Premier League club owners fear big changes from Government review into football after Super League chaos

Jack Rosser
·4-min read
Coronavirus – Tue Apr 20, 2021 (PA Wire)
Coronavirus – Tue Apr 20, 2021 (PA Wire)

Premier League club owners fear the Government's review into football could force through unwanted changes to their business model following the Super League debacle.

Ministers have vowed to conduct a fan-led review of English football, covering financial sustainability, treatment of supporters and governance within the game.

The review will look into the possibility of implementing the German 50+1 model whereby fans have a majority stake in their clubs, as well as exploring other ways to give supporters a blocking vote, veto or golden share, something which is unattractive to those who control the clubs but seen as a necessity by the wider game.

Premier League clubs have always wanted to conduct any reviews on their own terms and within their own frameworks, but in taking the nuclear option of involving the Prime Minister in their efforts to combat the threat of a Super League have now opened the door to legislation impacting the running of clubs.

Boris Johnson and Labour leader Keir Starmer have both met with supporters' groups this week with the subject of fan involvement at boardroom level high on the agenda. The move is seen as good for football as a whole, and especially for clubs at the lower levels of the pyramid, but not for those who orchestrated the breakaway or make significant profits from the success of the Premier League.

Gary Neville, who has been one of the most outspoken critics of the 'Big Six' clubs in this remarkable week, has long called for an independent regulator in football, while there were raised eyebrows in Premier League circles when new Burnley chairman Alan Pace - who has not long been part of the division - said he welcomed the idea.

"Football has had a fantastic run of governing itself in a way that a lot of industries haven't had," said David Kogan, the former chief media rights advisor to the Premier League who negotiated six domestic rights deals on their behalf and recently advised on the landmark rights deal for the Women's Super League (WSL) alongside Dame Heather Rabbatts.

"It has been able to do what it has been able to do and in an almost entirely unfettered way. We have now had the pandemic, which has exposed quite a lot of the underlying cracks in the system.

"We've had Project Big Picture, followed by the Super League in the last nine months - both of which have been clear grabs for additional power by a number of clubs.

"So the founders and agreements of the Premier League were immediately being compromised.

"The idea there should be a regulator is obviously a real change, if it happens. I think that the owners of clubs, certainly the big clubs, and those who are used to having an unfettered time are definitely going to be looking at it as being something they need to take with a great degree of seriousness."

The Government review, which will be led by Conservative MP and former sports minister Tracey Crouch, will also cover concerns over scheduling games for broadcast at times which disregard the concerns of matchgoing fans, though Kogan has warned the issue is not as clear as it may appear and that the Government must involve real expertise.

"One of the things that is absolutely clear about the modern broadcasting environment is there are not enough slots to accommodate all the football that is currently being broadcast," said Kogan.

"It's not that broadcasters themselves necessarily want to have games at eight o'clock on a Friday night, it’s because they're desperately trying to find slots where they can put out more and more games. I think it's useful to understand the broadcasters’ problem.

"You need to have real deep expertise to understand the underlying issues.

"I hope they [the Government] know what they're getting into, because they're going to have to really make sure that they've got the knowledge and expertise that, frankly, most of these things in the past didn't really have and, to be clear, that means is not just led by fans, because they've only got one view."

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