With FIFA desperately trying to force through two-yearly World Cup’s with all the lucrative money-making opportunities they would bring and £100m transfer fees now barely raising an eyebrow, the game seems to be intent on hurtling towards a point where will see more and more clubs crash and burn as they try to stay aboard the gravy train.
Derby County is the most recent to appoint the administrators, having used every trick in the playbook to try to circumvent the Financial Fair Play rules, Reading too look certain to head in a similar direction, but neither will be the last, so it’s refreshing to see two sparks of light in the deepening gloom.
The first of these is the fan led review of football governance which is being headed up by the excellent Tracey Crouch, a former Minister for Sport and a genuine fan of the game, who has a real understanding of the importance of clubs to their local areas, as the following quote demonstrates:
“Football clubs are not ordinary businesses. They play a critical social, civic and cultural role in their local communities. They need to be protected – sometimes from their owners who are, after all, simply the current custodians of a community asset.”
The second beacon of hope, working in parallel with Crouch’s review and which is gaining traction fast, is the Fair Game movement.
Fair Game is a growing band of clubs and politicians committed to improving the governance of our national game for the wider interests of football. The organisation has a wide pool of advisors and experts to call upon covering advocacy, corporate law, diversity and inclusion, ethical regulation, fan engagement, financial regulation, football agents, governance of football, governance of sport, human rights, owners’ and directors’ legislation, and sustainability.
With over 30 world-renowned academics and football experts on board and backed by MPs of all parties, Fair Game has real credibility and more and more clubs have been signing up to the movement. Five major surveys of clubs’ views and practices have already been carried out as well and consultation with clubs is ongoing.
Fair Game want to see “football governed with fairness, openness and transparency at its core; honouring the mantra that the game can be a force for good and putting clubs at the heart of the communities they serve.”
That would, of course, require a truly independent regulator with no vested interests and representative of all elements of football and society and a system that incentivizes good management of football clubs rather than sustains the system where the rich get richer.
That would mean an extensive reform of the FA, an archaic and out of touch organisation, but the Fair Game manifesto, which runs to 48 pages, goes beyond that and proposes wide-reaching powers for the independent regulator which would include decisions on distribution of monies within the game, as well as a complete and radical overhaul of the owners and director’s tests, which are currently unfit for purpose.
It also requires standardised financial reporting (Fair Game’s survey of clubs found 77 different forms of accounting and no real transparency) based on real-time figures rather than historic accounts which are too easy to manipulate, with liquidity being the central tenet, i.e. not allowing clubs to pay out money they haven’t actually got, given that some currently pay over 200% of their total revenue in player wages with 107% of total revenue the AVERAGE in the Championship. That isn’t sustainable, as Derby are currently learning.
Fair Game’s proposals would mean salary caps and relegation clauses becoming compulsory in player contracts to avoid relegated clubs being dragged down by having unsustainable wage bills and would require players rather than clubs to pay agents’ fees and remove the current practice of agents working for the player and the club.
Currently, clubs often pay an agent to “tap up” a potential target with the fee listed as non-taxable expenses rather than a payment for services that would be taxable.
The proposals would also require clubs to engage much more openly with their fans, something in which City are already in the vanguard.
However, and this is the reason why support for Fair Game so far has largely come from non-Premier League clubs, it would also require a reform of the parachute payment system, whereby a relegated club receives more money in its first season back in the Championship than the EPL passes down to the 48 clubs in Leagues One and Two combined.
Clearly any change in this area would have to be phased, but the reality is that the current situation where the vast majority of money within the game is concentrated at the very top, while smaller clubs either gamble their very existence to progress or accept financially prudent stasis.
Consequently, it is important to look at the manifesto as a whole rather than focus on any one aspect, because there are so many good and workable policies within it.
The current situation is that the EPL is unaccountable and all-powerful, so any redistribution of wealth within the game is down to its own dubious concepts of largesse and that is a road to ruin for football as we know and love it. An independent regulator overseeing both the EPL and FA wouldn’t just be a major step forward, it would allow for root and branch reform.
As Fair Game founder Niall Couper puts it in the foreword to their manifesto:
“Tracey Crouch’s football governance review has offered the chance to reboot the game. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And one football must grasp with both hands.”
The full manifesto and more information about the movement can be found here:
The Fair Game sounds a game changer but Turkeys and Thanksgiving comes to mind.
The super rich owners of the top so called 6 clubs will if pushed walk away and set up as p reposed a super European league or go futher and make it a world league.
The big losers would be in any revamp the top 6 and maybe their supporters wouldn’t see it kindly having their dominance taken away we have seen the early protests that scuppered the ESL but would the same supporters back anything that sees the revenues cut so they can’t afford to pay inflated transfer fee’s and wages to match.
FIFA and EUFA would jump on any governmental interference in the running of football as they will see that weakening their controll over world football which is just a money and power grabbing set up.
Both EUFA and FIFA have no respect for football in general or football players but mainly the history of the game, too fit in their increasing program they want the leagues to cut back on domestic games, ditch cup competition and now Wenger wants a 2 yearly World Cup with the European Championship and other regional competition fitted in between and still guarantee the players 25 days holiday a year.
I agree domestic leagues need a revamp but nothing will change till the so called games supreme governance changes and that I can’t see happening any time soon none of them will want to stop their gravy train and that goes for the foreign owners in the Premiership
“FIFA and [UEFA] would jump on any governmental interference in the running of football as they will see that weakening their controll over world football which is just a money and power grabbing set up.”
This is exactly what FIFA and UEFA will target under their rules banning “undue influence from a third party”. This could potentially lead to the national association and the affiliated clubs being banned from international competitions (at nation and club level).
As I recall they threatened the FAI with just such a ban when the government stepped in to try to ensure reform of the Association.
John Holland says
Yes the nail has been hit on the head with the comment that the level of expenditure by Championship clubs compared to their income can not continue. It is not just Derby, it is not just us. I’ve noticed Reading seem to be the biggest basket case and have been for years without any comeback. The major point is that the reason why this overspend happens is because the difference between income between the Championship and the Premier League is far too high. This means that we can not afford a prolonged spell in the Championship. There is a danger that this merely evens out the Championship and the likes of Stoke who have been failing for years will still have the Coates family fortune to live on while those of us who actually won promotion will see our reward in terms of deferred income (parachute money) vanish. This will make it harder for us to survive in the Premier League. That inequality has to go
David Bowers says
“The major point is that the reason why this overspend happens is because the difference between income between the Championship and the Premier League is far too high.”
That’s not completely true.
A few seasons back I did an analysis. We’d been in The Championship a couple of years, parachute payments had either run out, or were about to.
The cost of running NCFC BEFORE any wages were paid, was more than the total income of the club. So while wages are astronomical and add to the burden, the truth is clubs of Norwich’s size are just expensive to run. Tickets are sold well below the real value of the cost of a match. Especially when City deliver the quality of service we expect.
To summarize, if we were never in the PL and we never took on the high wages, we’d still be in financial peril.
Dan Rear says
One solution to the woes affecting English, and other nations’, football was the Euro Super League. The ‘top clubs’ should have been allowed to get it arranged, and left the remaining teams to get on with life without them. Sure, everything would have move down a notch or two, ie quality of players and matches, player wages and transfer fees, TV moneys and rights deals, Agents, media over-hype. But who can really say the overall scenario would have been worse?
One of the biggest problems in supporters thinking they are entitled to win things for decades they were the original yo yo club until a Russian Oligarch marched in.
ManC were no better always trying catch up with their Red neighbours
Loserpool until the mid 60’s were the poor relations on Merseyside when Shankly left Huddesfield to turn their fortunes around
Arse-nal were drifting long happy to win the occasional title or cup then Wenger and the Premiership made them multi winners
Spurs first team to do the double in a 100 years PNE before them, first English team to win a major European Trophy in 1963 and again the first to make in two major European trophies a couple of years later.
ManU have always been the big boy of the English leagues but all the other club’s were able to topple them, even during the dry spell of no titles they still got a full stadium ever week.
The Americans want to change a winning system to a system that’s boring and would due after Christmas with no relegation but it would mean them still making lots of money.
As I said earlier Turkeys and Thanksgiving and all these top 6 clubs have sighed an agreement not to join discussions in a new ESL or any such undertaking call me naïve but I think representatives will be working overtime to come up it away to appease all the so called powers and can anyone see a off the leagues kicking out their top teams I can’t
Its premier league and english football which has want international coverage and followers. Its your own fault and only solution is to ban all foreign players and managers involving to english football leagues. You are not willing to do that, so case is closed. Foreign players and managers comes to England only because of money. You are prisoners of international football followers and you have to understand that clear majority does not know or is interested about your football traditions. 99% of premier league international interest is so called big clubs, so I can easily understand also their view that they get robbed now. You local fans fills the stadiums and brings atmosphere and then we watch on tv when international players playing against each other. Foreign players want way more salary if they are going to play in England, that should ring at least some bells there too.
Tim Ball says
FIFA believe they are beyond the laws of any country Robin.
An example of that was their unbelievable attempt to ban players from playing in the EPL the week after the governments rules on red list countries barred the said stars from meeting up with their national sides.
FIFA’s got away with years of corruption under you know who.
The whole of football governance world wide needs tearing up let alone the archaic FA.
Their self importance is staggering.
Tell you what FIFA let’s ask all registered fans (season ticket holders or members) if they want international breaks to continue ?
I bet if the true fan got a vote the horrid, disruptive, boring as hell International breaks would overwhelming be booted out and we go back to the old ways.
FIFA’s response to the racist behavior of some countries is laughable.
The fines are so low they’re a joke.
If they want this stopped kick these teams out of the competition. But they won’t, why ? Because it will be a massive reduction in their income.
People say it would only be creepy crawlies survive a nuclear war but I bet FIFA would find a way.
Aaaaoss in rev
Herr Cutz says
A great vision and noble thoughts but big money always wins. A super league is already here and the have nots are just clinging on with false hopes. Norwich is trying to bridge the gap but we’re not going to make it without a massive injection of money. The big boys will eventually pull up the drawbridge and the rest of us will have to accept football without them.. Personally I’ve lost interest in the billionaire end of the game there’s plenty to enjoy at a lower level. I watched exciting and competitive games when we were in Div 1 and the Championship, never seen too many in the Prem.