Campaign group Fair Game has launched its ambitious bid to bring about fundamental changes to how football in England and Wales is governed, financed, regulated and sustained.
Fair Game claims its vision, outlined in a 48-page manifesto, is “backed by leading politicians from across the political spectrum” and has the support of 24 senior clubs, plus Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham
Speaking at the launch at Wimbledon’s Plough Lane stadium, Burnham said: “I feel at the moment there is a groundswell of people coming from all different quarters that change is needed and what sets this initiative apart is the fact that it is club driven.
“There is lots of expert support behind you as well and cross-party support from politicians. It’s great that you’ve managed to pull that together and the manifesto you have developed is entirely reasonable.”
Fair Game’s manifesto includes the implementation of an independent regulator, a fairer and “more responsible” financial structure, a larger distribution of money from the Premier League down, changes to clubs’ accounting, embedded fan engagement and greater recognition and protection of current competitions.
Burnham added: “The notion of a sustainability index seems to me to be unanswerable, who can argue against that?
“The big example is Bury, that’s the salutary lesson here. Gigg Lane is a monument to failed football regulation and governance. It’s the proof that the status quo hasn’t worked.
“I fully support an independent regulator, backed by legislation and appointed by the Government. The time has come for clubs themselves to step forward and say ‘this is what we need’.”
Fair Game has assembled experts in finance, race relations, administration and law, while former players Dion Dublin, Brian Deane and John Scales are among its ambassadors.
Former sports minister Tracey Crouch chaired a fan-led review commissioned by the government in the summer and proposed a series of measures that dove-tail with Fair Game’s manifesto.
Fair Game chief executive officer Niall Couper told the PA news agency: “We have already been in talks with Tracey Crouch and she will be launching her final report in October.
“We want to have as many conversations with her between then and now in the aim of getting as many of our recommendations as possible referenced in her report.”
So far, 11 English Football League clubs and nine from the National League have given their full support, agreeing to become ‘Fair Game’ clubs.
They include Luton from the Sky Bet Championship, League One clubs Wimbledon, Accrington, Lincoln and Cambridge, plus Newport, Leyton Orient, Tranmere, Carlisle and Rochdale from League Two.
Couper added: “We’ve had conversations with three different Premier League clubs and there’s interest there, but it’s about them being brave enough to put their head above the parapet.
“One of those is from the ‘big six’, the other two mid-table clubs. It’s about trying to get them thinking beyond their own club’s and what’s in the wider interests of football.
“That’s the bit we want the Premier League clubs to start grasping, what the long-term security of the national game is because what we are proposing is transformational for clubs lower down the pyramid.”