Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has announced that the DCMS will launch a “fan-led inquiry” into whether English football is conducted in the best interests of its fans and communities.
In response to this weekend’s news that six Premier League clubs had agreed to join the breakaway ‘European Super League (ESL),’ Dowden announced that the government’s long-awaited analysis of football will be accelerated.
Dowden, speaking in the House of Commons, slammed the clubs for forming a private league without consulting the government, football authorities, or their fans.
He said: “It was a tone-deaf proposal, but the owners of those clubs won’t have been able to ignore the near-universal roar of outrage from all parts of the football community over the past 24 hours… The move goes against the very spirit of the game.”
Conservative Party’s 2019 General Election manifesto
PM Boris Johnson had promised to conduct a study of English football as part of the Conservative Party’s 2019 General Election manifesto’s social directive. However, DCMS had delayed its planned analysis in light of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting all football leagues.
The 2019 manifesto stated that a review of football was required to help ‘regenerate local areas,’ with the government considering plans for ‘safe standing’ stadium areas and whether to implement ‘fit-and-proper’ club ownership regulations more strictly.
Formulate a systemic plan
Dowden announced yesterday that DCMS had begun consultations with fan representative organisations in order to formulate a systemic plan that took into account all aspects of football being run in the public interest.
Former Sports Secretary Tracey Crouch has been named as the minister in charge of the investigation, which will be a “root-and-branch examination of football in this country,” according to Dowden.
Crouch’s responsibilities will include “financial sustainability of men’s and women’s games, financial flows through the pyramid, governance regulation, and the merits of an independent regulator.”
‘Government’s full backing’
Dowden claimed that the matter of the breakaway clubs will be addressed by football authorities with the government’s “full backing.”
Dowden added: “But be in no doubt: if they can’t act, we will. We are examining every option, from governance reform to competition law, and the mechanisms that allow football to take place.
“Put simply, we will be reviewing everything the Government does to support these clubs to play.”
Despite receiving cross-party support for the study, the DCMS has been chastised for its lack of action on football issues, despite numerous fan-led campaigns raising concerns about rising ticket prices, unfair marketing practises, and the exclusion of working-class supporters from matchdays.
It responded that the study should “consider how fans can have an even greater say in the oversight of the game, and the models which might best achieve that,” which was central to the proceedings.
Dowden concluded: “We are the people’s Government. We are unequivocally on the side of fans – and their voices have to be heard when it comes to the future of our national game. It starts with fans, and it ends with fans.”