FAN-LED REVIEW: BST Q&A ON INDEPENDENT REGULATION

What exactly is meant by “independent”?

In this context, it means not controlled by people with vested interests in how it is done. At present it is controlled by the Leagues on behalf of clubs, and largely managed for the benefit of those clubs.

Why is it needed?

Blackpool fans know all about the shortcomings of bodies like the EFL, EPL and FA. But there is a long list of clubs who have suffered crises in recent years, often brought about by mismanagement. Few, if any, of the fans of those clubs would be satisfied by the level of protection that they and their interests get in such cases.

What are fans looking for?

Obviously this varies from case to case. But fans: 
•    want decisive action 
•    they expect the powers that the authorities have to be exercised fairly and consistently 
•    they hope that any action taken will target wrongdoers rather than the clubs and the supporters themselves…. 
•    …. and they need good communication that provides clear explanations about what is going on

Could the FA not take all the power to regulate to the centre, and do the job themselves?

They could, and until a couple of years ago that was what the FSA were pressing for. But the FA’s lack of leadership, and failure to respond adequately to the crises at Bury and Macclesfield were sobering. It is difficult not to see the FA as part of the problem, because it is not offering the overall stewardship of the sport that we are en-titled to expect.

What exactly is meant by regulation?

Not what the EFL call regulation, by which they mean a host of rules covering not only conduct but also things like competition registration, advertising, pitch sizes and so on.

In this sense, the meaning of “regulation” centres on compliance with rules, owner and director behaviour, standards and governance.

Regulation has multiple aims then?

Yes. The FSA evidence to the fan-led review, and our own, both point to the need to do all of the following:

•    promote good practice and raise standards

•    protect integrity of clubs, leagues and competitions

•    target wrongdoers, not fans

•    create a truly independent Ombudsman to investigate complaints

•    make interventions in time to make a difference, and appropriate to the problem

How can this be achieved in practice?

The review needs to come up with recommendations for action on a broad range of issues. These include:

•    making sure that the regulator is completely independent

•    giving the regulator broadly framed powers, and the widest possible discretion

•    providing the regulator with information that is as close to “real time” as possible

•    ensuring that the regulator is properly funded - whether from Parliament, from football itself, or some combination of the two

Will this mean legislation? When?

The BST view is that we think legislation will be necessary to give the new arrangements “teeth”. 

If there is to be a Bill, it will probably also need to include provisions to deliver financial reform and changes to supporter rights. It will take time to take these through Parliament - but is probably the best way to deliver real, radical change.

How will UEFA and FIFA view these proposals?

The Panel asked the FSA to do further work on this, which was published on 23 July. 

The relevant FIFA statutes require governance of football in Member Associations to be free of political interference, and that the Association (FA here) should lead on certain matters including club licensing.

The FSA view is that this does not mean that regulation cannot be vested in an independent body - in fact, this is likely to make political interference LESS likely. And there are strong precedents in the way that French game in particular is regulated for the approach being recommended in England, which has strong similarities with it.

BST
July 2021