An Opportunity For Change

If anybody had told us that the FSA would end up in a Zoom meeting with the Prime Minister collaborating on what could be done to stop a European Super League breakaway, we probably wouldn’t have believed you.

It was a remarkable sequence of events in the story of what was probably one of the shortest-lived competitions ever devised, over and done with in 72 hours from conception to death.

What we saw then, and continue to see today, was not only a fantastic display of fan power, but also unity across the game – fans, players, football administrators, pundits and managers coming together to decry the breakaway proposals and stop them in their tracks.

Fans demonstrated their power, and showed that we are best when we work together, united with a common cause.

We have by no means enough actual power, and that’s something that needs to be addressed, but what we do have is a gathering momentum behind the idea that supporters need to have a much bigger say on the way the game is structured and run to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.

Be under no illusions that left alone this idea will return, because the Super League proposal is simply the culmination of the trajectory that football has been on over recent decades, which is why the whole thing needs a reset.

Stopping the Super League was Act One, but the longer term focus on the governance of football and the redistribution of wealth within the game will be tackled by the fan-led review in what we think is a once in a generation opportunity to deliver real, meaningful change.

The Prime Minister’s opening remarks to us in our meeting were about how he’d been receiving questions from backbench MPs asking what a free market conservative like him was doing talking about state involvement in sport.

His response was that while he remains a free market conservative, the other side of the role of government is to protect the national heritage and culture.

Football’s role in our society is enormous, and while politicians are never ones to miss a good excuse to gain some popular appeal, our interests have aligned, at least in the short term. The door is open, and we intend to push at it.

Boris Johnson isn’t going to suddenly nationalise Manchester United or Liverpool, but it is within his power to grant us real representation, so that even where there isn’t a realistic option for supporters to buy in significantly to own their club fans can still have influence, at board level and at all levels of the game.

We don’t have blind faith in anybody, in politics or football administration, to deliver on what they say. Most people have now reached the conclusion that the football authorities, because these billionaire owners are built into the foundations of their power structures, can’t be relied upon to regulate the game themselves. They’re too beholden to financial interests, and so it will require outside interference to take that power and put it in the hands of fans.

The government has the power to give that power to the fans, to give us a decisive say.

The fan-led review cannot be another case of an industry getting together in a room and agreeing a watered-down version of progress, with the lowest common denominator being agreed upon by those who are bound by the changes that will be made.

The chair of the process, Tracey Crouch, has political credibility as well as a genuine understanding of the issues and a willingness to work with fans to deliver a genuine solution. She has committed to meet fans from all areas of the country and speak to us about what we want to see.

Politicians and football administrators have been pushed to a position over recent weeks that they have never taken publicly before as a result of public pressure, and we must ensure that that pressure is maintained so they don’t go back on their well-meaning words.

As individual fans we should do all we can to make this change a reality – make sure you contact your MP and ask that they give their support to the fan-led review – granting supporters a meaningful stake in our game. 

Editorial – Football Supporters’ Association

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