White Paper on football governance: supporters react to news

The government has presented its White Paper on football governance to the House of Commons, and supporters have given their initial reactions.

The key recommendations include a new independent regulator, a tougher owners and director’s test and the ability to block English clubs from joining breakaway competitions, such as the European Super League.

Neil Jackson of QPR 1st Supporters Trust is cautiously optimistic, but hopes greater protection is given to fans who have suffered in the past from irresponsible owners.

He said: “There have been too many bad owners coming into the sport and that is really affecting us at lower levels.

“The most important thing is the redistribution of wealth and fit for proper tests for owners – we need government intervention to sort out the worst things and stop charlatans and speculators moving in and ruining clubs, which we have seen with the likes of Bury and Wigan in the past.”

Despite the government’s aim to put the fans back at the heart of how football is run, Jackson is still concerned at the lack of detail given to fan representation, arguing for the need of supporters to be on their own club’s boards to provide guidance for owners.

Charlton Athletic are another club that have suffered from mismanagement in recent times, firstly with Roland Duchatelet in the mid-2010s, the short-lived takeover of ESI (East Street Investments) and now with Thomas Sandgaard.

Heather Alderson of the Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust contributed to the fan-led review and welcomes the white paper and the introduction of an independent regulator, agreeing with the EFL (English Football League) that it could be a landmark moment for English football.

She said: “The owners and directors test has now been enhanced and the test is even more robust on source of funds and in terms of making clubs more sustainable.”

Alderson notes that if such reforms had been put in place before it would have prevented ESI buying Charlton in the first place, with three members of the company subsequently failing the owners test months later due to the sourcing of funds not being approved.

This would lead to her own club being penalised, with the south east London outfit having a transfer embargo imposed upon them during the summer of 2020.

She believes supporters will be pleased to see the primary duty of cultural heritage being protected – with fans having the ability to prevent owners changing the name, badge and traditional club colours of their club.

Furthermore, Alderson is supportive of measures such as the proposed regulator being given backstop measures to ensure revenue is distributed from the top division through the football pyramid, even if there is no agreement between the Premier League, EFL and National League.

She said: “The Premier League benefits from a healthy pyramid, and the pyramid itself drives people’s relationship with football – it’s all about hope in your football club.”

Nevertheless, Alderson believes there is still work to be done to make sure reforms are put in place to protect the game as a whole.

She said: “We’ve got to stay involved; we can’t assume that it’s job done. The government will need help for all of this to pass through in detail and fans will have to stay engaged.”

A similar review into the domestic women’s game is already underway.

Featured image credit: FromMorningToMidnight, via CC BY-SA 4.0

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