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Dangers to English football ‘very real’, says chair of fan-led review into game

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Fans protest the Super League outside Stamford BridgeFootball fans protested outside stadiums following the announcement of the Super League in May

The dangers facing English league clubs are "very real", with key aspects of the nation's game "at genuine risk", says the chair of a fan-led review commissioned by the government.

Former sports minister Tracey Crouch has written to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to propose a series of measures.

This includes an independent regulator to "protect the future of our game".

The review has heard over 100 hours of evidence from fans, the Football Association and clubs at all levels.

"The evidence has been clear that football clubs are not ordinary businesses," wrote Crouch. "They play a critical social, civic and cultural role in their local communities.

"They need to be protected – sometimes from their owners who are, after all, simply the current custodians of a community asset.

"Key aspects of our national game are at genuine risk. The short-lived threat of the European Super League jeopardised the future of the English football pyramid.

"While that threat has receded – for now – the dangers facing many clubs across the country are very real with their futures precarious and dependent in most cases on the willingness and continuing ability of owners to fund significant losses."

The measures proposed by Crouch include:

A new independent regulator to address issues that are most relevant to the risks to the game, especially financial regulation, corporate governance and ownership.Further work over the summer to ensure greater fan engagement and influence at all levels of governance in the game.Suggested potential reform at the Football Association, the Football League and the Premier League, with a recommendation that at least 50 per cent of the FA board be composed of independent non-executive directors.Greater protection for important club assets such as badges, location and colours, through a 'golden share' for supporters that provides them with veto powers.Further investigation over the summer on revenue flows within the football pyramid, including 'parachute payments'.Calls for a joined-up approach from the football authorities to improve player welfare, particularly with regard to players released from the academy system.Allowing clubs to operate all-weather pitches in League Two to help with generation of revenue in lower leagues.Suggestion that the English Football League (EFL) enter discussions to absorb the National League top division into the EFL structure.Possibility of a levy on transfer or agent fees to support the development of the grassroots, amateur and women's games.A separate review into the future of women's football following "varied" evidence on the best way forward.

Crouch will issue her final recommendations in the autumn.

'English football facing existential crisis'

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The review was promised as part of the Conservatives' 2019 General Election manifesto and commissioned early after the foundation and swift collapse of the Super League in April.

Crouch highlighted Deloitte figures from 2018-19 – before the impact of the coronavirus pandemic – which she felt underlined the perilous state of many clubs' finances.

She pointed out that nine Premier League clubs were reported to have made pre-tax losses that season, and eight clubs had wage-to-turnover ratios over 70 per cent.

In the same season all but two Championship clubs made pre-tax losses and the average wage-to-turnover ratio was 107 per cent.

"It is sobering to consider that these numbers are the end result of a long period in which football had been growing revenues to record or near record levels," she wrote.

"The threat of possible future reductions in income expected as the broadcast market diversifies indicates that, without reform, English football could face an existential crisis in years to come unless pre-emptive action is taken now."

Football authorities have "lost the trust and confidence" of fans, she added, as had a number of clubs.

She said the authorities had been issued with repeated warnings in the past which had not been heeded, and "therefore it is now time for external assistance".

Crouch also said the game's governing bodies had not succeeded in delivering sufficiently on the equality, diversity and inclusion agenda.

'Fan voices have been heeded'

Dowden welcomed Crouch's recommendations and said: "We've seen this year with the failed European Super League proposals and Euro 2020 how central football is to our national life.

"I've been clear that now is the time to take a wide-ranging look at reform of the game. I will not hesitate to take bold steps where necessary.

"I am grateful to the chair and panel for their update on the fan-led review. I look forward to receiving the final report and recommendations in the autumn."

The Football Supporters' Association (FSA) welcomed the update, and its chief executive Kevin Miles said: "It's clear from the preliminary report that not only has the evidence been led by fans but also that those fan voices have been heeded.

"The commitment to the establishment of a new independent regulator for English Football is especially welcome.

"Additional proposals linked to the sustainability of the game, golden shares for fan groups, grassroots investment, mandatory supporter engagement and a strong voice for fans in governance at all levels, are hugely encouraging.

"We will continue to play a constructive role in the work of the review in fleshing out the detail of the interim proposals. Their full implementation could be a huge step to secure a sustainable future for our clubs, the communities around them, and the wider game."

'Supporters play a crucial role in football'

Both the Premier League and EFL welcomed the preliminary findings.

A Premier League spokesman said: "We will now consider the initial update and are committed to supporting Tracey Crouch, the panel and the DCMS team as they finalise their recommendations.

"Supporters play a crucial role in football and clubs have a significant impact in their communities. We look forward to working closely with the FA, EFL and other football organisations on these important issues."

The EFL said: "We will now consider the recommendations in full, and continue to push for a redistribution of the game's finances which require a fundamental reset in order to deliver long term sustainability across the pyramid.

"As ever, the league will continue to engage with clubs, authorities, supporter groups, the review team and others as part of the process."

'No more Russian roulette with the traditions and history of clubs'

The Fair Game group, which is campaigning for reform of the sport including the introduction of an independent regulator, also reacted positively to Crouch's recommendations.

"There is a lot to welcome in this letter," said director Niall Couper. "The need for a new football regulator is now indisputable. Football cannot continue in the same unsustainable way.

"The Premier League is the richest league in the world. Yet, the Championship is the biggest loss-making division in the world, and lower down the pyramid we have seen the collapse of Bury and Macclesfield and many others teetering on the brink.

"This letter concludes that financial flows within the game needs an overhaul. However, redressing the balance cannot be left solely to the leagues themselves – the very organisations that have led us to where we are now.

"English football has become a siren to gamblers. As the letter rightly highlights, too many clubs routinely spend way above recommended levels on players' wages.

"Owners should no longer be allowed to play Russian roulette with the history and traditions of football clubs."

'I don't want problems, give me some solutions' – Analysis

BBC Sport football writer Simon Stone:

The initial soundings I have taken from people in the game have been mixed. An independent regulator is something that has been spoken about for so long, by so many, that it is not a surprise.

Issues around distribution of finance and fan involvement have also been well-aired.

There was almost an instruction for the National League to scrap its board composition, which goes back to the acrimony around the league's chaotic state last season and calls for the resignation of then chairman Brian Barwick, who has now left the organisation.

Reading the review though, I was reminded of something my mum used to say to me as a kid, 'I don't want problems, I have plenty of them, give me some solutions'.

For all the well-researched issues raised in Tracey Crouch's review, the fundamentals remain. Most of the revenue in English football is driven by a collection of leading clubs, all privately owned. The current structure allows them to keep most of it, the rest gets filtered down.

By definition that makes some clubs exceptionally wealthy and other aspects of the game less so. In addition, none of the people running the bodies in question think they are doing a bad job.

As Crouch says, 'this is just the start'. But she is going to need a lot of determination – and government support – to implement the change many feel is long overdue.

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589 commentsShowLatestOldestHighest RatedMost RepliedH

Comment posted by Heyesey, today at 12:45Heyesey

12:45If the fans have the power, then they should use it. Stop watching the rich powerful teams and go and support your local non-league sides. Problem solved, instantly, no need for any laws at all.

The only reason those teams can remain big and powerful is because THEY OWN YOU and not the other way around. You refuse to take your custom elsewhere under any circumstances. So quit complaining.21011R

Reply posted by redpirate, today at 13:13redpirate

13:13to Heyesey"If the fans have the power, then they should use it. Stop watching the rich powerful teams and go and support your local non-league sides. Problem solved, instantly, no need for any laws at all.The only reason those teams can remain big and powerful is because THEY OWN YOU and not the other way around. You refuse to take your custom elsewhere under any circumstances. So quit complaining."redpirate replied: Too true!!
You have just described pretty much every NUFC fan. Moan continuously about Mike Ashley – Bad Owner, Bad Manager, Bad Team, Bad style of play – yet continue going week in, week out and not prepared to do what’s necessary to oust him for fear of losing their season ticket. it’s insanity.9411More replies (38)downD

Comment posted by Delbhoy82, today at 13:00Delbhoy82

13:00How many fans continue to pay extortionate amounts for replica shirts, Sky Sports subscriptions etc etc. Hit them where it hurts then see if they pay attention1151C

Reply posted by charlieboy, today at 13:22charlieboy

13:22to Delbhoy82"How many fans continue to pay extortionate amounts for replica shirts, Sky Sports subscriptions etc etc. Hit them where it hurts then see if they pay attention"charlieboy replied: Blame the fans for stupidly paying them, not the clubs. It’s all about demand and supply. As long as mugs pay the prices they will remain. I not paid a penny ever and never will.565More replies (3)downC

Comment posted by catseye27, today at 12:23catseye27

12:23no mention of a cap on players wages then?1005Removed commentMore replies (42)downH

Comment posted by HandOfBob, today at 12:22HandOfBob

12:22Go give your local non-league side you time and money this season. More in tune with the commun ity and their fans than any Prem side.824L

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Reply posted by Leroy, today at 12:48Leroy

12:48to HandOfBob"Go give your local non-league side you time and money this season. More in tune with the community and their fans than any Prem side."Leroy replied: Eliminating racism from the game has to be the priority. And that means at all levels.3390More replies (36)downP

Comment posted by Perspective, today at 13:14Perspective

13:14There is a conflict here as fans (and I include myself) want owners to spend huge sums of money on players so that they can compete and win but don’t want clubs to take steps to increase revenue to do this – ticket prices ESL.

Bit like the NHS – we all want NHS staff to be paid more but don’t want to pay more taxes.

Grown up conversations needed I think752S

Reply posted by SandyFeet12, today at 13:18SandyFeet12

13:18to Perspective"There is a conflict here as fans (and I include myself) want owners to spend huge sums of money on players so that they can compete and win but don’t want clubs to take steps to increase revenue to do this – ticket prices ESL.Bit like the NHS – we all want NHS staff to be paid more but don’t want to pay more taxes.Grown up conversations needed I think"SandyFeet12 replied: Very true. I think more people should follow non-league.304More replies (8)downM

Comment posted by Murtle Strumstread, today at 12:33Murtle Strumstread

12:33You forgot to say that the FA is primarily responsible and instrumental in the disappearance of monies intended for the pyramid.
Replace the FA first.633C

Reply posted by cameron, today at 13:25cameron

13:25to Murtle Strumstread"You forgot to say that the FA is primarily responsible and instrumental in the disappearance of monies intended for the pyramid.Replace the FA first."cameron replied: EXCELLENT POINT!221More replies (4)downA

Comment posted by andrew rowe, today at 12:30andrew rowe

12:30Reintroducing a North and South division instead of a league one and two has always seemed a good idea to me for both the fans and the clubs bank balance. No 400 mile round trips and more local “derbies”. Never understood why it was scrapped 50/60 years ago587N

Reply posted by Nercei, today at 13:05Nercei

13:05to andrew rowe"Reintroducing a North and South division instead of a league one and two has always seemed a good idea to me for both the fans and the clubs bank balance. No 400 mile round trips and more local “derbies”. Never understood why it was scrapped 50/60 years ago"Nercei replied: I like it but I imagine the most “northern” teams in the south and the most “southern” teams in the north (ie the Midlands) would miss their local derbies in that instance? I wasn’t around 50/60 years ago in fairness so I could be wrong!83More replies (8)downX

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Comment posted by xpb10127, today at 12:21xpb10127

12:21I’m Scottish, so it probably won’t apply up here. But the Golden Share is the thing we really need. Let owners buy the commercial side of clubs, sell the merch, control the first team and make the money.
But protect a few key parts of the identity, the badge, the colours, the ground, the area they are based in, maybe even demand youth facilities etc are provided as part of the rules for the owner.504B

Reply posted by Bonzo, today at 12:49Bonzo

12:49to xpb10127"I’m Scottish, so it probably won’t apply up here. But the Golden Share is the thing we really need. Let owners buy the commercial side of clubs, sell the merch, control the first team and make the money.But protect a few key parts of the identity, the badge, the colours, the ground, the area they are based in, maybe even demand youth facilities etc are provided as part of the rules for the owner."Bonzo replied: We have seen all of that at West Ham in the last few years mate.132More replies (8)downW

Comment posted by WheresTheBeef, today at 12:51WheresTheBeef

12:51Use VAR like it was used at the EUROs426A

Reply posted by Adiemus2015, today at 13:13Adiemus2015

13:13to WheresTheBeef"Use VAR like it was used at the EUROs"Adiemus2015 replied: Let the referee’s ref the matches like they did at the EUROs too333B

Comment posted by Bricksnmortar, today at 12:40Bricksnmortar

12:40Elite footballers are being paid a million pounds a month. Not an expert on football club revenue but imagine most of that comes from TV money. It would be possible for elite clubs to take a bit less and allocate some of their TV money into grass roots footy. What’s missing is the will to take a bit less. Greed in this case is most certainly not good.371G

Reply posted by Geoff 2011, today at 13:54Geoff 2011

13:54to Bricksnmortar"Elite footballers are being paid a million pounds a month. Not an expert on football club revenue but imagine most of that comes from TV money. It would be possible for elite clubs to take a bit less and allocate some of their TV money into grass roots footy. What’s missing is the will to take a bit less. Greed in this case is most certainly not good."Geoff 2011 replied: Why should they, they are in business to make money and only money what part of that don’t you understand? Why should they be interested in anything else that doesn’t produce revenue – that is called a hobby not a business – get real, do you expect tesco to give its money to a smaller grocery store to help them compete? – this is the real world not football fairy tales….723More replies (10)downS

Comment posted by SandyFeet12, today at 13:17SandyFeet12

13:17People should check out non-league. Invest in teams where you’re treated like a fan, not a customer.

#ComeOnDarlo271T

Reply posted by The Spin Doctor, today at 13:33The Spin Doctor

13:33to SandyFeet12"People should check out non-league. Invest in teams where you’re treated like a fan, not a customer.#ComeOnDarlo"The Spin Doctor replied: This is definitely bad news for the English game.
Major changes are required and required NOW!34N

Comment posted by nozin around, today at 12:30nozin around

12:30Pointless

And no salary cap – then again as if PL players and agents would sanction a limit on greed !!!

Remember, these footballers have been heralded as paragons of virtue by the BBC now they take the knee…3310E

Reply posted by Enjoy Yourself, today at 13:08Enjoy Yourself

13:08to nozin around"PointlessAnd no salary cap – then again as if PL players and agents would sanction a limit on greed !!!Remember, these footballers have been heralded as paragons of virtue by the BBC now they take the knee…"Enjoy Yourself replied: It’s not the players fault. Read up 0.012%. Why shouldn’t they be paid a fair share of the billions football generates?

But then there’s a hidden agenda in this post isn’t there?1315More replies (7)downR

Comment posted by RememberScarborough, today at 12:46RememberScarborough

12:46Bolton fans know better than most what it’s like to have an “owner” who’s determined to milk an asset for all it’s worth then do his best to liquidate it regardless of the human cost.

Thankfully we now have an amazing owner in Sharon and her team and the authorities can do no better than speak to her to see how clubs and fans should be looked after. COYWM!!!220J

Reply posted by John The Wise One, today at 14:03John The Wise One

14:03to RememberScarborough"Bolton fans know better than most what it’s like to have an “owner” who’s determined to milk an asset for all it’s worth then do his best to liquidate it regardless of the human cost.Thankfully we now have an amazing owner in Sharon and her team and the authorities can do no better than speak to her to see how clubs and fans should be looked after. COYWM!!!"John The Wise One replied: Business owners who want to milk assets from a business (lets call football clubs that because they are) have no intention of ‘looking after’ fans.30More replies (2)downR

Comment posted by Rockin_Rog, today at 12:43Rockin_Rog

12:43I am a football fan – but I don’t know if I see “Dangers to the English Game”

At the end of the day, Brian, the supporters can make or break a club if they really want to. But by and large, fans seem quite happy with the way their clubs are going – and show that by attending games and buying merch.221K

Reply posted by KLOPP OUT, today at 15:28KLOPP OUT

15:28to Rockin_Rog"I am a football fan – but I don’t know if I see “Dangers to the English Game”At the end of the day, Brian, the supporters can make or break a club if they really want to. But by and large, fans seem quite happy with the way their clubs are going – and show that by attending games and buying merch."KLOPP OUT replied: Regulator wants to increase regulation.

Thanks BBC. More news at 6? 🤷32T

Comment posted by The Gorg, today at 15:37The Gorg

15:37Last season I took the advice on here and started supporting my local team but the football was dire and the club was run so amateurishly it was so frustrating.

They then sacked their manager during the season and recently appointed someone I never heard of, Nuno Espírito Santo.200M

Reply posted by manvw, today at 16:04manvw

16:04to The Gorg"Last season I took the advice on here and started supporting my local team but the football was dire and the club was run so amateurishly it was so frustrating.They then sacked their manager during the season and recently appointed someone I never heard of, Nuno Espírito Santo."manvw replied: 😂00More replies (2)downG

Comment posted by Googly, today at 12:50Googly

12:50There are so many possible creative solutions to this.

e.g. For every £, above a certain threshold, spent by Premier clubs on salaries, they have to pay 10p into a central fund to sustain lower leagues.

They will cry that that it will drive quality abroad, but it won’t. Players won’t stay away from the best league in the world. Just don’t let the FA be in charge of the money.233A

Reply posted by Adiemus2015, today at 13:12Adiemus2015

13:12to Googly"There are so many possible creative solutions to this.e.g. For every £, above a certain threshold, spent by Premier clubs on salaries, they have to pay 10p into a central fund to sustain lower leagues.They will cry that that it will drive quality abroad, but it won’t. Players won’t stay away from the best league in the world. Just don’t let the FA be in charge of the money."Adiemus2015 replied: Just don’t let the EFL be in charge of the money either.140More replies (3)downB

Comment posted by BlueDutch, today at 12:29BlueDutch

12:29Allowing lower league clubs to operate on all-weather pitches would spell the end of football as we know it. The majority of fans don’t want predictable pitches, because if they did, there would already be in place. Football was born on grass and that is where it should continue to live.279L

Reply posted by LostmekecksintheGmex, today at 12:43LostmekecksintheGmex

12:43to BlueDutch"Allowing lower league clubs to operate on all-weather pitches would spell the end of football as we know it. The majority of fans don’t want predictable pitches, because if they did, there would already be in place. Football was born on grass and that is where it should continue to live."LostmekecksintheGmex replied: This is a bit of a naive view. I would much prefer we play on grass for the reasons you state. But we are looking at a new ground which would be 4G – the revenue opportunities from hiring the pitch out on non-matchdays could be something to keep us afloat. I don’t love it, but accept the financial benefits. Not to mention minimising postponements in winter, as all groundstaff are volunteers.195More replies (5)downW

Comment posted by whyisstephmcgovernstaringatme, today at 13:28whyisstephmcgovernstaringatme

13:28Not sure why the mens game should be subsidising the womens game. Equality should be true equality. No one subsidised the mens game when it was in its infancy. Womens game needs to earn it’s own keep and live with in it’s means.248N

Reply posted by None set, today at 14:34None set

14:34to whyisstephmcgovernstaringatme"Not sure why the mens game should be subsidising the womens game. Equality should be true equality. No one subsidised the mens game when it was in its infancy. Womens game needs to earn it’s own keep and live with in it’s means."None set replied: Maybe the FA could pay compensation instead…since they banned it and held back the women’s game. Or maybe we ban the men instead for 50 years to even back up. Which do you think is fair option? Past is the past but it does come calling for the debt to be repaid at some stage.64D

Comment posted by David McManus, today at 12:40David McManus

12:40The biggest clubs have too much power and keep all the money for themselves to waste. Who really wants to watch a sport where only 2 or 3 clubs have a realistic chance of winning the title182H

Reply posted by Heyesey, today at 12:46Heyesey

12:46to David McManus"The biggest clubs have too much power and keep all the money for themselves to waste. Who really wants to watch a sport where only 2 or 3 clubs have a realistic chance of winning the title"Heyesey replied: Hundreds of millions. The TV rights get sold to close on every country in the world.75More replies (5)downS

Comment posted by Skinny wheels, today at 13:03Skinny wheels

13:03How about introducing the 51% rule like they have in Germany so outside finances can still come in but the fans have control of the club216D

Reply posted by Doug, today at 13:13Doug

13:13to Skinny wheels"How about introducing the 51% rule like they have in Germany so outside finances can still come in but the fans have control of the club"Doug replied: Do you seriously see the powers that be in English football actually copying anything successful from anywhere else, particularly Germany?120More replies (8)downMore commentsBack to topunknown
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