For the many football fans who have long campaigned for reforms to the modern mega-commercialization of the game, the content of Tracey Crouch’s “fan-run review” is so familiar it manages to be both scary. and strangely reassuring. It reflects on the same glaring problems and structural dysfunctions as all the previous serious reports that have accumulated since the Premier League clubs of the Football League parted ways to form the Premier League 29 years ago, and comes to essentially the same conclusions .
But there is a huge difference this time around, which makes it a real landmark. The review shows politicians are tired of being fooled, and veteran Football Supporters Association activists, who have worked hard on the details, have learned from previous reports producing too little change. So, unlikely as it is, it looks like a Tory government led by a figure like Boris Johnson could seriously consider bringing in an independent regulator for popular gaming, which has now become a real possibility, after Crouch took the opportunity and recommended it.
The Premier League opposes the proposal, but the unique top 20-club division, which is home to much of the game’s billions and wields so much power within it, has largely brought this recommendation onto itself. Ever since the new Labor government organized a ‘soccer task force’ from 1997 to examine the flaws in the game’s business makeover, the Premier League has traditionally advocated and lobbied against regulatory changes. Under the leadership of former managing director Richard Scudamore, the Premier League has also worked hard to oppose measures taken by the Football Association, the governing body, to regulate the finances and ownership of top clubs.
With its wealth and weight, the league won these turf wars, and the role of the FA has largely focused on administering the sporting heart of football, from the England team to the grassroots pyramid and semi-professional, and the development of training programs. He has made admirable progress in many of these areas, as heralded by the England squad’s surprising improvement, but remains largely on the sidelines of the business side of club regulation and painfully distorted finances Game.
Crouch Review achieved the same overall rating as the clearly reasonable one achieved by all of its predecessors, acknowledging the game’s dazzling achievements since 1992, while acknowledging its calamities. “This English football success story is a tribute to the hard work and vision of countless people over many years,” he says, “but it is possible to simultaneously celebrate this achievement while having serious concerns as to the future viability of football in this country.
Throughout these years of investigation, the best clubs have succeeded with one main goal: to keep as much football money as possible for themselves. The breakaway was a loophole in the Football League’s structure of splitting the money between the four divisions, and whatever 20 clubs are at the top of the gold at any given time, they never make it. to re-establish the much more equal distribution, at 50%, of the old one.
The resulting fierce inequality is presented on page 28 of Crouch’s report with a very simple color chart showing the 2019-2020 club income. The four clubs that have played in the Champions League dominate all other clubs, with average earnings of £ 444million each. This was £ 424million more than the £ 20million average achieved by championship clubs without a parachute payment. Those who benefit from parachute payments, which the report acknowledges impossibly distort EFL finances, are still only making small strains on the chart, averaging £ 52million. The review calls for a more equal sharing, to be imposed by the regulator if the clubs do not manage to agree.
The nearly 30-year concentration of football’s money so heavily at the top has turned the venerable clubs originally founded as Victorian community institutions into investments, for owners who may someday “go out” and sell. for vast personal gain. In December 1999, the FA, Premier League and Football League rejected the reform proposals of the Football Task Force’s majority and produced their own separate report. Barely one of the top 20 clubs of the era now has the same owners, and several, including Martin Edwards of Manchester United and David Moores of Liverpool, have sold their shares to investors for multi-million pound gains. It is shaking to remember that the 1999-20 Premier League which took this stance included Sunderland, Coventry, Wimbledon, Derby, Bradford and Sheffield Wednesday, clubs which have all struggled since their retirement.
As Crouch’s report notes, professional clubs have collapsed 62 times in insolvency since the Premier League breakaway, leaving traces of unpaid government debts. Many fell in the early 2000s, when there was nothing comparable to the current scale of financial regulation, and no “fit and suitable person test”, as football authorities have argued for years that it would be impractical.
The Premier League and the EFL have evolved over time, driven by the various reports, pressures, crises or business logic, or sometimes simply by doing the right thing. From a historical point of view, it is striking to note that patience is finally at an end, and the recommendation made for independent regulation, when the game is better managed and regulated more substantially than ever, and that the clubs have to large community programs doing excellent work in many areas. disadvantaged by the government’s decade of austerity. But now the latest in a series of grueling investigations, carried out by people who have been around for a long time, have concluded that football can no longer be left alone and needs help to help itself.