In a little over four weeks millions of football fans will head out to cast their vote in December’s General Election – and the main political parties will be publishing manifestos including policies which could affect football.

With that in mind the FSA has pulled together some core campaign ideas and asked all the major political parties whether they support The Fans’ Manifesto.

The FSA does not favour one political party over another and football fans come from all walks of society. That means supporters can have wildly different views but we do think every fan should be informed and we aim to help with that. It’s then up to each fan where they put their X.

The Fans’ Manifesto:

Grassroots – Share the wealth

At a time when there is more money in and around football than ever before we should be enjoying a golden age of grassroots football. No local club or school team should have to endure crumbling infrastructure or lack of funds to encourage participation and develop tomorrow’s star players. The FSA wants to see more of the wealth of football – and of those like agents and betting companies who live off it – used to support the base of the game.
Standing – Stand Up for Choice

The existing legislation which aims to stop supporters standing at the game is deeply unpopular and should be scrapped. We believe there are different mixes of stewarding approaches and standing technologies which clubs can use to manage fans standing at football and it should be up to each club, in conjunction with its supporters and the local Safety Advisory Group, to develop appropriate stadium plans based on sound and rigorous risk assessment. The FSA believes clubs and fans should be empowered to work together to decide what mix of standing and seated areas is right for them.
Transport – Flexible football rail tickets

Supporters travel the length and breadth of the country following their club, often at great expense, while working around last-minute changes to games due to TV demands or football schedule clashes. The introduction of an affordable and flexible rail ticket which is tied to a game, rather than a date, could reduce costs for fans and generate new revenue for train operators at times which are often outside peak hours. The Premier League and EFL support this concept: the FSA calls on government to make it happen.
Governance and regulation – Protect our pyramid and heritage

Football is our biggest cultural expression of community identity and no other country exhibits such depth of support for clubs from the top to the bottom of the pyramid, yet this heritage can be at the mercy of unscrupulous and incompetent owners. The football authorities must be required to establish an independent process of regulation for professional clubs with a tougher Owners and Directors Test, increased financial transparency, and a requirement of owners to exercise proper stewardship over clubs, all in close co-operation with supporters’ organisations.
Equality – No to discrimination

A commitment to diversity and inclusion underpins all of the FSA’s activity and we oppose all forms of discrimination or violence in relation to football. To this end, we call for a real engagement and investment in promoting inclusion and combatting discrimination in football. The Football (Offences) Act should be extended so that it is not limited to ‘racialist or indecent chanting’ but includes all protected characteristics from the Equality Act.

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The immediate goal of the Sky Blue Trust, its members and the vast majority of supporters is the return of Coventry City Football Club to the city which bears its name.

 

The current circumstances, in which the first team plays at St Andrew’s, must not be allowed to become the accepted norm nor should it be acceptable for it to play anywhere outside of Coventry.

 

That means the club must return to the Ricoh Arena at the earliest possible opportunity because there are currently no practical alternative venues for professional football in Coventry.

 

Therefore, the Trust is endeavouring to engage with ALL relevant parties towards that end, as it has done since December 2018.

 

Those relevant parties include:

 

Coventry City FC management (Dave Boddy and Tim Fisher)

Coventry City Council (all parties and senior officers)

The English Football League (senior leadership)

Sisu Capital Limited (Joy Seppala)

Wasps Rugby Club (its directors)

 

Every party has been and will continue to be challenged to play their part in Coventry City’s return and in so doing honour commitments made to supporters.

 

The long-term aspiration of the Trust and its members is to see Coventry City FC under ownership which allows supporters to have a meaningful say in the running of the club.

 

We would also hope for ownership which has the financial standing and business acumen to return the Sky Blues to the eminent position it held before relegation from the Premier League in 2001.

 

To that end, we will encourage all current and future owners of the club to do three things:

 

  1. Recognise publicly that the club is not to be used solely to serve their commercial interests but is an essential part of the fabric of the community and a vital part of the lives of tens of thousands of supporters in Coventry and beyond.
  2. Ensure the long-term future with sound and transparent financial planning to avoid the crises and scandals which have beset football clubs in the past and present.
  3. Develop the best possible method of involvement of supporters in the management and ownership of the club.

 

The current owners, Sisu Capital, have consistently failed to meet our aspirations for Coventry City.

 

In almost 12 years of their ownership, the club has suffered two periods of exile, firstly at Northampton, now in Birmingham as well as two relegations and a period in administration.

 

Sisu Capital have never shown any likelihood of meeting our benchmark for fit and proper owners - therefore, the Sky Blue Trust and its members urge them to make an early, responsible and dignified exit from Coventry City.

 

The formal objects of the Trust as contained in the constitution, are appended below:

 

The Society’s objects are to benefit the community by: 

 

4.1. Being the democratic and representative voice of the supporters of Coventry City Football Club and strengthening the bonds between the club and the communities which it serves. 

4.2. Achieving the greatest possible supporter and community influence in the running and ownership of the club. 

4.3. Promoting responsible and constructive community engagement by present and future members of the communities served by the club and encouraging the Club to do the same.

4.4. Operating democratically, fairly, sustainably, transparently and with financial responsibility and encouraging the Club to do the same.

4.5. Being a positive, inclusive and representative organisation, open and accessible to all supporters of the Club regardless of their age, income, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexuality or religious or moral belief.

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The Sky Blue Trust are backing the campaign to legislate for the creation of an independent regulator for football.

 

Details of which are outlined below:-

 

We, the undersigned, petition Her Majesty’s Government to legislate for the creation of an independent regulator for football and subsequently to oversee the foundation and implementation of such an organisation.

We believe that the finances and administration of football are in crisis, that self-regulation has failed and that, without a new independent, statutory body, there is a serious risk that clubs will begin to go out of business.

 

Sign this petition - https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/268665

 

Background

In 2018, Blackpool Supporters Trust launched a similar epetition, following many years of dissatisfaction with the stewardship of the club by its then owner, Owen Oyston. Upon accruing 10,000 signatories, the petition received a government response.

That response said that other bodies were available to supporters to fulfil the function requested by the petition and cited the Independent Football Ombudsman as an example. Yet, by its own admission the IFO is a “part of football’s self-regulatory system.”

The government also claimed that, “Where regulation is being managed by the existing authorities in football to the extent which it is, this negates the desire or need to establish an independent regulator.”

While it may be true that there is currently limited appetite among club owners and league bodies for a new body, it’s unequivocally not true in the case of the sport’s most important stakeholders: its fans. In June 2019, Leyton Orient Fans Trust (LOFT) tabled a motion for the FSA AGM backing a “licensing system overseen by an independent regulator.” This motion received backing from 33 different trusts or supporters organisations, collectively representing tens of thousands members.

 

The pressing need for action

A year on from the government’s refusal of an independent regulator, the situation for football clubs, especially in the lower leagues, has deteriorated to the extent that we believe the decision needs reviewing.

– Over 10% of EFL clubs failed to pay their players on time at least once in the 2018/19 season.
– On 29th July 2019, Bury FC were prevented by the EFL from starting the season, due to issues surrounding the takeover of the club in December 2018. The current owner has run the club for over six months without satisfying the criteria for the EFL’s own Owners and Directors test.
– In April, Bolton Wanderers FC were also unable to complete their fixtures for the 2018/19 season as the ownership of Ken Anderson collapsed. The club’s players went five months without being paid. Mr Anderson himself had been approved by the EFL despite being previously barred from running any UK company for eight years after eight of his former companies went bust.

These are just a few examples of the increasingly widespread financial problems in football as the gap between the richest clubs at the top of the Premier League and the rest of the game grows ever larger.

The EFL, one of the bodies which should be taking responsibility for resolving the situation appears incapable of grasping the scale of the problem, let alone addressing it, and continues
to insist it is nothing but a ‘competition organiser’.

There is little to suggest a desire for owner-led reform either. Instead, a small number of larger clubs have mooted a breakaway league, while others seek loopholes on spending limits to try and reach the Premier League. (Astoundingly – and with complete disregard for the long-term future of their teams – club owners recently approved a proposal to allow the sale-and-leaseback of their own grounds to related parties to help them circumvent the very Financial Fair Play rules designed to protect clubs from unsustainable spending.)

The game is in the grips of a Wild West mentality, with club owners – many of whom have no long-term connection to the communities in which their clubs are based – pursuing reckless spending that threatens the very existence of football clubs.

The bodies tasked with safeguarding the future of the nation’s favourite sport – the FA, the EFL and the Premier League – stand uselessly by, hobbled by the inability or unwillingness of club owners to agree on the need for collective action to restore some sanity to the sport and ensure that clubs, treasured community assets, are preserved for generations to come.

Football needs to hold up its hands and admit it has lost control. Self-regulation has failed in football.

The future of the game depends on urgent government action. We, the undersigned, urge you to take it.

James Cave / Martin Calladine

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