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Football fans to get veto over clubs joining breakaway competitions after hated European Super League bid

The i 20/09/2021 Hatty Collier

Football fans are to be given a veto over their clubs taking part in new competitions after the failed bid by six top-flight teams to join a breakaway European Super League.

Proposals for a ‘golden share’ that gives supporters’ groups power to protect their clubs are being developed by a fan-led review set up in the wake of the debacle.

They were included in the review’s interim findings in July and are all-but certain to appear in the final report expected next month, i understands.

Although stopping short of giving fans a controlling financial stake the so-called ‘golden share’ is intended to protect ‘heritage assets’ like badges, colours and location. Crucially it would also hand supporters’ groups a veto over participation in new competitions.

Other significant changes include allowing lower league teams to install artificial pitches to reduce overheads and a new legally-established independent football regulator to police the business side of the game.

The attempt by Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal to join a new European Super League united fans in outrage. It exposed the vulnerability of the game to financial currents straining the traditional pyramid structure.

Widespread fury from fans and sporting figures over plans for the European Super League lead to all six teams pulling out of the new competition less than 48 hours after it was launched in April.

But Tracey Crouch, the former sports minister chairing the review, warns that the ESL is “not as dead as people think it is” and that some of the so-called ‘big six’ still nurse hopes it can be revived.

She says the new regulator will share some of the features of the Financial Conduct Authority, established after the global financial crash, and hints at legal limits on wage bills to ensure clubs don’t go bust.

“What we saw in the banking crisis was an arrogance that crept into the sector that they were too big to fail. And we’ve seen that creep into football [they] think that they’re too big to just disappear that somehow someone will come in and save a club, and a community with it,” she said.

The interim review identified unsustainable wage bills as an issue of serious concern. Asked if it would recommend legally capping salaries as a percentage of turnover, Ms Crouch said it was under discussion.

“If you’re going to address the issue of financial sustainability, you have to look at the thing that is the biggest draw on finances and salary is obviously one of those things.”

She said she was still waiting for the Premier League and English Football League to develop reforms to parachute payments that critics say distort the pyramid and was ready to impose a solution if they failed.

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