Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has confirmed that the DCMS will launch a ‘fan-led inquiry’ into whether English football is being run in the interest of its supporters and local communities.
Dowden confirmed that the government’s long-awaited review of football would be brought forward in response to this weekend’s news that six Premier League clubs had agreed to join the breakaway ‘European Super League (ESL)’.
Speaking in the Commons, Dowden branded the clubs as arrogant in their ambitions to form a private league without any consultation from the government, football authorities or their fans.
“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,” Dowden remarked.
PM Boris Johnson had pledged to undertake a review of English football, outlined as a social directive of the Conservative Party’s 2019 General Election manifesto. However, DCMS had postponed its intended review in light of the COVID-19 pandemic impacting all football leagues.
Brief in substance, the 2019 manifesto outlined that a review of football was needed as a means to ‘regenerate local areas’, with the government to consider proposals on ‘safe standing’ stadium areas and whether to undertake a stricter enforcement of ‘fit-and-proper’ club ownership rules.
Yesterday, Dowden confirmed that DCMS had initiated consultations with fan representative organisations to draft a systemic proposal taking into account all considerations of football being run in the interest of the public.
Former Sports Secretary Tracey Crouch was confirmed as the minister who will lead the review, which Dowden stated would be a “root-and-branch examination of football in this country”.
Crouch’s duties will focus on “financial sustainability of the men’s and women’s game, financial flows through the pyramid, governance regulation and the merits of an independent regulator”.
With regards to the breakaway clubs, Dowden stated that the matter would be handled by football authorities with the government’s ‘full backing’.
“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,” Dowden stated. “Put simply, we will be reviewing everything the Government does to support these clubs to play.”
Despite the review securing cross-party approval, the DCMS was criticised for its inaction on football matters in light of multiple fan-led campaigns expressing concerns on soaring ticket prices, unfair commercial practices and working-class fans being priced out of matchdays.
Central to proceedings, it replied that the review must “consider how fans can have an even greater say in the oversight of the game, and the models which might best achieve that”.
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.”