Fan-led Review - Blackpool Supporters Trust Evidence
The Fan-led review of football governance announced by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on 19 April 2021, will explore ways of improving the governance, ownership and financial sustainability of clubs in English football, building on the strengths of the football pyramid. Blackpool Supporters Trust were invited to provide written and verbal evidence to the review team. The executive summary of this evidence is reproduced below. The full submitted evidence can be viewed here
EVIDENCE TO FAN-LED REVIEW: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Part A: the nature of failure
• the shortcomings in governance associated with the Oyston family were known about for at least a decade.
• such challenge to them as there was from the football authorities was very limited - and not followed up.
• the EFL and EPL came to opposite conclusions about whether Owen Oyston was a “fit and proper” person…
• ….. and allowed the issue to fall through the cracks after Blackpool were relegated from the EPL.
• in doing so, they between them compromised the integrity of the Championship for four whole seasons between 2011 and 2015.
• the 2017 court case (Oyston v Belokon) should have been a game changer
• it disclosed huge amounts of evidence about how the Oystons had subverted the governance of their own club in order to marginalise its minority shareholder.
• the EFL have never acted on that evidence in any meaningful way.
• BST pleaded with the EFL to take a strong lead - and even designed a “case review” model they could use to do so
• that initiative was largely ignored.
• the whole affair suggested that the EFL lacked the competence and character to confront such egregious behavior.
• a host of subsequent failures at other clubs suggests this is still the case.
• BST has no faith in the ability of the FA, or the Leagues, to regulate the game properly
• they have had decades, rather than years, to address misconduct and mismanagement - and have failed to do so
• we need a new approach, backed by law, and managed by people who are wholly independent.
• Part B of our submission deals with our proposals for achieving this type of reform.
Part B : areas for reform
• the ability and willingness of the FA and Leagues to regulate the game properly is questionable.
• there seem to be no stated principles for combatting failure, or any consistent approach when it occurs.
• the interests and concerns of supporters seem secondary, at best….
• … and the current system is run by the clubs, for the clubs.
• there is a lack of rigour and urgency in the way cases are handled
• clubs in crisis are now becoming a common feature of the landscape….
• ….. and COVID has exposed the underlying fragility of the pyramid.
• the way TV revenue is currently distributed creates and maintains huge structural inequity, which benefits the the EPL at the expense of everyone else.
• the huge financial gap between EPL and Championship in particular is encouraging some owners to behave in a wholly reckless manner that flies in the face of good sense.
• the current system of parachute payments exacerbates these problems….
• …. by effectively rewarding clubs relegated from the EPL…
• …. and shielding them from the consequences of failing to make contingency plans for this.
• the introduction of a salary cap in Leagues 1 & 2 was a welcome and progressive step to address some of the structural flaws in the game….
• …. it should be reintroduced as soon as possible and extended upwards and downwards to include the EPL, Championship, and all the levels below the EFL that fall under the remit of the Regulator
• abolishing parachute payments and restoring the salary cap is a good start….
• ….. but the underlying distribution model for TV revenue also needs a complete overhaul to make it fairer.
• this in turn suggests solidarity payments need to be substantially increased, and extended below the EFL to match the remit of the Regulator and allow for like for like assessment and/or comparisons.
3. The Regulator
• very broadly framed powers and corresponding discretion over their use
• access to real-time data about performance
• ability to make binding recommendations on major policy issues (such as revenue distribution, sanctions & penalties and models of club ownership)
• ability to promote and spread good practice.
• guaranteed sources of funding, including from football itself.
• support on complaint handling from an Independent Football Ombudsman
4. Football Association / Leagues
• should play no future part in regulation.
• should continue to organise and administer the Leagues and cups for which they are responsible….
• … with broad oversight from the Regulator
• and the Regulator should be able to make non-binding recommendations to the FA (for instance on its own corporate governance arrangements)