Football needs help, and it can’t help itself. It’s time to be united. It’s time to RISE UP.
English football, particularly at the highest level, enjoys unparalleled popularity with record attendances, viewing figures and eye-watering income. Yet you don’t have to dig very deep to find a rather different reality. Behind the scenes, the beautiful game is starting to turn ugly. Some supporters and communities are not just turning their back on their club, but are at war.
Why? Simply put, some club owners are not just destroying the teams themselves, but the towns and cities that support them..
They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Indeed, the problem has been recognised before – clubs such Blackpool, Leyton Orient and Leeds to name a few have filled column inches for the wrong reasons. Fans shut out, exploited, taken for a ride. But chants for change have fallen on deaf ears, and we won’t sit on the bench any longer. It’s time for all fans to rise up. That’s why, for the first time ever, supporters’ groups, fans, and one tenacious sports brand are all uniting to change football for good.
The problem is that the F.A., the body tasked with overseeing all aspects of the game, has delegated too much of its power so that it can no longer perform this role properly. It’s a problem that a growing number of supporters have realised, alongside outgoing F.A. Chairman and Senior Executives. The EFL itself has even hinted that there’s a problem. The reality is that the game has evolved quicker than the structure behind it.
Why is it that ill-discipline on the pitch is stringently marshalled by the F.A., yet bad governance off it has been delegated to the clubs themselves to referee? Despite the best efforts of the governing bodies the regulatory system that has evolved is too weak and reactive. To implement changes to critical areas such as club ownership, stewardship, financing and facility protection requires large majorities of conflicted club owners to vote in favour. Why would they? These regulatory inadequacies trigger an all too familiar spiral of decline with supporters and communities let down by an inadequate system. The positive work and stories from most clubs is undermined, and everyone connected with the game – be they sponsors, employees, volunteers or players – suffer the reputational damage.
The solution is a blueprint for how football governance should work and the changes required to bring it about.
SD and SKINs believe it is time for football to have an independent regulatory body. One that can not only set but, crucially, can enforce off-pitch regulation. This is not something new. In 2012 the Football Association Regulatory Authority (FARA) was announced, heralded as a new regulatory body set up to improve football governance. Yet, for reasons never explained, the F.A. has never implemented this initiative, and we stumble on.
The inconsistent governing body rulebooks need to be comprehensively reviewed and updated to address the challenges facing the modern game. We also need club licensing system, administered by the new regulatory body that operates proactively with the power to sanction clubs who are non-compliant. This will mean no more clubs are rendered homeless, promoted despite breaching rules or reliant on funding from unnamed entities. Energy should be spent on building, not destroying supporter and community relations. The new regulatory body needs to be adequately resourced, something that could be easily achieved with a small % levy on commercial rights income generated by the leagues.
This campaign is not about putting the boot in to the F.A. or any of the leagues. It’s about accepting that we have a problem and proposing a meaningful, comprehensive solution.
Many of our recommendations aren’t new or different to what other countries deploy. In fact, there are only five countries in UEFA that do not have a formal regulatory body in place with the requisite powers to manage the way leagues and clubs operate. England is one of those five – along with Andorra and Montenegro. But without a helping hand from Government, it’s hard to see these suggestions being implemented.
Input from the fans, the lifeblood of any club, is essential. People from the world of football – whether supporters, owners or professionals within the game – need to work together to pressurise government to put in place the legislative powers required. For this reason, a series of regional ‘Fans Not Numbers’ roadshows has been organised to highlight these issues and to start the debate. Each roadshow will have a panel of informed people from the worlds of sport, politics and business and supporters are welcome to attend these free events and to contribute to the reshaping of football’s future.
Football has always been about winners and losers. Glorious rivalries and battles. But these battles should be contested on the pitch, not in the stands or in court. Club news should fill the back pages, not the front.
SKINS and Supporters Direct believe the F.A. can fix the game, but they need government backing and the legal power to act. So contact your local MP, let them know that we’re fans not numbers and demand reform. United, we can change football for good.
For more information and to make your voice heard, visit fansnotnumbers.org
Get along to the North-West launch of Fans Not Numbers: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fans-not-numbers-blackpool-tickets-37310710339
|WHERE||Hilton Hotel, North Promenade Sea Front, Blackpool FY1 2JQ|
|WHEN||Tuesday, 5th September 2017|
|TIME||19.00 for 19:30|