The long-awaited report of the Independent Fan-Led Review of Football Governance, chaired by Tracey Crouch MP, was published yesterday.

You can read it here.

The review was announced by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport in April 2021, with the aim of exploring “ways of improving the governance, ownership and financial sustainability of clubs in English football.” It was based on the principle of engaging “extensively with fans to ensure any recommendations are led by fans’ experience and interests.”

To this end, fans’ groups from around 130 clubs took part in the review, alongside other football stakeholders, during more than 100 hours of evidence gathering sessions.

The report makes 47 recommendations, including:

  • The Government should create a new independent regulator for English football (IREF) established by an Act of Parliament based upon specialist business regulation adapted to the football industry. IREF should operate a licensing system for professional men’s football.
  • To ensure financial sustainability of the professional game, IREF should oversee financial regulation in football which should be based upon prudential regulation in other industries recognising that football is obviously sport but also now big business.
  • New owners’ and directors’ tests for clubs should be established by IREF replacing the three existing tests to ensure that only good custodians and qualified directors can run these vitally important community and cultural assets.
  • There should be a new corporate governance code to support a long-term sustainable future of the game. This should be mandatory for all professional clubs with common requirements tailored to different leagues.
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) plans should be mandatory for all clubs with EDI Action Plans regularly assessed by IREF.
  • As every club’s most important stakeholder, supporters should be properly consulted by their clubs in taking key decisions by means of a Shadow Board. Effective supporter engagement should be a licence condition and overseen by IREF.
  • There should be additional protection for key items of club heritage through a “Golden Share” requiring supporter consent and overseen by IREF.
  • There is a strong case for additional contributions from The Premier League to further support the future of the football pyramid including a new solidarity transfer levy paid by top-flight on buying players from overseas or from other Premier League clubs.
  • Women’s football should be treated with parity and given its own dedicated review to guarantee its future recognising the significant steps forward taken in recent years but also the unique challenges facing the game.
  • The welfare of players exiting the game needs to be better protected – particularly at a young age – and all stakeholders should work together on improving this including the provision of proactive mental health care and support.

Commenting on the recommendations, the Chief Executive of the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) and Football Supporters Europe (FSE) Board member Kevin Miles said:

“This is potentially a huge step forward for football governance—the Government committed to a fan-led review which has listened to the voice of fans. It’s now up to the Government to deliver upon the recommendations.

“The review’s proposals to strengthen the voice of supporters in the game, protect football’s heritage and the pyramid, and provide genuine independent regulation, lay the basis for a prosperous and sustainable future for football at all levels.” 

Reflecting on the review’s implications for the rest of European Football, FSE Executive Director, Ronan Evain, said:

“Tracey Crouch and the fan-led review panel have thoroughly investigated the problems afflicting English and Welsh football—not to mention the rest of Europe. Their recommendations represent a practical, effective, and long-term blueprint to make the national game more sustainable at every level, safeguarding clubs and their communities in the process.

“We look forward to their implementation, as well as their impact on the wider debate about governance across the continent.”

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