MPs urge football clubs to back fan recommendations over sustainability

A group of 10 local MPs have urged Liverpool and Everton to back the recommendations of the fan-led review and support the introduction of new sustainability criteria for clubs.

The fan-led review issued its recommendations to government in November 2021, with the introduction of an independent regulator underpinned by statute at its core, along with a new Premier League transfers levy to provide extra financial support to the pyramid.

It called for the regulator to be given backstop powers to impose a settlement on financial flow between the Premier League, the EFL and the wider pyramid if one could not be agreed by the football authorities.

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A government white paper responding to the fan-led review is set to be published in the next two weeks, although the Sun claims to have seen a leaked version, prompting Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, to call for the immediate full publication of the paper.

The Sun suggested that multi-millionaires who cannot prove the source of their wealth won’t be able to complete takeovers of clubs. It also said clubs will fund a regulator which will have powers to ban them from breakaway leagues.

“It’s about time the government publish the long-awaited football white paper,” said Powell. “More than a year after the fan-led review, following the European Super League fiasco, and a number of clubs on the brink, it can’t come soon enough. Yet it still won’t be actual legislation for years to come. While we wait to see the published detail, Labour strongly supports football regulation and a meaningful voice for fans. The government has dithered and delayed taking action.”

The Premier League and its clubs are wary of the impact of additional regulation, with Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow warning that care needed to be taken not to “kill the golden goose”.

However, the 10 MPs from across Merseyside want their local top-flight teams to get behind the proposals and to join the Fair Game group, which campaigns for football to be run more sustainably.

The MPs wrote: “The fan-led review included recommendations which would reset the governance of football and, for the first time, integrate financial sustainability, good governance, equality standards and proper fan and community engagement into the national game, through the use of an independent regulator.

“We believe that these recommendations are vital to preserving our footballing institutions for generations to come. Clubs all over the country have been in crisis and here in the north west we have seen the impact of that at Bury, Macclesfield and Bolton. Our Premier League clubs are a symbol of pride for the city of Liverpool and the wider region, and are a major influence in the football world. Their support could be a game changer for a Fairer Game.”

The MPs who signed the letter are Kim Johnson (Riverside), Dan Carden (Walton), Paula Barker (Wavertree), Ian Byrne MP (West Derby), Marie Rimmer (St Helens South), Conor McGinn (St Helens North), Bill Esterson (Sefton Central), Peter Dowd (Bootle), Mick Whitley (Birkenhead) and Derek Twigg (Halton).

Fair Game has created a Sustainability Index, measuring clubs on financial sustainability but also on governance, equality standards, community engagement and fan engagement. It supports the idea of at least a portion of solidarity money from the Premier League being distributed based on a club’s Index performance.

Fair Game revealed Liverpool had come top of its Index for Premier League clubs last week, with Everton sixth.

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Its chief executive Niall Couper said: “Football is at a crossroads. Since the turn of the century a third of English clubs have gone into administration. The pandemic left several clubs on their knees, and the cost-of-living crisis threatens to be the knock-out blow.

“We need to start championing financial sustainability, good governance, equality standards and fan engagement. And there is a huge role Liverpool and Everton can play in shaping that new future for football. A fairer future.”

The fan-led review was brought forward by the Government after the launch of the Super League in April 2021. Liverpool were one of the 12 founder clubs and one of the orchestrators of the plans.

The Reds owner, John W Henry, subsequently apologised to fans after his club withdrew from the competition amid a backlash from supporters.