Fan Led Review – What is it and how might it affect Blues?
Neil Moxley in the Mirror on Wednesday suggested that ‘The Fan Led Review’ could be another way of putting pressure on Blues Owners. But what is the review, how could it help Blues and how can fans help?
What is the Fan Led Review?
The Fan Led Review (FLR) was set up by the Government to recommend improvements in how English football is run following the demise of Bury FC, Covid-19’s impact on football and the aborted European Super League.
The Review talked to a range of stakeholders, including the Blues Trust, to identify the key challenges facing the game. Some of the problems at Blues are quoted in the report. The key challenges the Review identified were:
- Excessive financial incentives which drive poor and reckless decision making
- Poor governance of clubs – where owners can act with impunity, ignoring the interests of fans
- Poor regulation – where regulations are overseen by those who are regulated and are not up to the task of ensuring a sustainable future for clubs.
The Review then recommended a series of solutions to tackle these challenges. The aim of these recommendations is to ensure clubs are better run and are financially sustainable, the voice of the fans is taken into account and the game is more competitive. The next step is for the government to introduce legislation to implement these recommendations. If all goes according to plan then these changes would come into effect in 2023.
What solutions were recommended?
There were several recommendations but the main ones were as follows:
- Setting up a new Independent Regulator for English Football (IREF) to ensure a sustainable and competitive league. This would mean for Championship clubs that the EFL would no longer conduct fit and proper person tests or look after profitability and sustainability criteria – all that would pass to IREF
- New regulations are introduced to help ensure financial sustainability and improve competition. These include replacing the current profitability and sustainability criteria with a new system whereby clubs have to agree sustainable budgets in advance. There would also be some limits on the level of owner subsidies.
- Introduce new, much more stringent, owners’ and directors’ tests. These would include enhanced due diligence on the sources of funds using techniques developed by National Crime agency to avoid money laundering. These tests would apply retrospectively, not just to new owners.
- Increased supporter engagement with clubs. Each club would have a shadow board of 5-12 independently elected fan representatives covering the breadth of the fan base who would be consulted on short-term and long-term business issues facing the club.
- Protection of key club assets – ownership of the stadium, re-location of the club outside the locality, colours, badge etc – through a Golden Share which is held by fans and gives them a right of veto on these issues. If a stadium has already been sold (like St Andrews has been) then IREF will be looking at new security of tenure property rights to protect the stadium
- Fairer redistribution of revenue throughout the game to improve competition and sustainability. In the first instance the FLR has asked the EPL and EFL to sort a new revenue distribution model between them with the IREF having powers to address this if it is not sorted. The review also recommends an automatic salary adjustment on relegation or promotion and a solidarity transfer levy on the EPL transfers to support the wider football pyramid.
The recommendations also call for a separate review of women’s football as well as suggesting ways to improve player welfare and promote diversity.
How will this affect Blues?
If the existing owners are still here when this is introduced it gives fans another tool to put pressure on the owners. All existing owners will be subject to the new owners’ test and source of funds investigation with the highest risk owners being the first to be scrutinised. Blues Trust is pushing that Blues owners are in that first category. The creation of the IREF also gives us a proper independent regulator to raise our issues with rather than the EFL with its vested interests. Additionally, the potential new security of tenure property rights will help further protect the stadium.
Beyond that the FLR will help ensure that the owners (whoever they are) run the club in a good way and, hopefully, encourage better quality of owners. If we get new owners there is no guarantee that they will be good for the club – look at the owners we had over the last 50 years, only 2 out of the 6 managed to get us promoted to the top flight. The FLR recommendations would enable much greater scrutiny of owners and their sources of funds and ensure the club is run sustainably – thereby avoiding many of the issues we have seen over the last 10 years. It will also allow fans to have greater visibility of the club’s intentions and a greater say in the running of the club. Given Blues position any fairer distribution of revenue is likely to advantage Blues and make them relatively more competitive.
The FLR is crucial if we want confidence about getting better quality owners and the club being run well.
What happens next?
The Government is expected to put the proposed legislation in the next Queen’s speech for consideration by Parliament around May. Meanwhile vested football interests – particularly the Premier League and some of its clubs – are already trying to water down the recommendations.
We have been in discussions with the Football Supporters Association (FSA) about the next steps. They are planning a coordinated national campaign around the end of February to promote the FLR and encourage the government to commit to putting it in the Queen’s speech in undiluted form. The Trust has prepared a template letter for fans, that highlights Blues plight, to send to their MPs as part of this campaign and will be releasing it once the full details of the FSA campaign are announced to maximise its effectiveness. Meanwhile the Trust will be publishing a series of articles giving a bit more detail about some of the main measures in the FLR.
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