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Football fans should get a ‘golden share veto’ to stop breakaway leagues, says chair of review into game

The i 22/07/2021 Richard Vaughan

Giving fans a “golden share veto” to protect their clubs against future breakaway leagues will be needed to safeguard the national game, the chair of a Government review into Football says.

Former sports minister Tracey Crouch issued a series of proposals as part of an early draft of her fan-led review into football. It was commissioned in the wake of six Premier League clubs attempting to join the abortive European Super League in April.

In a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, Ms Crouch set out ideas to ward off what she believes are “genuine threats” to the future of the game. 

She called for an independent regulator to provide oversight of financial regulation, corporate governance and ownership of English clubs. 

And to give fans greater power over their clubs, the Conservative backbencher suggested they be handed a “golden share veto” over decisions to do with relocating teams, changing club colours or badges and – crucially – preventing attempts to join different competitions. 

“Key aspects of our national game are at genuine risk. The short-lived threat of the European Super League jeopardised the future of the English football pyramid,” Ms Crouch wrote.

“While that threat has receded – for now – the dangers facing many clubs across the country are very real with their futures precarious and dependent in most cases on the willingness and continuing ability of owners to fund significant losses.”

The idea of following the German model of majority fan ownership of football clubs is unlikely to form part of her final recommendations, however. 

Speaking to i, Ms Crouch said: “No one came forward with evidence calling for the German model from any of the supporter groups. I think people realise it is something that is very difficult to do with the English game.”

The Tory MP said that the remit of a new regulator would include requirements around cost controls, real-time financial monitoring, and revised, separate tests for would-be owners and directors, plus ongoing assessment of their suitability.

She felt the new body was necessary because the existing football authorities had “lost the trust and confidence” of supporters and of some clubs.

Any such change is likely to require legislation. In response to the interim findings, Mr Dowden insisted: “I will not hesitate to take bold steps where necessary.” 

Ms Crouch also suggested deeper reforms may be necessary at the Football Association, the Football League and the Premier League, with a recommendation that at least 50 per cent of the FA board be composed of independent non-executive directors.

And she floated the possibility of placing a levy on transfer or agent fees to provide greater funding to support grassroots and women’s football. 

The final report will be published in the autumn.

Responding to the letter, the Premier League said in a statement: “The Premier League welcomes the publication of the preliminary findings.

“We will now consider the initial update and are committed to supporting Tracey Crouch, the panel and the DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport] team as they finalise their recommendations.”

Twelve European clubs, including Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, announced they were setting up a European Super League on 18 April.

The plan sparked fury in fans, the Premier League, the FA, and Uefa, which threatened to kick the teams out of the Champions’ League. The UK government also warned it could take action. Amid the backlash, clubs started to pull out of the ESL and by Wednesday 21 April the plan had collapsed.

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