Football figures and politicians have come out in support of proposals to “save professional football as we know it” by Damian Collins MP, former chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
Collins’ proposals seek to establish a Football Finance Authority (FFA) which would be created by the FA and backed by the Government. They would put supporters at the heart of football governance and, in some circumstances, club ownership.
Former FA chairman Lord Triesman said the ideas could deliver a more secure future for football and welcomed them wholeheartedly. “It is a pity that football so seldom does the work needed itself. But it doesn’t. This is therefore an especially important intervention,” said Triesman.
Triesman’s support was echoed by other football figures such as Greg Dyke, who himself had a spell as FA chairman from 2013-16. Prior to that he had club experience as Brentford chairman.
The FFA could provide financial support to clubs but there are a number of important caveats. Any funds would be for operational liabilities only and must not be used to finance transfers or infrastructure spending. In return for receiving funds clubs would have to give minority shareholdings to nominated bodies such as supporters’ trusts.
Independent directors would also be appointed to club boards and report back to the FFA who, ultimately, would have power to place clubs into administration should they prove incapable of managing their own affairs.
But it isn’t just former FA bosses who have backed the plans – they also have the support of those currently working in the game. Collins worked extensively with Sunderland co-owner Charlie Methven on the ideas which have also received support of Grimsby Town chairman Philip Day and Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt.
“I’ve been trying to get attention to these problems for years and I’m a supporter of any action that makes community clubs sustainable. I don’t think reckless club owners should be bailed out without a cost to them so the [supporter trust] share option is good,” said Holt.
Football Supporters’ Association chair Malcolm Clarke welcomed the proposals and the emphasis they put on long term financial sustainability.
“These proposals chime with the FSA’s core beliefs – that fans have a key role to play in football governance and ownership models. The idea of an independent unit, embedded within the FA, which exists to protect clubs is an idea we’ve championed for some time,” said Clarke.
Of course, many politicians are also football fans too, and Damian Collins’s colleagues in Parliament have shown their support, with MPs and Peers giving their cross-party backing to the plans.
Supportive voices in Westminster include Carolyn Harris MP (Swansea City FC), Damian Green MP (Reading FC), Lord Goddard of Stockport (Manchester City FC), Henry Smith MP (Crawley Town FC), Ian Byrne MP (Liverpool FC), Jonathan Gullis MP (Port Vale FC), and Kevin Brennan MP (Cardiff City FC), Rehman Chisthi MP (Gillingham FC), Chris Green MP (Bolton Wanderers FC), Steve Baker MP (Wycombe Wanderers FC), Scott Benton MP (Blackpool FC), David Amess MP (Southend United FC), Daniel Kawcynski MP (Shrewsbury Town FC), Clive Betts MP Chair of the APPG for Football, Rosie Cooper MP and Derek Twigg MP.
They have written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, as well as the chair of the FA and EFL.