Around 40 per cent of fans believe "growing the financial value of their investment" was their team's main aim. Three-quarters of fans want the Big Six rebels punished over the betrayal, with the most popular penalties being points deductions or fines.

Fans made their feelings clear after the European Super League debacle - AFP
Fans made their feelings clear after the European Super League debacle - AFP

"The results of the survey back up what the FSA have been saying for years: football is in serious need of reform," said Tom Greatrex, vice-chair of the Football Supporters' Association.

"The overwhelming majority of fans can see that football simply cannot be relied upon to regulate itself. Fans must have a meaningful position in boardrooms and within the power structures of the game to guard against existential threats such as a breakaway super league."

David Bernstein, the former Manchester City and FA chairman, has been championing an independent regulator for months. "There's no surprise about this," he said of the survey results.

"It highlights the problems that we've been speaking about for so long - governance in football, the huge gap between the haves and the have nots, the vulnerability of many clubs and the financial situation they find themselves in....All these things indicate clearly that the game in this country is out of balance."

Greatrex, meanwhile, added that the results were a real mandate for change. "The strength of our football pyramid, and the health of our clubs, needs protection, and we believe that's best delivered by an independent regulator," he added. "We look forward to taking a central role in the fan-led review, which we hope will deliver real, meaningful change for fans at all levels of the game."

Nine out of 10 fans also supported the prospect of a cap on ticket prices as part of the survey which was completed by more than 30 supporter groups.

Both Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, and the Premier League, which plans to strengthen its rules and regulations and implement an Owners’ Charter, have been made aware of the findings.

The top tier's chief executive, Richard Masters, has previously said it is important fan-feeling is heard, but he is not supportive of an independent or Ofcom-style regulator. "Given the events of the last month, etc, I think we have to be open to regulatory change, but I don’t think the answer is an independent regulator," he added.

Richard Scudamore, Masters' predecessor at the Premier League, also made the case last month against a regulator, saying that "fundamentally the distribution of money" was the main issue and that other areas of the game were working well.

However, an open letter signed by a number of former players and journalists, including Neville and Carragher, highlighted last month’s breakaway attempt as evidence of the need for reform of the game’s governance.

Among the 30 fan groups to take part in the survey, Neil Cottrell, of the Birmingham City Blues Trust suggested a "European competition levy" that would take a larger percentage of revenue for redistribution to the rest of the Premier League and pyramid.

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