With tomorrow’s General Election looming F.A.N comments on the Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative responses to our comprehensive This Game is Our Game manifesto. It’s imperative that all supporters consider football reform when they vote.
Responses from the three main political parties to the F.A.N manifesto
The General Election is just hours away, so F.A.N have summarised the main political parties’ responses to F.A.N’s This Game is our Game manifesto. We delivered it to the doorsteps of the HQs of Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on 18th April, and followed up in writing.
Liberal Democrat party
The first response was from Baroness Grender (Deputy Chair of election campaign, Liberal Democrats). Her letter makes several welcome commitments that we will seek to ensure are delivered, if they form part of a new coalition. We are particularly pleased with their commitments to:
•“Require the Sports Ground Safety Authority to prepare guidance under which domestic football clubs, working with their supporters, mayintroduce safe standing areas”.
•“Make homophobic chanting a criminal offence, just like racist chanting. All senior clubs should be required to achieve football’s “Equality Standard”, which itself should be revised to ensure that racism, sexism, homophobia and sectarianism are treated equally”.
•“Reform football licensing rules to: a. protect the core identity and heritage of football clubs; b. greater clarity and robustness in the “fit and proper person” rules on club ownership; c. complete transparency on clubs’ ownership arrangements; and d. the abolition of the Football Creditors’ Rule”.
•“[Ensure] At least 10% of all tickets for matches in the English Premier League, English Football League and Scottish Premier League to be made available at an “affordable” price”.
•“[Introduce] a formal 5% tithe on English and Scottish Premier League TV revenues to fund the strengthening off the game’s grassroots and lower leagues, and to ensure greater democracy and equality in the game”.
It’s pleasing that the Liberal Democrats are committed to taking the final steps to deliver safe standing for fans. We note the Labour party’s opposition (see below) on this issue, and urge Baroness Grender to include this issue as part of any coalition negotiations.
We are pleased that they would make 10% of tickets in the six most expensive leagues in the UK more affordable (albeit no detail on how this would be implemented or what is “affordable”) and would outlaw homophobic chanting. We are also pleased that they agree with our proposal to introduce a formal tax (tithe) on the Premier League TV revenues. We see no reason, however, that this should be limited to only 5% considering the gross inequity that currently is damaging Our Game. We will continue to argue for 15% of income from domestic and overseas rights.
F.A.N welcomes the commitment to reform football licensing rules, but at the same time continue to believe that the game requires far greater large scale reform from FIFA at the top to the FA, league administrations and club ownership. This would be best achieved through a Football Reform Bill.
The Labour party’s manifesto has also committed to force the Premier League to invest at least 5% of its total television income in the grassroots. F.A.N also welcome their commitment to give Supporters’ Trusts the right to “appoint and remove up to a quarter and not less than two of a football club’s board of directors and purchase up to 10 per cent of the shares when a club changes ownership, if they so wish.”
In his response to our letter, Clive Efford (Shadow Minister for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport) stated the Labour Party would act on this commitment within 100 days if elected.
His reply also confirmed that Labour would “regulate if [the Premier League] continue to fail to meet their obligations [to the grassroots]”, and is “committed to a betting levy on all sports, including football…[that would be] invested into grassroots sport.” We welcome their support on these issues.
Efford also stated that they want the “FA [to] restructure itself so that it becomes more representative of all parts of the football family.” However, it stopped short of committing to legislate through a Football Reform Bill, if the FA fails to deliver on this.
Labour’s response fell short in a couple of areas. In particular, we are disappointed by their objection to back safe standing, despite the overwhelming evidence from testing that has shown its readiness. Safe standing has been a resounding success in Germany, which has also enabled clubs to provide lower ticket prices. We find this response particularly disappointing. They have also made no specific commitment to legislate on fair ticket prices, and instead consider that having a minority representation of fans on the Board would be sufficient.
The Conservative party manifesto makes no specific commitment to football reform or the needs of supporters. The current Government has, however, created an Expert Group on Supporter Ownership. A spokesperson for the Conservative party, when responding to the F.A.N manifesto, said “We are keen to hear the Group’s proposals to make progress in this area and we have been clear that we want to take on as many of the recommendations as possible. Legislation often works as a fairly blunt instrument on issues like this but we are keen to hear the views of fans and supporter groups.”
The spokesperson did say that the Conservative party “backs the Living Wage”, but with the caveat that only “if they can afford to and it doesn’t hurt jobs.”
It is clear therefore that the Tories are not in a position to back any of the specific reforms at this time, which is disappointing. If they are re-elected, then we seek to engage with them further to make better progress on these various issues.
Clearly these responses shouldn’t solely decide how you vote on Thursday, but as football fans then they will hopefully guide you into making a final decision. F.A.N will seek to meet with the new Government to discuss implementation of their manifesto commitments. F.A.N are currently speaking with a number of supporters’ groups, particularly from crisis clubs who will again bring their fight for football reform to the doors of the politicians post election.
We will also take the opportunity to make progress on the other priorities in the F.A.N manifesto. Notably, we believe Our Game requires a Football Reform Bill to make the necessary changes required to club ownership, taxation and governance.
This Game is Our Game and F.A.N will continue to take opportunities to seek a better future for supporters of the game we love. #ForFutureFootball.
Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Trust Board member, on behalf of the Football Action Network.