Fans’ groups would be awarded a ‘Golden Share’, giving them legal powers over key decisions by their clubs as former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, chair of the review panel, warned our clubs were only ‘one bad owner away’ from disaster if reforms were not introduced
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Far-reaching plans to revolutionise English football were put forward in a long-awaited Government review on Wednesday.
Fans’ groups up and down the land would be awarded a ‘Golden Share’, giving them legal powers over key decisions by their clubs for the first time.
The new legislation would mean that they could prevent another ‘Superleague’.
An attempted breakaway by Liverpool, Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal and Spurs provoked fury and an instant fan backlash in April this year.
Former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, chair of the review panel, said that showed the dangers to our national game.
She warned our clubs were only ‘one bad owner away’ from disaster if reforms were not introduced.
“I hope this Review protects the good and the special but sets a clear course for a stronger national game with the interests of fans at its heart,” she said.
The golden share would also give supporters on a ‘Shadow Board’ new powers to veto changes to the ‘heritage’ of their clubs.
It would give them a say on any ground moves, changes to the team colours or badge, ticket, and replica kit prices.
A new, independent regulator would ensure a new ‘ownership and director’ test.
That widely-predicted recommendation follows the furore over the controversial £305m sale of Newcastle Utd to a Saudi consortium, despite the Gulf state’s human rights’ record.
The test would consider “the integrity and reputation of any close family member or business associate of the proposed owner.”
Independent directors would also oversee major changes by owners.
‘Engagement’ with supporters will be key in the future of our national game, the review added, with regular financial checks carried out to ensure that clubs do not go bust.
Grassroot clubs could soon benefit from a levy on Premier League transfers.
The report did not stipulate the amount of the levy. But it pointed out that 10 percent would have earned the lower leagues £160m annually over the past five years from the £9.9 billion spent.
‘Golden Share’ for supporter groups:
The historic change will give fans groups power to veto changes to the clubs’ badge or colours, and to prevent moving grounds. They would also be able to prevent clubs entering competitions which they oppose – such as the European Super League.
New independent regulator:
To ensure the ‘long-term sustainability’ of football, the Government should create a new independent regulator for English football (IREF)to operate a licensing system for professional men’s football, and oversee financial rules.
Fan groups would have their say on issues such as ticket and replica kit prices. The move follows widespread criticism of the high cost of replica kits, especially for children. Supporters would be ‘properly consulted by their clubs in taking key decisions by means of a Shadow Board’. Fan engagement would be a licence condition for all clubs.
‘Fit and proper person’ tests for owners:
New owners’ and directors’ tests for clubs should be established by IREF replacing the three existing tests to ensure that only good custodians and qualified directors can run ‘vitally important community and cultural assets’.
The checks would include regular financial checks on clubs to prevent them going under, like Bury.
‘Grassroots’ football and a Premier League ‘levy’:
A new corporate governance code to support a long-term sustainable future for all pro leagues. A 10 per cent levy would have contributed £160m annually to the lower divisions in the past five years, enough to secure clubs in Leagues One and Two, and fund 80 new adult pitches,
100 new adult grass pitches, 100 small grass children’s pitches, and 30 new changing rooms.
To be treated ‘with parity’ and given its own dedicated review to guarantee its future recognising the significant steps forward taken in recent years but also the unique challenges facing the game.
Equality, diversity, inclusion and protecting young players:
Plans should be mandatory for all clubs with Action Plans regularly assessed by IREF. The welfare of players exiting the game needs to be better protected – particularly at a young age – and all stakeholders should work together on improving this, including the provision of proactive mental health care and support.
The report states: “Given the vast wealth at the top of football…it is not unreasonable that the PL supports wider football to an even greater level.”
The review follows more than 100 hours of evidence heard by a panel over six months with contributions from supporters of more than 130 football clubs.
Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters Association, heralded it as ‘potentially a huge step forward for football governance’, and said the review ‘had listened to the voice of fans’.
He added: “It’s now up to the Government to deliver upon the recommendations.
“Proposals to strengthen the voice of supporters, 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.”
DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP added: “For too long professional football in this country has operated with a disregard for fans and for the most basic good business practice.”
He urged the reforms to be included in the next Queen’s Speech to be passed into law as quickly as possible.
The Premier League recognised the vital importance of fans and the need “to restore and retain their trust”.
A spokesman added: “The Premier League, alongside English football as a whole, is a global success. It is important to everyone that any reforms do not damage our game, its competitive balance or the levels of current investment.”
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