Fan-led Review of Football Governance published

Thursday, 25 November, 2021 27comments  |  Jump to last
The panel commissioned with performing a fan-led review of Football Governance has completed its work and published its findings and recommendations in a detailed report.

The Fan Led Review of Football Governance was the result of three crisis points: the collapse of Bury FC, the Covoid-19 pandemic, and the attempt to set up a European Super League (ESL) in April 2021.

A panel set up with Tracey Crouch, Conservative MP and former Minister of Sport as Chair of the Independent Fan Led Review of Football Governance. Their report was published this week and includes the following strategic recommendations:

(A) To ensure the long-term sustainability of football, the Government should create a new independent regulator for English football (IREF)

(B) To ensure financial sustainability of the professional game, IREF should oversee financial regulation in football.

(C) New owners' and directors' tests for clubs should be established by IREF replacing the three existing tests and ensuring that only good custodians and qualified directors can run these vital assets.

(D) Football needs a new approach to corporate governance to support a long-term sustainable future of the game.

(E) Football needs to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in clubs with committed EDI Action Plans regularly assessed by IREF.

(F) As a uniquely important stakeholder, supporters should be properly consulted by their clubs in taking key decisions by means of a Shadow Board.

(G) Football clubs are a vital part of their local communities, in recognition of this there should be additional protection for key items of club heritage.

(H) Fair distributions are vital to the long term health of football. The Premier League should guarantee its support to the pyramid and make additional, proportionate contributions to further support football.

(I) Women's football should be treated with parity and given its own dedicated review.

(J) As an urgent matter, the welfare of players exiting the game needs to be better protected — particularly at a young age.

The full report is available at the link below.


Reader Comments (27)

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Danny O’Neill
1 Posted 25/11/2021 at 06:53:11
Interesting to see the review of the governance of English football by an independent regulator will take place.

Welcome obviously, but how far will it go in re-defining the football pyramid? Will it stop at the professional leagues or go further? Or will it look at the system in its entirety from grassroots up? Will we see overhaul or a series of token recommendations in a "have been seen to be doing something" kind of gesture.

Apologies, more questions than answers as I've not really read into what it will entail. Although I note one of the themes is to let fans have more of a say. German-style 49-51 rule I doubt as you won't undo the ownership model here; well not overnight anyway. Maybe token representation at certain working groups or board meetings?

Martin Reppion
2 Posted 25/11/2021 at 10:02:01
The one that I don't understand is parity for the women's game.

If by 'parity' they mean that payment should be in line with the income it generates when compared to the men's game, then that is okay.

The top women teams generate about 4% of the income in terms of match receipt and TV revenues compared to the Premier League. At international level, you can take a family of 4 to watch at Wembley for £20. Try getting your kids in to see the England men for that!

Whilst I agree that at grassroots level, all kids regardless of sex, colour, social background etc should get the opportunity to play if they want to, taking money out of the game that generates it to artificially put wealth into a branch of the sport that, at its best, get as much support as Halifax Town is not the way to get parity.

Michael Kenrick
3 Posted 25/11/2021 at 10:29:34
There's a lot of talk in there about fan engagement. At Everton, we have the much-vaunted Fans Forum. I'm curious what people think about how far that goes down the road where we need to be to protect the club and its heritage?

It looks promising in terms of the set-up and participation by senior club personnel but I tried reading some of the Minutes of Meetings and found it hard going.

I just can't imagine somehow that, as an example, Paul the Esk's probing articles could be brought up on the agenda for a meaningful discussion between fan representatives and club officials of the real issues of vital concern that matter the most to the future of our club.

Brian Harrison
4 Posted 25/11/2021 at 10:58:17
Michael 3

Are the minutes from the Fans Forum meetings with club officials made public so we can all read? I have to say I am very sceptical of whether anything meaningful comes out of these Fans Forums; I just think it's clubs paying lip-service to fans and making them believe the club is listening to them.

I know many will point to how it was the fans' reaction that halted the much-vaunted ESL, and I agree that clubs were taken aback by the reaction of their fans. But it wasn't the setting-up of the ESL that fans of these clubs objected to, it was the fact that it was a closed shop with no promotion or relegation.

And anybody who thinks this won't be reconstructed in the next few years with some sort of promotion and relegation attached, I think are going to be disappointed. Also Real and Barca and the Italian clubs show no sign of consigning this idea to the bin.

Regarding the money from the TV deals for the Premier League teams being used to help lower leagues, it is just fanciful: the rich and powerful Premier League teams want more money, not less, so I don't see this trickle-down effect happening anytime soon.

I also think that no other country in the world has as many professional football clubs as this country; the economics are such that the clubs in League One and League Two should be semi-professional. They just can't generate enough money to pay players so, like every other business, if you can't afford to run the business, then change or die.

Ruthless, I know, as many teams like Notts County were at the beginning of forming the Football League, but times have changed. We used to shop at Woolworth's, at British Home Stores, at Debenham's and many more businesses all gone to the wall; as they say, nothing lasts forever.

Derek Taylor
6 Posted 25/11/2021 at 11:12:22
I think most of us regard the 'much-vaunted' Fans Forum as pure tokenism. I've always felt that 'governance' in professional football falls into two categories 'football-related' and 'corporate'. Few of us care much for the latter – happy to leave it to Paul and his Esk (whatever that is?); it's the game itself that keeps ToffeeWeb and its ilk in business 0 and thank gawd for that I say!
Colin Glassar
7 Posted 25/11/2021 at 11:38:31
As we are the best run club in the world, according to Chairman Bill and his underling, Moshiri, this probably doesn’t concern us but it’s welcome news all the same.
Jerome Shields
8 Posted 25/11/2021 at 12:23:32
Expect it will be to do with moving to a new location or new not country based league. As Michael says, it won't allow for scrutiny at any forums.

It is more likely it will be an interface between the local community and the Club, which the Club will do all it can to have a marketing bent on.

I can't see anyone questioning Moshiri, instead just having the opportunity to question whoever the club wheels out.

An Everton Shadow Board would be interesting.

Michael Kenrick
9 Posted 25/11/2021 at 12:58:09
Some good questions and concerns there, Barry @4.

There's minutes from every meeting for the last 4 years, available at the Official Everton Website | Club | Fans Forum.

A minor point but they are Microsoft Word Document files, which have to be downloaded to your hard-drive, creating a potential security risk. That might be browser-dependent but I think it is highly unprofessional that they aren't converted into and stored as secured Portable Document Format (PDF) files that can be read online by most browsers. So easy to do (just a click) from within MS Word...

Turns out there's very little about the ESL in the report. I expected more as it was one of the three cited triggers. But of course it has been allowed to quietly wither on the vine with no punitive actions taken. The Golden Share is seen as an effective way to prevent its return. (What a good descriptor for Kenwright's rump shareholding!)

I think they could do something to encourage 'levelling up' [Eeek!] in terms of distribution of money down the pyramid, if the will is there. But it reeks of the Nanny State stepping in and your point about the cruel justice of our capitalist world is sadly spot on. Change or die.

Dave Gleaves
10 Posted 25/11/2021 at 14:05:59
The Everton board need some basic Project Management.

Specify what the business goals or objectives are for the team. Define the benefits of doing these. Communicate these. Put a plan together to achieve the requirements and benefit realisation with a timeline.

Hold people accountable for not delivering on agreed objectives with specified KPIs and targets written into their contracts. It's pretty easy really. Who is doing this job?

Ian Horan
11 Posted 25/11/2021 at 14:46:06
For starters, Everton need to separate the EitC and EFC businesses. Kenwright can run the EitC arm and we can bring in grown-up men and women to resuscitate the body that is quickly becoming a corpse – aka Everton FC, the football entity.

I am 58 now and never felt so disconnected or distrusting of our club... our penance of years of failure must be due to end, surely to God!!!!!

Mike Doyle
12 Posted 25/11/2021 at 14:55:29
Dave @10,

It would appear that nobody is. In one of his recent articles, Paul the Esk argued that Everton don't really have a proper board of directors – what they have is more like a management committee of employees who report to the owner and “mark their own homework”.

If Moshiri is not asking these difficult questions, then it looks like nobody else is rocking the boat. Given how much money Moshiri has invested, I'm very surprised that he hasn't appointed an external football specialist (eg, a David Dien type) to review the club's management and advise remedial action.

I'd love to see someone like Alan Sugar's pal, Claude Littner, interrogating Little Miss Dynamite over the club's performance under her time in office. Would make great TV viewing (unlike recent team performances).

Dave Gleaves
13 Posted 25/11/2021 at 15:29:54
Thanks for your agreement, Mike. I read the Esk's articles and completely agree with his business acumen. Until somebody is charged with implementing a short- and long-term plan there is no plan. Therefore we all just carry on wishing with no action.

I don't normally post on TW. But somebody needs to take a stand soon rather than just saying what needs to happen.

Dale Self
14 Posted 25/11/2021 at 16:32:05
Thanks for presenting this Michael. We are getting a picture of what's gone wrong and these efforts, while not completely satisfactory, do allow us to push on in an effort to hold the club's hierarchy accountable.

As an American, I am envious of the community focus. All we get are corrupt commissioners and media compliance.

Peter McEvoy
15 Posted 25/11/2021 at 16:49:22
Who designed that Everton away kit needs to have a look at themselves, it is simply shocking. Looks like the Man City kit from the 70s, the sash is very like red to me – something like you would see on the 12th of July lol It resembles the team's form at present. Terrible.

Charles Brewer
16 Posted 25/11/2021 at 18:07:10
It's unusual for a government-led initiative to come up with a complete set of terrible ideas, but this one seems to have achieved it.

1) An 'independent' government regulator. Problem:- That would, like all regulators, rapidly be captured by the major participants who would rig the system to their own advantage but now be able to say "but it's independent". Just think of the EU and German car emissions.

2) The regulator should oversee financial regulation in football. Problem:- The FSA and its international equivalents and predecessors have proved profoundly useless in regulating finance, from Enron to Northern Rock, RBS and (worst of all) the ongoing financial cesspit that is Deutsche Bank regulators do nothing but distract.

3) Good custodians and qualified directors:- Well that should keep the riffraff out. I suspect Moshiri would be banned, but the Glazers and Russian survivors of the aluminium wars would be fine. The government is so good at spotting crooks!

4) Football needs a new approach to corporate governance to support a long-term sustainable future of the game. Can we have a cure for cancer; clean, free energy; and world peace [© Miss Congeniality] at the same time please.

5) Football needs to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in clubs with committed EDI Action Plans regularly assessed by IREF. Okay, do we really want discrimination, bias and racial quotas run by some creature from HR?

6) As a uniquely important stakeholder, supporters should be properly consulted by their clubs in taking key decisions by means of a Shadow Board. Okay, so people with no financial stake and as little understanding of running a company as the average football supporter are going to have a key vote? Expect bankruptcy for 90% of clubs in 6 months flat. ("We'll all vote to buy Messi, Ronaldo and Pele for a quadrillion quid each.")

7) Football clubs are a vital part of their local communities, in recognition of this there should be additional protection for key items of club heritage. I have no idea what this means. But sustaining local support is a good idea because they are the punters who turn up and pay and make a noise at matches. I don't think it needs a second NHS bureaucracy to do this.

8) Fair distributions are vital to the long term health of football. The Premier League should guarantee its support to the pyramid and make additional, proportionate contributions to further support football. I somewhat agree here. A structure more like the NFL, but covering (say) the top 4 divisions would be a better approach.

9) Women's football should be treated with parity and given its own dedicated review. Why? No one watches it, no one (apart from the players) is interested. If it generates support, great, if not, what exactly does this mean? Paying for no-one to watch? Sounds like a standard idiotic woke report piece of garbage.

10) As an urgent matter, the welfare of players exiting the game needs to be better protected — particularly at a young age. I don't see why footballers should be "better protected" than any other young person, but then I don't think they should be less protected, there should be standard educational requirements and that's about it.

Danny O’Neill
17 Posted 25/11/2021 at 18:37:58
Health warning; this will be a long one.

This is a welcome initiative, but the cynic in me fears that it is going to get lost in the noise of political sound bites and modernist corporate jargon rather than looking at true reform and restructuring of the English football pyramid.

The fragility of the wider foundations of the game is called out. But how deep are they truly looking here? The "collapse in the pyramid as we know it" is portrayed as a negative. Is it? I don't think it would be. There is talk of football being "unrecognisable". Is it? Money aside, the structure has barely changed since I was a child.

The language used smacks of preservation of the existing, with a bit of token regulation wrapped around it. Not genuine review and reform of the English football pyramid.

With the right approach, this could represent an opportunity to overhaul the current structure rather than maintain the status quo and just make it more accountable. Sorry, it smacks of polishing the old sideboard to make it look better rather than replacing and modernising with something fresh and new.

The long called-for requirement for governance is rightly identified; however, we should be cautious here. For too long, football has been mainly run poorly and recklessly. The report calls this out. I am however suspicious of "tick box" regulation in other verticals, for example, Information Security.

Teams of expensive consultants, generating a cottage industry to carry out extensive audit exercises to award certifications confirming that companies (football clubs in this sense) are "compliant". Over time, it loses its meaning and purpose and becomes a check-list effort with the focus being on getting certified rather than the context behind it.

I'm seeing reference to grassroots, but still much focus on the professional and adult game. Even where it calls out provision of pitches and training facilities, it appears more weighted to the adult game than youth development from the grassroots up.

To one of the other drivers behind this study. The sad demise of Bury FC. To me, it's a bit after the horse has bolted. This has been coming for years with clubs up and down the pyramid living beyond their means to chase the mostly unachievable dream.

People who bother with my nonsense know my thoughts on this. Too many clubs in a crowded system. Too many snouts in the trough that diminishes as you get further down the pyramid, fighting for a piece of the decreasing pie that has already been gobbled up by the fat cats at the top of the tree.

In my opinion, we go for complete overhaul and streamlining of the professional game. Redistribution of wealth sounds like a social welfare system for football. How about clubs living within their means?

We officially have 92 professional clubs in 4 professional leagues in a country with a population of 58 million. The reality is that the 5th tier is pretty much full time professional now too. That's a lot of struggling clubs wanting to live off hand-outs, which is what this report suggests. Streamlining & regionalisation will actually help a lot of these struggling clubs.

As would my previous suggestion of "adopt a club" / feeder club, but that's probably a separate discussion.

Reduce it. Look at the German model. 3 tiers of 56 professional clubs in a country with a population of 80+ million before it goes regional and semi-professional. And the 3rd tier has only existed since 2008. Ask a Bury supporter if they would rather exist in a semi-pro capacity in a regional (North / North-West) league with the potential to promote and step up into the professional set-up when ready – or if they would rather not exist at all.

I don't think the ESL is going away. It will be the next phase of the Champions League project to protect the "right" of the super clubs to compete against each other regularly. This perhaps means it won't be the closed shop they presented in April, but it will happen once they get the FA, UEFA and FIFA blessing. And they will.

The financial monitoring seems to make sense at face value, albeit a bit "nanny state". This IREF sounds interesting. On one hand, I interpret FFP as intended. On the other, more suspicious side of me, is it yet another blocker to stop wannabe clubs challenging the elite?

Clubs need to demonstrate cash flow coming in; does it matter where it comes from? Generated from the business or are donations from benefactors acceptable means of income? Those are questions, by the way; I don't have the answer and couldn't see it in the paper.

Once again, the cynic in me feels that the owner test seems a bit token and not much above and beyond the background checks I go through when taking up a new appointment.

Town Halls, communication and Shadow Boards. All seems a bit gimmicky and I wonder how much it will actually achieve or how much power they will wield other than being a forum for communication.

Apologies for sounding negative and suspicious. I actually welcome this, but suspect it will fall short of a real overhaul of the structure, organisation and governance of English football that I personally would like to see, starting from the grassroots up. Not just a minor tweak and holding more to account of the existing establishment.

Change should mean change. Not more of the same dressed up in another form.

Barry Hesketh
18 Posted 25/11/2021 at 18:43:44
Is there anything in this suggested legislation to prevent the formation of a European League?

What is the FA's role in the running of the game, aren't they supposed to be the governing body, why does it need an independent body to sort things out, when what the FA requires is far more ordinary people within its highest ranks making decisions for the benefit of the game and not for dubious reasons.

Any money that the Premier League clubs hands over to help the smaller clubs will come from us the supporters via higher ticket prices.

I think the game is in danger of being hijacked by political do-gooders who are trying to show how in touch they are to curry favour with potential voters.

Danny O’Neill
19 Posted 25/11/2021 at 18:51:40
Barry, I see that as long as the FA, UEFA and FIFA sanction and give blessing, it can happen. Let's be honest, what freaked them out in April is the clubs went solo outside of their remit. As long as they're involved and have their bellies stroked, they'll purr like a content kitten being fed tuna and sign it off.

I also agree that another aspect of this will be non-footballing people wanting to be seen to be in touch with the masses. It's not too dissimilar from the sudden influx of "life-long" football fans that joined the game in the Sky influenced 90s era.

I'm all for attracting new followers to the beautiful game, by the way, but this does have potential to go a bit Tony Blair New Labour and Cool Britannia in a football sense!!

Derek Thomas
20 Posted 25/11/2021 at 00:16:45
Fairplay to them for having a go, all the usual suspects in the current lexicon of 'right on' buzz words get a mention - But what are they going to Do !

TheTurkeys will never vote for Christmas.

I've seen many 'problems' many 'official' and 'none official' reports and published recommendations.
Then 20yrs down the track, the same or similar problem rears it's head.

Somebody will drag up 'The Joe Bloggs' report of 1995 or whatever, write a piece about the problem, with the sad conclusion...20yrs ago 'The Bloggs Report' listed 7 Key Points and another 50 minor recommendations - to date only 5 minor points have been implemented and none of the 7 key points.

But hey, the fans have been listened to...file under - 'Fine words butter no parsnips'

Christine Foster
21 Posted 26/11/2021 at 05:56:41
Fixing football will never happen if it’s left to owners to "do the right thing". Governance is the method by which a company or, in this case, a football club, protects the interests of the the shareholders and stakeholders; a means of showing transparency in all it does, about attempting best practice to run a business well, profitably, and in the interests of all concerned.

Does this sound like our club? Not sure it ever has… but certainly over the past 20 years, transparency and Best Practice have been criminally absent to fans and minority shareholders alike.

So the question is: What difference will it make to the running of Everton FC?

When the board meets, will the members ask what they need to comply with or how they can get around the recommendations while appearing to welcome the initiative?

When a company is owned by a single individual, for the sole purpose of personal decision-making, just how will any regulator demand a structure be set up and adhered to? Will the owners such as Moshiri and Kenwright play ball?

In short, what difference will it make?

A format for running a club should be set up by the regulator as the basis of reporting and governance, with strict overview that any key decisions are made in the interests of the club, its supporters, shareholders and the community. Any board meeting minutes should be available for review by shareholders and verified by a supporters’ representative who was in attendance.

Can I see any of the above happening at Everton?

Perhaps such transparency can only come from a change of leadership. Would Bill Kenwright or Moshiri have passed the directors test?

In truth, it doesn't really matter, we are where we are. The future can only be better if any regulator can determine what is acceptable or not and has the teeth to bite when needed.

David Ellis
22 Posted 26/11/2021 at 08:05:42
I think some of the cynicism in the comments above may be a bit over the top. Separate regulator may well have some teeth and it will stop the Leeds, Portsmouth and Bury type disasters.

They can also force trickle-down funding down the pryamid.

But from an Everton perspective, the real problem is the basic lack of competitiveness within the Premir League because of the Champions League revenues. This needs to be re-distributed a bit more evenly to make the Premier League properly competitive rather than a gang of 4 (or maybe 6). Sadly nothing on this in the report.

Tom Hughes
23 Posted 26/11/2021 at 09:04:01
Danny #17,

I don't see any problem in there being 92 clubs in our professional leagues, and the multitudes beyond those leagues too. The pyramid is well established and long predates the Premier League (and any German comparison), which is only the richer for that deep-rooted structure.

Bury FC won 2 FA Cups before we won our first. They had fallen down the pecking order and suffered the misfortune of being surrounded by bigger neighbours, but had survived up to very recently. Should they really just be allowed to fade away so easily because of a few years of unsustainable operation out of almost 140 years existence?

As regards the free market, 'survival of the fittest' argument, if you extrapolate that to our situation, take away our TV money, which the Big 6 could easily argue that they generate the lion's share of and should therefore be entitled to a far larger proportion, then we would also be an even bigger financial basket-case, living beyond our means than we already are.

Should we be allowed further managed decline because a few clubs have been on their own relatively closed-shop gravy train at the right time? Or does our whole history and fanbase count for something?

The whole point is that the attempt of a few clubs to monopolise football should always be resisted at all costs. Part of that is to spread the money more evenly, promote competition and simultaneously stop clubs being carpet-bagged or run into the ground at the behest of a few individuals, with the interests of thousands of fans completely ignored.

I haven't read the whole document yet, but know that something is needed to stop football eating itself alive or killing every league by stifling competitiveness.

Tony Abrahams
24 Posted 26/11/2021 at 09:35:27
Most of this lip service goes right over my head and makes me think of a song by The Jam, called Funeral Pyre, and the lyrics, “The weak get crushed, as the strong get stronger," which encapsulates modern-day football for me.

Ian H, going over old ground, but such a logical post.

Brian Harrison
25 Posted 26/11/2021 at 10:22:40
Tom 23,

You make some valid points and I don't disagree about keeping the Football League structure in place. You are also correct in saying that if you take away the TV money, many Premier League clubs would be in trouble including us.

But, as I said in my post earlier, I don't think that in this day and age we can sustain 4 fully professional leagues, that's why I suggested that Leagues One and Two should be semi-professional. When we had no matches on TV, the clubs had to survive on gate receipts alone and the sale of some players which helped keep clubs afloat.

While the TV money has greatly distorted the wealth of clubs, what really started the demise of clubs being able to survive was when Jimmy Hill and George Eastham, both from the players union, got the maximum wage scrapped. For me, this single act was the beginning of players taking control of the game. Yes, they didn't get their just rewards under the maximum £20 per week as it was then, but it's completely gone the other way now.

How obscene that players are now demanding and getting in excess of £500,000 per week, irrespective of how their clubs are doing. You go down the pyramid and players in Leagues One and Two are getting thousands a week, which is crippling their clubs.

I realize you can't put the genie back in the bottle, but the obscene amount of money that players now demand and get is the biggest reason why many clubs are struggling. But none of the big boys will ever suggest a payment cap as we see from our own club we have paid little or no interest in the FFP and now we thankfully are compelled to reign in our spending.

I would just add I am not a fan of the way FFP works and I would much rather a cap on players' wages so nobody got more than £100,000 per week and if it was adopted by Uefa and Fifa, then most clubs could survive quite comfortably, and I think £100,000 per week maximum would stop the top players demands reaching even more obscene amounts in the future.

Danny O’Neill
26 Posted 26/11/2021 at 11:57:23
Tom, Brian,

That's one of my points (Brian). After the top 2 leagues (maybe the 3rd), break out into regional leagues that are semi-professional. You would likely end up with more teams to make the regional leagues competitive.

We talk of cost, as many of us know, it's not the price of the ticket that hits the wallet hardest, it's the travel. The spectre of Hartlepool v Exeter on a Wednesday night just isn't fair on supporters or those clubs who must fork out for travel and potentially for the players, hotels.

Whereas Exeter v Yeovil or Bristol Rovers, Hartlepool v York or Darlington, is much more sensible.

These are all good view points. There will be traditionalists wishing to preserve but add much needed governance and there will be radicals like me who would rather see a complete overhaul top to bottom, which I am under no illusion will not happen.

No one is right or wrong and, like Tony, I suspect little will actually happen and we'll be dusting off the report in 20 years time to see how many of the action points were meaningfully carried out.

Barry Hesketh
27 Posted 26/11/2021 at 18:52:09
I don't think that an individual salary cap would be workable, but perhaps a limit on the amount a full squad could earn might be plausible. Therefore, if you had one team member earning £250k per week, that would automatically reduce the earnings of the rest of the squad and might help to keep the earnings of younger players down to more affordable levels.

This sort of cap would likely have to be eased in over a period of time, as some squads already have a few high-earners among them.

Eric Myles
28 Posted 28/11/2021 at 06:37:48
"The language used smacks of preservation of the existing, with a bit of token regulation wrapped around it." (Danny #17).

Fully agree, it's just a way to create another tier of committees with jobs for the boys.

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