Supporters’ groups from across the country have joined forces with politicians and pundits to launch “Sustain The Game!” – a new campaign which calls for urgent action from the authorities to protect the existence of clubs throughout the game.
The financial strains caused by Covid-19 have threatened many clubs and fans say urgent action is needed from the football authorities to help them survive.
The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) is coordinating Sustain The Game! and says that while the current pandemic has brought many issues to an immediate head, these are long standing finance and governance matters which need to be fixed.
The Government’s 2019 manifesto committed to a “fan led” review of football governance and the FSA says it wants to demonstrate the support within football for that to happen.
The campaign is backed by fans’ organisations from almost all of the 92 Premier League and EFL clubs alongside those in the women’s game, non-league and high profile ex-pros and pundits such as Jamie Carragher, Henry Winter, Colin Murray, Amy Lawrence, Guy Mowbray, and FSA Commentator of the Year Peter Drury.
Political support comes in the shape of ex-sports minister Tracey Crouch, Labour’s shadow sports minister Alison McGovern and Liberal Democrats’ Daisy Cooper MP, the party’s sports spokesperson.
The campaign is also backed by the cross-party All-Party Parliamentary Group for Football Supporters and many community-owned clubs including the newly-formed Bury AFC.
Campaign backers say the football authorities and government cannot sit back and watch as dozens of historic clubs are under immediate threat and could disappear altogether.
FSA chief executive Kevin Miles said:
“Football occupies a special space in our society as clubs carry huge cultural and local economic importance. Sustain The Game! will demonstrate the need for urgent action as the very existence of many clubs is under threat. If we don’t act now we might lose some forever.
“We call on everyone with an interest in the game, from clubs and leagues to players and managers, to come together and work in partnership to support Sustain The Game! The time for action isn’t next week, next month, or next year – it’s now.”
Ex-Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher said:
“The FSA’s Sustain The Game! campaign can play a massive role in protecting clubs throughout the game. This is a difficult time for the game but it’s also a chance to make real changes. Supporters’ have to be involved in that as well.”
Sustain The Game! is built around five key principles and aims to protect clubs, increase transparency, implement strong independent financial controls, strengthen the football pyramid, and increase supporter engagement.
Sustain The Game! principles:
- Protect our clubs – football clubs are community assets and an important expression of individual and local identity, they deserve legal protection and urgent support to secure their future;
- Transparency – everyone has a right to know who owns their club, and how clubs and the authorities operate. Owners are custodians of clubs on behalf of all of us;
- Financial controls – fans want rules with real teeth which are independently enforced, clubs and leagues can’t be left to regulate themselves;
- Strengthen the pyramid – football as a whole is wealthy, but we need a smarter and fairer use of the money in the game to encourage sustainability;
- Supporter engagement – fans are the lifeblood of the game, they need a voice in their clubs and on all issues that affect them and their communities.
Further reading: The FSA has made a series of proposals to the FA including a new Code of Practice on the Stewardship of Football Clubs which sets out guidance for clubs and owners on a range of issues which have caused problems – name changes, playing colours and badges, stadium location, training facilities, failure to honour wages, and tax commitments. The code would also stop owners loading debt onto a club in order to finance its purchase. The proposals have the support of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Football Supporters.
You can download the paper in full Here.