The fan-led review of football governance has laid the foundations of a “prosperous and sustainable future for football at all levels”, according to the Football Supporters’ Association.
Promised by the Government as part of its manifesto for the 2019 General Election, a panel, chaired by former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, heard more than 100 hours of evidence across six months, with the results published on Wednesday evening.
Having listened to contributions from supporters of more than 130 football clubs, alongside all other parts of the game, the review has delivered 47 detailed recommendations.
As part of those proposals, the Government should create a new Independent Regulator for English Football (IREF), established by an Act of Parliament which would help safeguard the financial sustainability of the men’s professional game, as well as protect clubs from rogue owners and any future attempts by clubs to join unsanctioned breakaway competitions such as the ill-fated European Super League.
The recommendations also include Premier League clubs paying a “solidarity transfer levy” to further support the football pyramid.
Supporters, the review said, should be properly consulted by their clubs in taking key decisions by means of a ‘Shadow Board’ and holding a ‘Golden Share’ as a way of additional protection over their team’s heritage.
FSA chief executive Kevin Miles welcomed the wide-ranging review and hopes it can act as a catalyst for meaningful change.
“This is potentially a huge step forward for football governance – the Government committed to a fan-led review which has listened to the voice of fans,” Miles said.
Fans from across the country gathered online on Friday for our 2021 AGM to discuss another 12 months of campaigning and propose new policies for the organisation on a range of issues affecting match-going fans.
— The FSA (@WeAreTheFSA) November 23, 2021
“It is now up to the Government to deliver upon the recommendations.
“The review’s proposals to strengthen the voice of supporters in the game, protect football’s heritage and the pyramid, and provide genuine independent regulation, lay the basis for a prosperous and sustainable future for football at all levels.”
The Government is expected to support in principle the idea of an independent regulator, and a written ministerial statement is set to be published on Thursday morning.
Commenting on the review, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chair Julian Knight MP said: ”For too long professional football in this country has operated with a disregard for fans and for the most basic good business practice.
“We welcome the review’s central recommendation for an independent football regulator with accountability to the DCMS Committee to assess performance and value for money.
“A Shadow Board of fans with a Golden Share in clubs will put paid to ridiculous hair-brained schemes such as the European Super League. New owners’ and directors’ tests and a transfer levy to benefit grassroots clubs are all moves in the right direction.
“What we need now is urgent Government action with a Bill before the House. The Secretary of State must look to introduce a football regulator in the next Queen’s Speech.
“We can have no further prevarication, nor see these recommendations shunted into a future election manifesto.
“Today must mark the start of building a stronger, fairer and more sustainable national game.”
The #PL has today announced additional funding for clubs in @EFL League One and Two, as well as the 66 clubs in the three National League divisions, to help with their continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic
— Premier League (@premierleague) November 18, 2021
The review panel has recommended Premier League clubs should pay a transfer “stamp duty” to further support the English pyramid by way of a levy on deals between top-flight clubs or signings from overseas.
While the Premier League did not respond to that specific topic, the governing body welcomed the review and will examine the proposals moving forward.
“We will study the extensive recommendations and will work with Government, fans, the FA, EFL, PFA and other football organisations on these important issues,” a statement from the Premier League read.
“We recognise the vital importance of fans and the need to restore and retain their trust in football’s governance.
“We also acknowledge the call for some form of independent regulation to protect English football’s essential strengths and the Premier League has already undertaken our own governance and strategic reviews.
“These will continue to progress together with the ongoing work of the Fan Led Review.
“The Premier League, alongside English football as a whole, is a global success.
“We have an outstanding track record on and off the pitch, including the positive impact on youth development, communities and the wider game, of which we are proud.
“It is important to everyone that any reforms do not damage our game, its competitive balance or the levels of current investment.”
The Football Association pledged to work with the Government over the recommendations.
“We have been fully engaged with the review since its inception and recognise its importance for English football,” an FA spokesperson said.
“Many positive changes have already been made, some of which are directly as a result of the review.
“We will digest the report in full and will continue to liaise with the Government on potential solutions to the topics and recommendations that have been made.”
The Save Our Beautiful Game group, which is led by former FA chairman David Bernstein and counts Gary Neville as a member, said it was “delighted” at the endorsement for an independent regulator.
A statement read: “As today’s report confirms, the football authorities have had multiple opportunities over decades to introduce significant reforms of their own. They failed.”
It added: “Today is an important moment in the long history of our national sport.
“The burden of maintaining the momentum for an independent regulator for English football now falls clearly on Parliament, and on the Government itself.
“Legislation will be needed to turn the recommendations from today’s Report into reality. The game deserves nothing less.”
The Professional Footballers’ Association and Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation, have also been contacted for comment on the review.