After hearing more than 100 hours of evidence from stakeholders across all levels of football, Tracey Crouch’s fan-led review into the game’s governance has been published and the former sports minister has made 47 recommendations that have the potential to alter the sport beyond recognition.
The review, which is 162 pages long and was first promised in the Tories’ pre-election manifesto in 2019, was launched in response to the failed European Super League plans in April.
Crouch has led a panel of 11 that includes former England and Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson and they have listened to stakeholders across the game.
So what will the recommendations mean for your club?
Here football.london takes a look at the most important outlined in the document and assesses the potential of them being implemented.
The most important suggestion of all. An independent regulator would be brought in by an Act of Parliament and oversee the financial regulation of the sport. Premier League clubs are expected to oppose the creation of a regulator but the EFL have already put their weight behind it and 93% of fans surveyed by the panel (16,658 out of 17,938) said that it should be a priority.
“Given the dire state of football finances, bold leadership and difficult decisions are needed,” the report says. “Current oversight of financial rules is led by leagues, made up by the clubs that will be regulated. Taking bold decisions and being able to secure support for that change is very difficult.
“Most importantly, there is a clear conflict of interest between the interests of clubs and their direct or indirect involvement in oversight of the system that regulates them. Independent regulation is the only way to overcome this issue as it will not have a conflict of interest. As a statutory body with a clearly defined purpose an independent regulator will listen to but not be constrained by the voices of clubs, enabling it to effect change in a timely way.”
It would be impossible to implement many of the other recommendations without it being established.
Clubs will need to apply for a licence to operate via the regulator, which will be funded on a scale with Premier League teams paying more towards running costs. The body would have power to sanction any club that broke licencing rules.
Owners and directors test
The current test has been described as not fit for purpose by stakeholders for many years and Crouch’s proposal to split it in two with far more stringent criteria can only be viewed as a good thing. This can be brought to fruition without a regulator, although the report says it should be run by the new body.
A long-term source of irritation for smaller clubs, its intention is described as “laudable” by Crouch but in need of wide reform. Discussions have already taken place between the Premier League and EFL but no solution is in sight. The report adds: “If football cannot find a solution by the end of the year, the Review has concluded that the Premier League and the EFL should jointly commission external advice to develop a solution to parachute payments as well as wider distribution issues.” There is no detail on an alternative model, though Crouch writes that “creative thinking” is required.
A solidarity transfer levy, according to the review, is “the most progressive intervention” when it comes to filtering more money down the pyramid. It would see Premier League clubs incur an additional cost similar to stamp duty on purchases of players from abroad or other top-flight rivals. Working off the figure of 10%, the review estimated that an average £160million per season would have been redistributed in the past five years.
“This would be a relatively modest cost to Premier League clubs [particularly given the relative financial advantage of the Premier League over other European leagues because broadcast income will grow in years to come] but annually, could be game changing to the rest of the football pyramid,” the report says, detailing that a £160m payment would ensure that third and fourth tier clubs broke even by availing of a special grant and more than 280 pitches for grassroots teams could be built.
Premier League clubs would strongly reject any attempt to introduce such a tax and it is unlikely to become a reality without a regulator with sufficient power.
A proposal that will satisfy most supporters, it is unclear what sort of pushback to expect from clubs. Essentially the “golden share” would see nominated fan groups, predominantly existing supporters’ trusts, offered veto power over decisions relating to the heritage of their club that would effectively end the prospect of a closed shop Super League being created. “[Decisions] would require the consent of the shareholder to certain actions by the club – specifically selling the club stadium or permanently relocating it outside of its local area, joining a new competition not affiliated to FIFA, UEFA and the FA, or changing the club badge, the club name or first team home colours.”
One aspect that is unlikely to go down well with the PFA is a recommendation for a clause to be inserted into player contracts which would see salaries fall and rise by a fixed percentage depending on promotion or relegation.
Drinking in the stands
A suggestion that can be introduced without much legal red tape or resistance. The review proposes a pilot scheme in League Two and the National League that would allow fans to have a pint from the stands. Police may object but Crouch argues it will aid the sustainability of smaller clubs, boosting their revenue.
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Protecting young and old players
Although not initially part of the panel’s remit, the report contains a chapter on the welfare of players. Among the proposals is a call to align private academies with county FAs but chief among the concerns is a lack of aftercare for those exiting the game.
“As a matter of high priority, the football stakeholders, including the FA, men’s leagues, PFA, clubs and women’s leagues [must] work together to devise a holistic and comprehensive player welfare system to fully support players exiting the game, particularly at academy level but including retiring players, including proactive mental health care and support,” the report says but does not detail many specific solutions or outline what that mental health care should entail.