Racism, affordable tickets, 3pm kick offs, young fans, free TV matches, the Women’s Super League and festive derbies… 10 things football must sort out after the European Super League debacle
- Fans were central to foiling the plot to form a European Super League
- Supporters have urged the authorities to protect the existence of clubs
- An independent regulator would be able to address a number of issues
The European Super League has been defeated but the events of this week show that football has many areas to address.
Supporters were central to foiling the plot and supporters must be at the heart of reforms.
It is why today Sportsmail proposes 10 things football needs to sort out, because the people who make the game what it is can no longer be taken for granted.
1. Fan-led government review
It will be led by former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch and is of huge importance to supporters’ groups, who have raised it in discussions with Sportsmail over the past few days.
For all the fury aimed at the six owners who wanted to break away, all through the pyramid there are worries.
Supporters were central to foiling the plot by 12 clubs to form a European Super League
Two examples often brought up were Bury and Macclesfield, clubs who have gone bust, ripping the heart out of communities.
The Football Supporters’ Association are driving a campaign called Sustain The Game, urging authorities to protect the existence of clubs — and help has never been more needed than now.
2. Fix fit and proper persons test
There should be a reform of the fit and proper persons test, with mechanisms to stop the owners using institutions for their own financial benefit.
New owners should place funds in a separate bank account that covers the duration of the contract of every player they sign.
Football is still reacting to the bombshell European Super League saga from earlier this week
If they go, then the wage bill is looked after so there can never be another episode like the one which befell Wigan in 2020.
There is also enough money in football to fund bigger solidarity payments for teams in League One and League Two. It cannot be right that some at the top pay millions to agents while clubs who have been the lifeblood of the game are gasping for breath.
Clubs and organisations are looking after themselves when they should be working together. An independent regulator would be able to address a number of issues.
3. Affordable tickets
Many fans who have devoted their lives to supporting teams are having to relinquish season tickets because of spiralling prices.
The cost of food inside stadiums is also out of control, framed to squeeze every last bit out of ‘consumers’.
This isn’t right. Some clubs are trying to keep prices in check but not enough are doing so.
4. Affordable TV games
The game is becoming too expensive for many to watch at home.
Every year, the price to subscribe to Sky and BT increases. There are now games on Amazon Prime, too. And if a supporter wants to watch their club’s in-house channel, that comes at a cost, too.
Premier League games have been broadcast on Sky, BT and Amazon Prime this season
In the middle of the pandemic, there was even a brief period of pay-per-view games.
One Premier League game each weekend should be free-to-air on terrestrial TV, evenly spread across all teams.
5. Save a generation
The preposterous Super League chairman Florentino Perez suggested 16-to-24-year-olds are more interested in playing video games than watching football.
Former Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore once said something similar. It shows how out of touch they are.
Kids around the world would love to be in stadiums watching football but what have clubs done to give them the opportunity?
You may become an adult at 18 but 18-year-olds rarely earn enough to follow their teams. If clubs are not taking measures to keep this generation engaged, they only have themselves to blame.
6. Kick-off times
The decline of the traditional 3pm start on a Saturday is a common gripe. It remains the best fan experience, one that enables supporters to plan their day well in advance and enjoy the occasion. There should be a rule that sees all Premier League teams have five such home fixtures per season.
Real Madrid Florentino Perez (above) claimed the game had lost a generation of fans
Too often, TV companies switch games without thinking about the impact on fans who intend to travel. Train companies do not refund money on advanced ticket purchases, so fans lose out financially if they have bought seats in good faith.
It is time for the clubs and train companies to work together to give fans the opportunity to swap their tickets at no charge — or provide a full refund should someone not be able to travel — if a fixture is switched at a later date.
7. Make Christmas local
How many times have we seen a team from the north be given a long trip south on Boxing Day or New Year’s Day (think of Manchester United going to Arsenal on January 1, 2020)?
The festive period should become a regional programme (teams in the North West play each other and so on). You could even make a day purely for derbies over Christmas. There is no excuse for TV companies or the Premier League to schedule fixtures that are antisocial in terms of time and travel.
8. Back women’s football
Sky deserve credit for their three-year deal to cover the WSL but more can be done by clubs, as the interest in this code grows.
Treat them as equals, give them the chance to play at home stadiums.
More can be done to support women’s football and the WSL as interest in the code grows
Last winter, games were called off because of unplayable pitches. It wouldn’t have been that way if there was equality.
9. Tackle racism
Racism is a stain on modern life and it is a huge problem for football. Clubs, to their credit, are trying to take on social media companies but organisations within the game have the opportunity to make meaningful statements.
UEFA have handed out bigger punishments for teams kicking off late than proven racist incidents. No more excuses.
Players found guilty of racist abuse should be banned for months. Clubs whose fans transgress should not be spared.
10. Supporter engagement
What we saw on Sunday was six owners who had become so out of touch with their fans it beggared belief.
Some clubs are proactive in their relations with supporters but more must be done.
The dream must be for clubs to have proper fan representation, to keep them aware of the issues within communities and address concerns they have about all the issues highlighted here.
Football in empty stadiums is soulless. Football needs to look after its fans.
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