The proposals we put forward to both THFC and in our written submission to the review panel are rooted in this statement, and are at the heart of our efforts to put Fans and Football First at our Club. It’s encouraging to see the issues facing our game recognised, and support expressed for a number of specific proposals we are putting forward.
We are pleased that the letter indicates a clear commitment to the establishment of an Independent Regulator for English Football (IREF), and that the definition of “independent” is being carefully considered. The possibility of the IREF operating a licensing system that would enable it to impose conditions relating to equality, diversity and inclusion as well as to “protect existing competitions against any future European Super League-type proposals” is very encouraging indeed.
There is a wide-reaching recognition in the letter that changes to governance are urgently needed at both game and Club level. We’re encouraged that proposals put forward by us and other supporter groups such as establishing a golden share to be held by supporters and exercised on key matters relating to their clubs are referenced. So, too, is the need for independent non-executive directors (INEDS) on club boards. As the letter clearly states, “fans have been consistently underrepresented in football governance”.
We would like to see more detail on how the golden share option is to be operated, and on the responsibilities and accountability of INEDS, and remain willing to work with the review to flesh these proposals out. We would also like to see more work done on enabling supporters to purchase equity in their clubs.
We note that the letter expresses some reservations about fan-appointed directors; something we have advocated and which has also, albeit in a different format, been proposed by THFC. We recognise the challenges of such a role but we don’t believe that because something is difficult, it should be dispensed with. We would want to see far more significant requirements for club boards to deliver the kind of structures needed before we reconsidered the pressing need for fan directors at board level.
On all these points, we remain willing to continue working with the review team to achieve the best solutions for the game and for supporters. We agree that the onus is now, in the first instance, on the DCMS to show it has listened and, as Shadow Sports Minister Alison McGovern says, “to be ready to change the law this year if they really are taking fans’ concerns seriously”. This is, in our opinion, essential if the issues facing the whole of the game are to be properly addressed.
The onus is also on individual clubs, including THFC, to recognise the direction of travel and engage properly with supporters. Throughout the letter, Tracey Crouch talks of supporters losing confidence in those running their clubs and the wider game. We believe the adoption of the measures proposed in our submission to the Club and review panel, backed by the interim findings in the letter, could go a long way towards restoring supporter confidence in the way THFC is currently run.
The letter is a very encouraging start to a process that has been considered, and backed away from, too many times before. We welcome its contents, particularly because it recognises fans could and should have a greater say in how their clubs and the wider game is run. It is now up to us, fellow Trusts and fan organisations, the Football Supporters’ Association and the wider fan base to ensure the final report in October delivers the best possible outcome.
Write to the Club, write to your MP, lobby whoever you can and help us put Fans and Football First.
23 July 2021