The government’s comprehensive fan-led review report has been published - and it promises to change the landscape of the English game.
Here, we take a detailed look at the review, what’s been said about it and how it could impact Newcastle United in the future:
What is the fan-led review and why is it happening?
The fan-led review (IREF), after being promised by the government in their 2019 general election manifesto, was brought forward as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the failed European Super League breakaway in April.
The review aimed to “explore ways of improving the governance, ownership and financial sustainability of clubs in English football” and “engage extensively with fans to ensure any recommendations are led by fans’ experience and interests.”
Indeed, the review heard more than 100 hours of evidence from fans representing more than 130 clubs, the FA, Premier League, EFL, League Managers’ Association and Professional Footballers’ Association.
What is being recommended? The 10 major points
- The Government should create a new independent regulator for English football (IREF).
- IREF should oversee financial regulation in football to ensure sustainability of the professional game.
- New owners’ and directors’ tests for clubs should be established by IREF.
- A new corporate governance code to support a long-term sustainable future of the game, mandatory for all professional clubs.
- Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) mandatory for all clubs.
- Supporters should be properly consulted by their clubs in taking key decisions through a Shadow Board.
- Additional protection for key items of club heritage through a “Golden Share” for fans.
- 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 other English top-flight clubs.
- Women’s football should be treated equally and given its own dedicated review to guarantee its future.
- Stakeholders should work together to improve the welfare of players - particularly at a young age - leaving the game.
What Tracey Crouch MP said
Tracey Crouch MP, chair of the fan-led review, said: “Our national game is at a crossroads with the proposed European Super League just one of many illustrations of deep-seated problems in the game.
“The commitment and passion of the fans who have contributed to the review has been genuinely humbling to see. Where this passion had been betrayed by owners it has been heartbreaking – and testimony from those who had lost their club in Bury particularly so.
“The sophistication of thought about the problems of the game and solutions presented by those fans was also remarkable. It is often said that football would be nothing without the fans. The same can be said for this review and I want to thank each and everyone who has contributed.”
What the Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust (NUST) said
Greg Tomlinson from the Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust said: “The Trust welcomes a number of the findings of the fan-led review and I am pleased that Tracey Crouch and the panel took on board the evidence the Trust presented to them. It has been clear for some time that the Premier League is not fit to govern itself and the recommendation to establish a new independent regulator for English football established by an Act of Parliament should be welcomed by all football fans.
“The Trust welcomes the recommendation for the creation of a Shadow Board and the proposal for a "Golden Share" and we look forward to continuing to work with the new owners of Newcastle United to establish best practice in meaningful fan engagement.
“As ever - the proof is in the action. The findings of this report represent a significant step in the right direction but actions speak louder than words and the Government must now act decisively through parliament to legislate to put these recommendations into law and truly re-set football to operate in the best interests of fans. We will provide a more detailed response to members tomorrow.”
How would this impact Newcastle United?
One point that would have undoubtedly caught Newcastle fans’ attention is IREF’s desire to reinvent in the owners’ and directors’ test.
Of course, it doesn’t hold as much relevance now after the £305million Saudi-Arabian-backed takeover was approved in October - but it’s still interesting nonetheless.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Crouch the takeover would have been “stress-tested more” by IREF.
She said: “I certainly can’t tell you whether or not this integrity test would have stopped the Newcastle takeover. I don’t know the details of it,” she said.
“But I would say that it would certainly have stress-tested it more and it would have been more transparent in that testing.”
Now Newcastle are under the ownership of the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia’s riches, wild spending is wished for by fans, despite being played down.
Indeed, IREF proposed to block influxes of cash if it is “destabilising to the long-term sustainability of the wider league in which it competes.”
Being restricted in the transfer markets etc probably won’t go down well with most Toon supporters but the idea of IREF is to create a more sustainable and fairer game.
Also, going forward, IREF believes United should have a ‘shadow board’ of fans to consult over key decisions and that supporters hold a ‘golden share’ to protect their clubs’ heritage. This could be where NUST become more prominent.