Gary Neville welcomed the president’s proposals for a fan-led review urging football to be independently regulated.
Former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has written to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to say that a regulator “to protect the future of key aspects of our game” is needed.
And Neville was quick to welcome the move, taking to social media to share the letter with an applause emoji.
The review was promised as part of the Tories’ manifesto for the 2019 general election and commissioned shortly after the Super League’s founding and rapid collapse in April.
Crouch, the Tory MP for Chatham and Aylesford, said the review heard over 100 hours of testimony from fans, leagues, the Football Association and clubs at all levels of the pyramid.
He received 70 written proofs and also accepted fan commentary via a poll that ends Thursday.
Crouch wrote: “It is clear that football clubs are not ordinary businesses. They play a vital social, civic and cultural role in their local communities. They need to be protected – sometimes from their owners who are, after all , as the current custodians of a community good.
Crouch continued: “Key aspects of our national game are really at risk. The short-lived threat from the European Super League has put the future of the English football pyramid in jeopardy.
“While this threat has receded – for now – the dangers facing many clubs across the country are very real with their precarious futures and in most cases dependent on the owners’ willingness and continued ability to finance large losses. “
Crouch pointed to Deloitte figures from 2018-19 – before the impact of the coronavirus pandemic – which she said highlighted the perilous state of finances for many clubs.
She pointed out that nine clubs reportedly recorded pre-tax losses and eight clubs had salary-to-turnover ratios above 70%. In the same season, all but two league clubs recorded pretax losses and the average salary-to-turnover ratio was 107%.
Crouch wrote: “It is sobering to consider these numbers to be the end result of a long period in which football has increased its income to all-time highs or near all-time highs.
“The threat of possible future cuts in expected revenues as the broadcast market diversifies indicates that, without reform, English football could face an existential crisis in the years to come, unless preventative measures are taken. be taken now. “
Crouch said these financial problems were an indication that the current regulatory framework was not working and needed reform.
Football authorities have “lost the confidence and confidence” of supporters, she said, as have a number of clubs.
She said authorities had received repeated warnings in the past that had gone unheeded, and “therefore, now is the time for outside help.”
Crouch also said the game’s governing bodies have failed to respond sufficiently to the equality, diversity and inclusion agenda.
Football supporters remain the game’s greatest force, Crouch said, and said she would work over the summer to ensure increased fan engagement and influence at all levels of governance of the game.
Crouch then outlined the areas she believed an Independent English Football Regulator (IREF) should be introduced to review financial regulation, corporate governance and ownership.
She said this would “likely” include cost controls, real-time financial tracking, minimum governance requirements and that owners and directors are tested separately, both upon takeover or when membership on the board of directors of a club, then on an ongoing basis.
Crouch doesn’t think a regulator should oversee what she described as “football” issues – the operation of leagues, video technology, etc., which she says should stay with existing bodies.
She said that a substantially reformed FA could in the future absorb the functions of an independent regulator, although she said the evidence the review had received indicated that this possibility was “a bit remote.”
Crouch also said the regulator could operate through a licensing system that could help protect existing competitions from any threat of a Super League-style breakaway in the future.
She intends to take steps to protect clubs as heritage assets, giving fans a ‘gold share’ on certain reserved items such as club badges, location, colors and even. competition – for example if a club owner was looking to join a breakaway league.
Crouch said there was a “strong argument” for reform of the FA, EFL and the Premier League and was inclined to recommend that at least 50% of the board of directors of the FA is made up of independent non-executive directors.
She also called for the withdrawal of club representatives from the EFL and National League boards, saying their replacement with independent directors would be “a welcome reform”.
Crouch also said “meaningful discussions” should take place to consider the top tier of the National League being absorbed into the EFL, which National League fans interviewed by the Football Supporters’ Association have requested.
“I am aware that there are working practice agreements between the English football authorities and politely suggest that my recommendations be seen as replacing these existing agreements,” Crouch wrote.
In response, Dowden praised Crouch’s recommendations and said: “We have seen this year with the failed European Super League and Euro 2020 proposals how central football is in our national life.
“I have been clear that the time has come to take a holistic view of reforming the game. I will not hesitate to take bold action if necessary.
“I am grateful to the chair and the panel for their update on the fan-led review. I look forward to receiving the final report and recommendations in the fall.”