Much media coverage has been given to fans protesting outside grounds, with those from the six English clubs who originally signed up to the European Super League (ESL), demonstrating their strong opposition to their club’s involvement. Whilst the actions of some have led to condemnation (after all, football fans always get blamed for something), it serves to show the depth of feeling and desire for change in the way football is governed.
While the threat of the formation of the ESL has been halted for the immediate future, the net result has provided a focus in political circles for the long promised but not delivered fan led review of the game.
Ian Bason and Steve Moulds from the Foxes Trust board recently met with Liz Kendall MP for Leicester West and her team, to discuss the reforms that need to take place to ensure fans have a real say in the running of their club. Steve had meetings with a group of Labour MPs, headed by Keir Starmer and with executives of the Premier League. Foxes Trust has also been party to information shared by the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) regarding a meeting with the Prime Minister. Steve also attended an open meeting with Football Supporters Europe on its proposed action regarding UEFA.
Having confirmed, along with FSA, that we were supportive of the Terms of Reference for the fan-led review of football governance, the initial outcomes Foxes Trust are seeking are:
- A commitment to a timetable for that review to be completed, and that timetable should be short, ideally 3-6 months, but it clearly needs to cover all issues relating to all levels of the game.
- There should be a commitment to legislation to enact relevant recommendations from that report, ideally including a statement to that effect in the Queen’s Speech.
- That any findings result in the instigation of independent regulation of football clubs.
- The recommendations of the report should include either Board membership or some other form of enforceable oversight, so that properly-regulated fans’ organisations have a meaningful role in the running of professional football clubs
Liz Kendall gave a commitment to write to Tracey Crouch MP, who is leading the fan-led review into football governance, putting forward our views and also to continue dialogue with us as the review progresses. The Trust also wrote to each MP in Leicester and Leicestershire, receiving positive responses – to date – from Labour and Conservative MPs, namely Alberto Costa , Jon Ashworth , Andrew Bridgen, Neil O’Brien and Jane Hunt. All have agreed to write to Tracey Crouch and the latter has suggested a future meeting with Foxes Trust to discuss this matter.
The indications from FSA are that we can expect an interim report some time in the summer, with a view to a full report in the autumn.
At present, we are fortunate that LCFC has responsible owners. They have clearly demonstrated they understand the importance of the club to the city, its communities, culture and history. Our fans have a good relationship with the owners and the Trust has regular and meaningful dialogue with the club’s executives. However, owners are only temporary custodians and we have seen at other less fortunate clubs, you can be only one bad owner away from extinction. In the coming months, we can expect moves by the owners of some clubs to try and avoid the imposition of government legislation and any change in management structures that would involve fan representation.
In a press statement on 3 May, the Premier League stated it will be looking to make rule and regulation changes, including an owners charter, that prevent the likelihood of an ESL emerging again. Whilst agreeing to work with the FA and the government on these matters, this is only small part of the change required throughout football. As plans for the defunct ESL emerged, Steve Parish, Crystal Palace Chairman, commented on BBC’s Newsnight that the last thing clubs wanted was for legislation to be imposed and fans to be allowed on to club boards – well Mr Parish, we shall see about that!
On the 7 May, UEFA agreed to welcome back the nine clubs that decided to desert the ESL. As the saying goes, ‘Ts & Cs apply’ with the clubs committing to support UEFA competitions and domestic leagues. It also appears that UEFA will impose fines on these clubs albeit fairly minimal, as these will amount to 5 per cent of the revenues received from UEFA competitions this season. However, it is rumoured this could amount to around 15m Euros, that could be shared amongst grassroots football across Europe. So far, of the six English clubs involved all but Spurs are indicating that the costs of withdrawing from the ESL, will be met by the owners and not the clubs.
The UEFA announcement provoked a response the following day from the remaining three clubs supporting the ESL, with Real Madrid President, Florentino Perez, making an extraordinary press statement still claiming the aim of the ESL is to save football and reform UEFA not ruin the game. It remains to be seen if these clubs will be part of the Champions League or Europa League next season or what sanctions UEFA will invoke. What is clear is, the plans for an ESL are not yet completely dead.
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