Football reform was once again up for debate in Parliament as a whole host of football figures appeared in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee – including Kevin Miles, Chief Executive of the Football Supporters’ Association.
The one-off evidence session followed the Fan-led Review of Football Governance as the Committee sought views on the establishment of a new independent regulator for men’s football with powers covering club licensing, football finances, appointing owners and directors and mandating fan engagement.
Chair of the Fan-led Review Tracey Crouch MP appeared alongside the FSA and both parties expressed frustration at the speed of progress.
Crouch said that, despite football seemingly being in agreement that reform was needed, public comments from the Premier League didn’t match behind-the-scenes discussions.
She said that the Premier League had attempted to kick the report into the long grass and erected a “whole series of hurdles” to delay reform. Crouch said the EFL and FA had been more willing partners to reform.
PL clubs want to “mark their own homework”
Kevin Miles, Chief Executive of the FSA, said: “We’ve been campaigning around this for a long time, and while Bury is an example of what we’d have liked legislation to prevent, there are earlier examples and we live in fear that there are later examples. It can’t come soon enough for us.
“We’ve worked with staff from the Premier League on a Fan Engagement Standard (FES) and, in the immediate aftermath of the Fan-led Review report, initial discussions were very good and would have delivered most of the expectations of the report.
“Staff at the Premier League were constructive but what we’ve found is that every time a proposal was sounded out with the clubs, the clubs were reluctant to sign up to.”
Clubs are ‘marking their own homework’ and Premier League rules have been set to satisfy the ‘weakest and most reluctant’ clubs in relation to fan engagement.
“The clubs would rather set a low bar and the manifestation of the FES published by the Premier League now is entirely inadequate. There’s nothing in their FES which prevents the chief executive of a club from selecting the Fan Advisory Board,” said Miles.
Crouch added that while progress was slower than she would have liked, the content of the Government’s White Paper was satisfactory.
“There is cross-party consensus on the primary recommendation around the independent regulator which means if the legislation is written in a focused manner it should go through quickly and smoothly,” she said.
The FSA and Tracey Crouch MP were followed by EFL Chair Rick Parry, FA Chair Debbie Hewitt and the Chief Executive of the Premier League, Richard Masters.
While the EFL and the FA both accepted the need for an independent regulator the Premier League said it would “rather it wasn’t happening in this particular way but it is happening and we’re going to engage constructively with it.”