Fan engagement and oversight of Premier League club buyouts at core of football review

ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott spoke to Tracey Crouch MP, who led the review into football governance, and football fans, who welcomed the recommendations

Taking key financial decisions out of the hands of Premier League clubs and ensuring fans get a say in how their teams are managed are some of the key recommendations in a landmark review of how the top of English football is managed.

The Independent Fan Led Review of Football Governance in England chaired by Tracey Crouch MP was published late on Wednesday.

The creation of a new regulator that recognised the importance of the business aspect of football but also ensured the protection of their cultural heritage and long term sustainability was at the centre of the recommendations.

The review has also recommended the granting of ‘golden share’ veto powers to supporters’ groups on key issues.

The panel also suggested additional support for the football pyramid via a “solidarity transfer levy” on deals between Premier League clubs or signings from overseas.

The Premier League welcomed the review and noted the importance of ensuring fans gain and retain trust in their clubs.

Fan participation was a core part of the review Credit: PA

But they cautioned that any reforms "do not damage our game, its competitive balance or the levels of current investment".

More than 100 hours of evidence were heard by the review over six months with contributions from supporters of more than 130 football clubs alongside all other parts of the game.

The review was promised in the Conservative Party's 2019 General Election manifesto and was commissioned after the Super League storm in April.

There has been increasing frustration in recent years by fans after several clubs have made financial-driven decisions that have been unpopular with fans and the wider football community.

What was recommended in the report?

The core measure of the review recommended a new independent regulator for English football (IREF) to ensure the long-term sustainability of football, which would be created by Parliament.

The IREF would operate a licensing system for men’s football and oversee the financial sustainability of the professional game taking significant decision making power from the hands of clubs.

The IREF would also establish tests to ensure that new owners or directors were suitable to be good custodians to "run these vitally important community and cultural assets."

On top of the IREF the report recommends a "Shadow Board" of fans be established for each club ensuring they were consulted on all key decisions and have key veto powers on major decisions like joining a new league.

Ensuring supporter engagement was a theme throughout the report.

There were also recommendations to ensure key items of a club's heritage, like a team's colours or badge, be given extra protection with fan support needed to consent to any change.

The Premier League cautiously welcomed the review Credit: PA

The "solidarity transfer levy" did not have a percentage attached to it but pointed out: "If a 10% levy had been applied in that period, excluding transfers from EFL clubs, an estimated £160 million per year could have been raised for distribution.

“This level of support, annually, could be game-changing to the pyramid.”

The review said the IREF would be responsible for ensuring fees were paid.

All professional clubs would be forced to adhere to a new corporate code of governance.

There were also references to ensure equality, diversity and inclusion plans were in place in every club.Although the report focused on the business side of football, the report also called for better mental health care and support for players - particularly at a young age.

The report covered the men's game but it also recommended women's football should be given a similar review.The Premier League welcomed the publication of the report and said it would study the proposals, adding "we recognise the vital importance of fans and the need to restore and retain their trust in football’s governance".

It said: "The Premier League, alongside English football as a whole, is a global success.

"We have an outstanding track record on and off the pitch, including the positive impact on youth development, communities and the wider game, of which we are proud.

"It is important to everyone that any reforms do not damage our game, its competitive balance or the levels of current investment."

The English Football League (EFL) said "financial stability has to be the number one priority".

It said in a statement: "We hope that through constructive dialogue with the football industry, the Fan Led Review is a catalyst for positive change that can make clubs sustainable, while serving the English game for many decades to come."

It added: "In particular, it is pleasing to see the review conclude that additional distributions from the top of the game are needed alongside appropriate cost controls to support football in this country, and we look forward to advancing discussions with the Premier League regarding a restructure of the funding model that works for the whole game."

A spokesperson for the FA said: “Many positive changes have already been made, some of which are directly as a result of the Review.

"We will digest the report in full and will continue to liaise with the government on potential solutions to the topics and recommendations that have been made.”

Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) committee chair Julian Knight MP called for "urgent government action" with a bill and called for the Secretary of State "to introduce a football regulator in the next Queen's speech".

He responded to the review:  “For too long professional football in this country has operated with a disregard for fans and for the most basic good business practice.

“We welcome the review’s central recommendation for an independent football regulator with accountability to the DCMS Committee to assess performance and value for money.

“A Shadow Board of fans with a Golden Share in clubs will put paid to ridiculous hair-brained schemes such as the European Super League. New owners’ and directors’ tests and a transfer levy to benefit grassroots clubs are all moves in the right direction."