New fans' commission to monitor ticket and shirt prices

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A regulatorY body to safeguard football supporters' interests will be established next month, the Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, announced yesterday. The Independent Football Commission is a response to the findings of the Government's Football Task Force but it remains to be seen whether it will really be a force for positive change for fans or simply a sop to football's governing bodies, including the Football Association and the Premier League, and to the game's most powerful clubs.

A regulatorY body to safeguard football supporters' interests will be established next month, the Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, announced yesterday. The Independent Football Commission is a response to the findings of the Government's Football Task Force but it remains to be seen whether it will really be a force for positive change for fans or simply a sop to football's governing bodies, including the Football Association and the Premier League, and to the game's most powerful clubs.

The Commission will have a wide remit to examine how clubs treat their fans, but it will have no statutory powers to force clubs to change their behaviour.

"The Commission will monitor the content, implementation and effectiveness of the football authorities' proposed codes of conduct," a statement from the Culture Secretary said. It is understood, however, that if clubs fail to abide by those voluntary codes, the most punitive action the Commission will be able to take will be to "name and shame" the clubs responsible, rather than fine them or take meaningful action.

The Commission will take a particular interest in ticket pricing and availability, and will aim for at least 10 per cent of stadiums' seats to be concessionary tickets for children and pensioners. It will also look at merchandising issues, especially the sale of replica shirts, which will have to have minimum lifespans of two years and clearly-marked "sell by" dates to indicate when the strip is next going to be changed.

The Commission also hopes to monitor and encourage the involvement of supporters and other stakeholders in clubs via the Supporters' Direct scheme, which was launched earlier this year. The Commission's chairman will be appointed after the position is advertised within the next few weeks. He or she will work four days a month, for £15,000 a year, and is likely to be one of only two or three people employed by the new body until its workload becomes clear.

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