Crouching Tracey is “extremely confident” that the fan-led review will secure the government legislation it needs to enforce an independent regulator for football. The mood within the sport is a bit more mixed, albeit cautiously optimistic, and this also relates to the content of the review itself.
Even though the 162-page document represents the English game’s response to what it describes as the ‘existential threat’ of the Super League and Covid-19, it’s not exactly Capital city. Stakeholders within the game insist that it doesn’t need to be.
A number of organizations, led by the Football Supporters Association (FSA) – which have been at the heart of the discussions – have expressed satisfaction.
One of the few dissenting voices came from Power to Change, which supports greater community ownership. Their CEO, Vidhya Alakeson, describes it as a “disappointing missed opportunity”. The point of view of those like the FSA is that it just opens the door to more opportunities for the future.
“We wouldn’t want this to be the end of the trip,” says Malcolm Clarke, FSA president. “I established four tests. Firstly, would that make it less likely that we would see the clubs collapse. Second, would it improve finances. Third, would it stop a Super League. Fourth, does it increase fan engagement. I would say he passes all four tests.
“This is a pretty important step. If I could paraphrase Neil Armstrong, this is a small step for the government, a giant leap for football fans.
The review certainly identifies a lot of issues in the game and comes up with what the vast majority would consider to be good recommendations, down to the ones that are really necessary.
He rightly recognizes that the game is in a “perpetual vicious cycle” and identifies some fundamental problems.
Among the most ambitious are: calls for a greater redistribution of resources; a reform of the highly controversial parachute payments; women’s football treated with parity; key elements of the club’s heritage and being protected and – more precisely – a “golden share” for the supporters.
Sources who see the plan as positive admit that it does not attack community property, but insist that the “gold share” is a cautious sidestep of this datum that gives supporters the power of control without the prohibitive need for capital. This, for example, would have avoided many of the problems faced by Newcastle United fans during Mike Ashley’s day.
But this is also a point where the review is lacking.
The document makes no mention of states, either in terms of club ownership or sportswashing. This despite this issue representing what an exasperated figure involved in football governance described to The Independent as “the greatest threat to the competitive equilibrium and general well-being of the game”.
It’s all the more frustrating because there are times when the shot seems to touch on topics but doesn’t make the connection.
A section on the power of football authorities specifically refers to the recent legal action involving Manchester City and the premier league and how “it is a matter of legitimate public interest that so little progress has been made after two and a half years.”
“Even when rules are in place,” the paper read, “the Journal has heard that authorities are under-resourced, especially when faced with enforcement of rules against sophisticated modern corporations.”
In specific cases, of course, these “sophisticated modern enterprises” are the extended apparatuses of states.
Some high-level sources argue that this shows how “vague” the plan is and how much it relies on superficial solutions but little on forensic details. This begs the question of whether he can actually break the “cycle” he recognizes as so damaging.
Two experts consulted, for example, doubted that he could stop the takeover of Newcastle United by Saudi Arabia, especially since he actually specifies that his tests would largely preserve those of the Premier League.
The independent asked Crouch why he wasn’t referring to states that own clubs. She did not respond directly, but insisted that this would allow “additional integrity testing” that would restore “confidence” in the systems.
Some sources have alternative explanations. They say it is fairly political logic. One argument is that Crouch could not demand higher standards for football than for government, given that the UK has commercial ties with many of those states that would be criticized.
“There is absolutely no sign that the proposed changes would prevent murderous regimes from buying football clubs,” a source said.
Others are keen to point out that nothing prevents the leagues from strengthening their own test. Either way, that still leaves a lot to be resolved.
The same is true with the central question of the redistribution of resources. The review recognizes its immense importance. The reality is that the game’s problems can’t really be reversed without it. The exam offers initial steps, such as a transfer tax.
However, it does not offer a concrete path on how to achieve this. Many believe that much of the recommendations will be crippled by legal challenges, especially when it comes to issues like preferred stock on the boards of U.S. companies.
“The Review carefully considered whether the Review or the IREF itself should intervene directly on the issue of financial distributions,” one reads. “Overall, he felt that it would be best if it was left to the football authorities to resolve this issue. However, given the industry’s poor record of securing a deal, IREF should be granted a deal. support powers that can be used if no solution is found. “
When asked what that would be, she simply reiterated the review: that an independent research would be commissioned.
This is why there is a difference of opinion as to whether the review is a crucial “first step” or, in the words of one politician, “fluff”.
It all comes down to a key point. The success or failure of the plan depends entirely on the possibility of setting up an independent regulator. That’s what it’s about. Whether it can be introduced is a big question.
The Premier League’s response has been instructive. They didn’t like a regulator. It is possible that the exam and its measurements depend on one of the most powerful competitions in the sport.
Crouch is more optimistic. “The Premier League must represent its clubs. I wouldn’t automatically assume they’re against it.
Others are more ready for battle. “It is precisely because of their power that they must be assumed,” says one influential figure.
The fact that the EFL “broke ranks” and supported an independent regulator is seen as a change. “We’ve never seen this before,” the same source said.
Many also cite a New Testament at number 10.
DCMS Committee Chairman Julian Knight MP said: “What we need now is urgent government action with a bill before the House. The secretary of state must seek to introduce a football regulator in the queen’s next speech. We cannot have further procrastination, nor see these recommendations derived in a future election manifesto. “
Big talk, but will action follow?
While there is an inevitable tendency to dismiss the review as an attempt to ‘be seen doing something’ in the wake of the Super League and leave it at that, others say populism could turn out to be. positive; that it is a “red wall problem”, that they know which way the wind is blowing.
This could be an easy vote winner. Union sources say the proof will be in how quickly the government provides this in full. Others insist that this should only be seen as a positive first step. It will depend entirely on the next step.