Lisa Nandy MP: Football fans have waited long enough for change

Last week the Government finally set out their plans to reform football governance to help shield clubs from the actions of reckless owners and give fans a bigger say in how their club is run.
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The new football white paper incorporates many of the recommendations made in the 2021 Fan Led Review of Football Governance which welcomed contributions from over 20,000 fans from clubs across the country.

The key proposals include a new independent football regulator to ensure clubs are financially resilient, a tougher owners’ and directors’ test to protect clubs and fans from careless owners, powers for fans to stop owners changing a club’s name, badge and traditional kit colours, measures to ensure a fair distribution of money filters down the English football pyramid and new powers to block English clubs from joining breakaway competitions, such as the European Super League.

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Of course, Latics fans do not need to be told that these reforms are desperately needed and long overdue.

Wigan MP Lisa NandyWigan MP Lisa Nandy
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy

The battle to save Wigan Athletic illustrated the devastating impact that the actions of bad owners can have on a club and a community.

It also exposed the complete inadequacy of the systems and bodies that were set up to protect clubs.

Fans and the community who should have been at the heart of the process of rescuing our club were shut out and when it came to the crunch the wrong people held all the power.

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Ultimately, the tireless efforts of fans, the Supporters Club, individuals such as CEO Jonathan Jackson and help from Wigan Council resulted in the club being saved despite all the barriers put in the way.

Sadly, other great, historic clubs such as Bury and Macclesfield Town have not survived despite the unrelenting efforts of their fans.

In the 15 months it’s taken the Government to set out its plans, Derby County also nearly went under and Southend United now look in real danger, Oldham Athletic were relegated from the football league, Chelsea’s ownership has changed hands and Manchester United and Liverpool are now reportedly up for sale.

The Premier League and English Football League are also still to reach a deal on finances which means lower league clubs including Wigan Athletic will miss out on around £365 million this season without the recommended new funding formula being introduced.

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While I welcome the Government’s plans and in particular the proposals for a new independent regulator, I am concerned that it is taking so long to introduce the reforms that everyone agrees are so desperately needed.

The Fan Led Review was published in 2021 and rather than following through on their commitment to introduce legislation to implement its recommendations, the Government’s white paper only offers an indication of what may be put in place.

The Government has also said there will be further consultation on these proposals despite the in-depth work that has already been done by the Fan Led Review.

The longer the Government dithers on reforming football the more clubs are put at risk. Fans have waited long enough; we need real action and change, and we need it now.

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