FAN LED REVIEW: BST Q&A - PROTECTING AND DEVELOPING THE GAME

What is this all about?

It is shorthand for protecting the pyramid, and fighting off threats to it; preserving the overall health of the game and doing a better job of managing the welfare of young players in particular

What does the FSA want to happen?

The list of things being asked for is quite long, and we have picked out four main areas:

a)    competition structures

This is an area of football that has come under serious threat in recent times, culminating in Project Big Picture and the European Super League. All the Leagues insist that competition integrity is vital to them, but recent events at clubs like Blackpool, Bury, Macclesfield, Sheffield Wednesday and Derby, and the EPL response to the six clubs involved in the ESL initiative, have raised serious doubts about the ability of the bodies concerned to manage these issues.

What are the FSA proposing?

That:

•    promotion should continue to be key features of all leagues, the outcome of which should be decided on merit, on the field

•    qualification to play in European competitions should also be decided on merit alone, based upon league position in the preceding season. There should be no increase in the number of European competitions, their size and the number of games played

•    every step possible should be taken to preserve the integrity of domestic Cup competitions

•    the domestic TV blackout on 3 p.m. Saturday goes should continue, subject to any further worsening of the situation on COVID

b) the role of supporters

What is being asked for here?

This is largely covered elsewhere, but the FSA reaffirms that they looking for:

•    more supporter representation on the FA Council

•    supporter representatives on the Boards of the EPL, EFL, NL and WL

c) Young Players & Academies

What is the context?

The FSA view is that young players are not especially well served by the way that the game currently handles their interests. Equally, the way the current system works provides disproportionate power to a handful of richer clubs to swallow up talent. 

What can be done?

The changes being sought include:

•    greater, more centralised control over the way in which young players are recruited, and of the role of agents in the process

•    reducing the scope of the biggest clubs to monopolise talent - coupled with moves to help develop Academies at lower league clubs, focusing on their long-term viability and sustainability

•    the imposition of limits on the size of Academies, and a review of the loan system as it affects Academy players

•    much greater emphasis on safeguarding for young players at Academies, in particular far more support for the many players who never manage to have a professional football career at the end of the process. This support could (for example) take in welfare, counselling and support and help in securing pathways to employment and training

d) the role of agents

Are they not just a necessary evil in the modern game?

Possibly. But the position of the FSA is that they currently take eye-watering sums out of the game every year in fees and commissions, and the benefit to the game as a whole is at best marginal. 

There are also worries about how the role is being performed in some instances, from an ethical viewpoint. It is not unknown for example, for the same agent to represent player, selling club AND buying club in the same transfer. The conflicts of interest are very obvious.

So what do the FSA propose?

•    stronger rules on agent conduct and practice, managed through the independent regulator

•    specifically, stronger rules backed by enforcement to prohibit practices that create conflicts of interest

•    restrictions on the ability of agents to represent young players, especially those in Academies

•    a levy on agent fees, as a contribution to the cost of maintaining the independent regulator

BST 
July 2021