A little under 5 months ago the Super League proposals rocked football and whilst the initial ill-conceived proposals have been moved to the back burner for at least the short term, the underlying problems faced by the majority of clubs and indeed the Leagues (the football pyramid) remain.
The response to the Super League proposals is discussed in detail here. The most significant development was the setting up of the Fan Led Review, chaired by Tracey Crouch, MP. The review is due to present its proposals to the Department for DCMS in late October this year. The initial stages of the review and the interim report sent to Oliver Dowden in July can be read here.
During this period, Fair Game, an organisation representing 24 clubs and 40 experts from the football industry, academia, the commercial world and fan representatives, have worked tirelessly to produce their manifesto “Putting Pride back in the Shirt”
The manifesto calls upon the Fan Led Review to implement the following:
- An independent regulator
- The creation of a sustainability index
- New and stronger rules
- Protection of a club’s heritage and traditions
- A new financial structure
- Commitment to fundamental reform of the FA
The key to any future changes to the running of football in a fairer and more sustainable way is the introduction of independent regulation. What does that actually mean?
Independent regulation would be achieved by a body backed by statute with the powers to set rules and requirements for clubs to follow. The regulator would monitor compliance and have the powers to ensure enforcement in the event of breach.
Importantly, members of the board of the regulator cannot be current directors, substantial shareholders or employees of clubs in the Premier League, Football League, National League, Women’s Super League or Women’s Championship.
The regulator would specifically include academies, club licensing, owners and directors test and safeguarding heritage within their responsibilities.
Additionally, in Fair Game’s proposals, the regulator would have control over what’s known as the Sustainability Index. The idea behind the Sustainability Index is that clubs are rewarded for good behaviour rather than penalised for the reverse.
How do you measure good behaviour? The Sustainability Index would look at four aspects, namely, Equality standards, Fan Engagement, Financial Sustainability and Good Governance. Performance on the index would determine the level of broadcast and media income received by clubs. The same terms would apply to future revenues such as streaming for example.
New and stronger rules
Firstly the Director & Owner test will be substantially strengthened. Owners and directors would be barred from being involved in a club if they have undertaken any activity anywhere, which would be considered illegal in the UK (including hate crimes). Additionally, anyone complicit in human rights violations under International Human Rights would be barred. Finally, owners and directors would be subject to ongoing assessment regardless (in the case of the owner) of their involvement in the club.
In addition, the following regulations are proposed; those that provide misleading or incomplete information at the time of testing be banned for a set period of time. If there is to be a change of control in a club then the new owner must provide a transparent schedule showing the new proposed ownership structure and the origin of funds used to support the purchase. Proof of funds would be tested by the regulator to ensure the absence of criminal activity and/or money laundering.
Before a change of control is approved, the proposed owner must also provide a 5 year business plan, a community plan (outlining the club’s proposals to support and engage with the local community) and evidence of how the club would be a going concern in a future change of ownership.
Protection of a club’s heritage and traditions
Given that most people now accept that a football club is an integral part of a local community with respect to its fans, its location, economy, identity and culture, protecting the club’s heritage and traditions are extremely important.
The manifesto proposes that in the event that an owner wishes to change the name, nickname, colours, badge or location of the club they would require regulatory approval. That approval would only be granted by a vote greater than 75% of a recognised fan group or organisation associated with the club. In the absence of such an organisation the regulator could make a decision to approve or deny any proposed change.
A new financial structure
A new financial structure would remove many of the strains felt in the game today through a fairer distribution of revenues, particularly broadcast revenues.
Specifically, parachute payments, the cause of much unequal distribution of funds and the creator of an unsustainable arms’ race would be abolished. As a result clubs would be compelled to introduce relegation clauses in player contracts .
The distribution of funds from the Premier broadcasting pot would change. 25% of domestic and international broadcast revenues would be redistributed as follows (distribution currently is 14%)
Championship – 46%
League 1 -24%
League 2 13%
National League – 7%
National League North and South – 3.5%
Women’s Super League – 2%
Women’s Super League 2 – 1%
The income redistribution would have two elements – a base element of 20% (to be spent at the total discretion of the club) and 80% which is weighted on the Sustainability Index with 30% of this element having no restrictions on use, the remainder on capex, community and women’s football.
The impact such a change has is stark. A club achieving the highest category in the Sustainability index in the Championship would receive £13.91 million an uplift of £8.81 million on current payments; in League 1 £7.26 million (uplift of £6.65 million); in League 2 £3.93 million (uplift of £3.33 million). Nation League and National League N&S clubs would receive £1.06 million, Women’s Super League £724k and WSL2 £362k.
Player wages and contract terms would alter substantially. As mentioned earlier compulsory relegation clauses would be introduced within player contracts. Additionally, salary caps would be introduced as follows: a 60% of revenue cap in the Championship and League 1; a 50% of revenue cap in League 2 and hard caps in the National League and WSL.
Commitment to fundamental reform of the FA
Fair Game asks for a fundamental overhaul of the Football Association. It asks the Government to set up a commission totally independent of the Football Association to complete this work. Whilst it is recognised in an ideal world the Football Association ought to be the regulator, that is not possible given the commercial interests and potential conflict of interests that exist. It is inconceivable that the governance standards sought for and required could arise from the Football Association.
In addition to those highlighted above the manifesto proposes many additional policies. These include the abolition of the football creditors rule, the introduction of golden shares to protect heritage interests and the interests of fans, rules around the integrity of competition (including future participation in a European Super League) and the ability of lower league clubs to install all weather pitches thereby increasing community use and providing additional revenue streams.
The Fair Game group have put together an extensive manifesto of policy ideas based on the principles of increased fairness in football and above all else sustainability across the pyramid, all backed, monitored and administered by an independent regulator. Critically, the regulator is backed by legislation.
The Fair Game group are supported by an increasing number of football clubs, former players and politicians. There is a recognition of the need for change and that change will happen as a result of the Fan Led Review and its final findings to be presented later this year. Fair Game has presented many of the ideas which in coming months and years will radically change how the game is regulated, administered and run. It should provide for a fairer and more sustainable game, something that every fan should back and insist it happens.
The Fair Game Manifesto can be downloaded from here: Fair Game Manifesto