Thursday 16 July 2020 / 7:37 AM Alison McGovern / Sport

Labour presses for fan-led review of football

Alison McGovern MP, Labour’s Shadow Sports Minister, says the Government needs to get started on its fan-led review of football before it is too late.

In a letter to Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston, Ms McGovern says longstanding issues around football governance are becoming urgent, with almost 10 years since a cross-party committee of MPs published recommendations.

The move follows Labour raising concerns about the financial future for many local clubs whose income has been hit by the Coronavirus crisis and Wigan Athletic going into administration.

Ms McGovern is urging the Government to get on with developing the scope of the review and backs the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland’s request that the review includes clubs in the Scottish league.

 

Alison McGovern said:

“Like other challenges in our country, Covid-19 has magnified the long-term structural challenges for football. The crisis has showed sports organisations are at the heart of their communities and no community deserves to lose a much-loved football club.

“What happened at Wigan Athletic perfectly makes the case for why we need reform and why it cannot wait any longer.

“This must be a project for the whole of the UK, so we are urging the Government to develop a framework that enables Scottish football to be included – the issues in football north of the border have plenty of overlap with those in the rest of the UK.

“If the Government wants to deliver on its manifesto pledge for football fans, the first step must be to explain what fan-led means in practice, who will take part and, most importantly, when we can expect change. This must be genuinely driven by what fans want and need, from the grassroots up.

“This crisis has shown cracks in so many areas of our society after a decade of Conservative governments. Football is no different.”

 

 

Full text of the letter:

Dear Nigel

Fan-led review of football: scope and current crisis 

Thank you for the recent discussions on the future of football in England. I know how strongly you feel about the need for change in the national game, and I was very pleased to talk about how we could make progress for the long-term.

As you will be aware, the Conservative-led Government acknowledged that reform was needed in football in 2011 in its response to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee report on the issue. I hope we can draw on the work that colleagues across both Houses of Parliament have done over many years to work towards a football structure that is modern, accountable and above all, puts fans at the heart of their clubs.

Almost 10 years on, the situation is becoming urgent. Like other challenges in our country, Covid-19 has magnified the long-term structural challenges for football. What happened at Wigan Athletic is a perfect example.

Labour MPs are very concerned about the financial future for many clubs in the immediate term and we believe that no community should lose a much-loved club and local institution as a result. We hope this is an objective the Government can support.

My colleague and Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Ian Murray, has written to you as well to ask whether Scotland could be included in the review. Scottish and Welsh fans should not miss out on the opportunity to contribute to the review.

I noted your clear commitment to the fan-led review as promised in the Conservative 2019 manifesto and that the Government intends to develop the scope and structure of that review. With those preparations in mind, I have set out below a list of questions I believe should form part of the planning stage. This list is by no means exhaustive, but perhaps it can help inform early thinking. I hope this is an area where we can demonstrate effective cross-party working and I hope we will be able to discuss these points in greater detail soon.

With very best wishes,

Alison McGovern MP

 

Covid-19

  1. What are the long-term consequences of the short-term impact of Covid-19 for football?

Process

  1. How will the term fan-led be defined?
  2. Who will take part?
  3. Who will lead the review?
  4. Who will facilitate people taking part and by what process will people take part?
  5. For example, will you ask the Football Supporters Association to play a formal role in the review?
  6. What is an appropriate timeline for the review?

Governance

  1. Who should be able to own a football club?
  2. What ongoing tests of conduct and culture should be met?
  3. What information ought to be in the public domain regarding ownership, finance and structure?
  4. Has the Government made any preliminary assessment of the effectiveness of the current owners and directors tests?

Finance

  1. How can we improve financial resilience in the game?
  2. What role should wage rules play in reducing financial fragility?
  3. How can redistribution amongst clubs – from those with high broadcast revenue to those without – take place without distorting competition or creating non-sporting cliff edges?
  4. What kind of partnerships are available to clubs that provide social goods/services as part of their regular activities?
  5. How effective is the football creditors rule?