Gary Neville believes the FA and Premier League could “fool” fans into thinking that an independent regulator is not needed
While a certain breed of journalist sparks off these sports administration stories, as soon as the words “regulator” and “governance” appear, the average football fan closes the website, continues scrolling, or in some cases still puts the paper away.
Sometimes the problem with trying to get people interested in a different way of conducting English football is that it’s a particularly dry topic.
But what would be a seismic change for football that could finally start addressing the game’s plethora of problems has come a big step closer and many in the government believe that something that has been tried multiple times before may actually become a reality.
“If it’s implemented, it will be a historic moment for the game,” said Gary Neville, who has been part of the group advocating an independent regulator for over a year. “Nobody will look back and think that this was a bad decision or that something went wrong. It’s right for the game, something that it needs at this point in time. “
Former Sports Secretary Tracey Crouch’s fan-led review of football has recommended the creation of an independent regulator of English football as a priority. And criticism did not hold back in its criticism of the way the Football Association, the Premier League and the English Football League are currently governing the game. Many who work within the limits of football have known for some time that these are different and ineffective authorities who seem to grope blindly in the dark through every major crisis.
But it has yet to be established through the passage of a parliamentary bill, and hard work remains to be done for activists like Neville and his contemporary of the Saving the Beautiful Game Group, David Bernstein, the former FA chairman.
The winds of change are sure to be blown by the collapse of Bury and the strong outrage over the attempt by England’s six most lucrative clubs to put themselves above all others and join a breakaway European Super League. The government welcomed the report on Thursday, saying fans should expect a decision by spring.
“It is clear that the current supervision of the game is not up to the challenge of solving the structural challenges and that measures must be taken,” said Nadine Dorries, State Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. “The review shows that there are fundamental problems with our national sport and that it deserves radical reform.” She declared this as “a turning point for football in this country”.
The FA and Premier League released statements claiming they welcomed the review, but privately it has likely gotten much worse. It is unlikely that they will want to cede power to anyone.
The Premier League said it didn’t want any changes to the detriment of football – was that rolling up your sleeves and a hint of a fight?
“In addition to English football, the Premier League is a global success overall,” said the league’s statement. “We have an outstanding track record on and off the pitch, including the positive impacts on youth development, communities and the game in general that we are proud of. It is important for everyone that any reforms do not harm our game, its competitive balance or the level of current investment. “
It was up to Neville to say what virtually everyone else thought. “If you take away self-interest, greed and conflict, who doesn’t want a fairer distribution of money in the game? Who wouldn’t want a Fit and Sight personal test? Who wouldn’t want to see better financial sustainability, monitoring and tracking in the EFL? Who could not want more diversity and inclusion and better representation in all areas?
“These are things I can’t believe that someone who cares about the best for the game will ever want to say they don’t want it. Thats is quite easy.”
Gary Neville insists that supporters of an independent regulator of English football must not be “outwitted” by potential attempts by the FA and the Premier League to make it appear that it is not necessary.
“We were laughed at 14 months ago, but we really need to have a base,” said Neville. “What we can’t do now for the next 12 to 18 months is let the game’s attempts to fool us into taking action to thwart the establishment of an independent regulator.
“I’m sure that in the next few weeks they will work out a new plan for financial sustainability along the power corridors in English football, they will offer the EFL a little more money and try to silence them, they will try.” to put together a new fit and proper personal test and they will say we did it all, you don’t need it now.
“No, let’s not fool us. I think we all understand what the game is going to try. She will try to implement the recommendations in her own way. We can not permit that. This report must be fully executed in order for it to work. “
The review recommends that an IREF oversee tighter financial regulations, take control of the owner and director review, make sure the money is better distributed in the pyramid, including putting a solidarity tax on Premier League transfers, fans’ participation in major ones Makes decisions mandatory and backers have the right to veto decisions protecting the club’s heritage, including preventing owners from joining a breakaway league not affiliated with Fifa, Uefa and the FA.
Bernstein said, “I think this is a moment in time. There have been many failed attempts at reform in the past. A lot has come together. Tracey Crouch and her team produced a really heavyweight report, well thought out, very comprehensive. “
“I’m excited about what’s in there – it contains practically all of the recommendations we’ve ever made. If we really appreciate this pyramid that we talk about so much – a pyramid doesn’t work very well if the base collapses. It’s in the country’s interest. “
Neville added, “The conclusions were a representation of the thoughts of the game. So why would anyone want to oppose a representation of the game’s thoughts, especially from a fan’s point of view?
“I see this as a great opportunity for football – I know that there have been different versions of reports and assignments over the past 40 to 50 years. That feels very different. I think the situation like Bury, Wigan, Bolton, Derby, the Saudi Arabian entry into the Premier League, is receding [taking over Newcastle]whether you are for or against, we agree that there is a lack of independence and transparency in the determination.
“We have the European Super League, the Covid economic crisis, we have Project Big Picture. In the past 18 months to two years, football has amply demonstrated that it is structurally in need of reform. The work of the panel, which Tracey led, was excellent. We should see this as an opportunity to correct the mistakes in the game. “