Published in the Gazette 15/11/2022 Read Here or below
November marks the anniversary of the publication of the Tracey Crouch Review of English football, a report which set out some far reaching proposals for the ways in which she recommends our national sport needs to change.
This topic is unusual in our politics in that there is widespread agreement among both the main parties that Tracey’s report hits all the right notes ; and that it should be implemented without delay.
The fact that - one year on - we are still waiting for significant progress in doing so is disappointing, and the Football Supporters Association (FSA) are, on 15 November, launching a swathe of activities, which will culminate on the anniversary itself. They will be designed to :
• restate the case for change
• point to the lost opportunities for progress in the last year and
• highlight once again the failings of the bodies who actually run the game
Not everyone is as enthusiastic as our back bench MPs , when it comes to effecting change. It is probably fair to say that the English Premier League - which has the most to lose from reform - has dragged its heels a great deal. The EFL have been more positive, as they see agreeing to reform as a way of getting a deal on revenue distribution which will give their Members more money. Meanwhile the FA continues to make a case for why they should be entrusted with the stewardship of an independent regulator - despite the wholesale credibility they have lost since the demise of Bury and Macclesfield.
This political inertia within the game is frustrating (if predictable). What has been equally disappointing has been that the Government has not been able to move with greater pace to counter it.
The initial signs were quite encouraging - the Crouch proposals got a pretty constructive (and reasonably thorough) response from DCMS in the Spring, and there were (briefly) hopes of legislation in the current Parliamentary Session (which runs through to next May). But one of the by-products of the low farce caused by the Conservative leadership battles this year has been a creeping policy paralysis in Government.
We have had some reassuring noises from the new Ministerial Team in DCMS, and we are told that a White Paper will come soon. But it needs to be accompanied by swift progress on drafting legislation if a Bill is to be included in the King’s Speech in May. The lobbying of Government by the FSA and others to secure this continues.
The pity of all this is that the problem cases in football keep coming. At Blackpool we are seen as elder statesmen these days, so long ago do our struggles seem. Of course they are still relatively recent, but the constant drip drip of problem owners and crisis clubs make them appear like old news. Even now, BST are aware of at least seven clubs that are causing concern across EPL, EFL and the National League ; there are almost certainly others.
What does this have to do with Blackpool fans? We have come through our struggles and out the other side, but there is no guarantee that others will. We should care about that.
We should also care about the apparent contempt the broadcasters have for those of us who actually go to games. Late changes to kick-offs are becoming commonplace, and, as Christine Seddon once famously remarked, we are in real danger of becoming extras at our own sport.
We need an independent regulator who will have the powers needed to make sure our interests as fans are paramount. We need a regulatory framework that forces the Leagues to reach a fairer set of arrangements for distributing the sack loads of money in the game. We need better protection for clubs and their heritage, and a voice for fans that is enshrined in law.
We also need better protections for players at either end of their careers, and a drive to make the game more inclusive of everyone. We need a review of the Women’s Game as it makes great strides, to make sure it does not repeat the major mistakes of the past.
As fans, you have the right to demand this, and the next week of action by the FSA is designed to make YOUR case to anyone and everyone who needs to listen. And you can help by :
• lobbying your local MP about why this matters to you
• joining the Supporters Trust to make your voice heard locally and
• taking advantage of the free membership offered by the FSA to give them a stronger mandate to fight on your behalf
The English football pyramid is much loved, and much cherished. But it has never been under greater threat than it is now. If you love the traditions of the game, there has never been a better time to fight for them. Over the course of the next week, those messages are going to be delivered loud and clear. Makes your voice count too.
15 November 2022