The People’s Game

by • May 21, 2017 • Political football, tf blogs, UncategorizedComments Off on The People’s Game1141

Who do you trust with the NHS? Who’ll build most new houses, who’ll look after your children’s schools? Who’s going to put taxes up? Are you bothered by the personalities involved in the latest election campaign and are you convinced that what you need is strong and stable leadership who can provide a strong and stable economy? Well, this article isn’t going to look at any of those things. To be honest most of us will be sick to death of the coverage of the election across all forms of media before the 8th June and the last thing you probably want is to have your football reading hijacked by an article in true faith about the election, but bear with me.

Most of you reading this are probably Geordies and the election results in whatever is your constituency perhaps fairly predictable, but this election does bring with it a different dynamic to the usual one horse race. People of various party political persuasions come to this ballot following a somewhat surprising referendum result. Their usual allegiances may be challenged by their views about who will best take us forward through Brexit.

But you’re also part of another interested group with significant voting power. Reading this suggests you’re a football fan. One of several millions across the country. What will each party offer to you as a fan? They’re unlikely to regulate the price, or quality, of pies or beer at our grounds. I doubt they’ll have any real interest in ticket prices and I’m not holding out any hope that they can improve the quality of the football we watch.

Before the 2015 election there was a marked difference between the main parties in what they said they would do. There was a significant degree of interest in the governance of football. A cross-party Parliamentary Select Committee was considering the question of governance. It had taken ages to report. Eventually it acknowledged that football had serious problems in terms of governance and recommended that there should be changes to improve fan engagement. We’ve had some changes to League rules requiring better “structured dialogue” between clubs and their supporters but little else.

The Labour Party went much further in their 2015 manifesto and they gave a commitment to introduce legislation to entitle fan representation at Board level. They didn’t get in and nothing has happened. “Strong and stable” Theresa May has called a snap election and we’ve been waiting to see what the main parties would offer football fans this time around.

The Labour Party is again reaching out to football supporters in its manifesto which includes measures to give fans a greater say in how their clubs are run. Alongside pledges on health, education and transport, it includes specific pledges relating to the beautiful game.

A Labour government would legislate to allow accredited supporters’ trusts to appoint and remove at least two club directors and purchase shares when clubs change hands, it says. It adds: “Sport must be run in the interests of those who participate in it and love it, not just for a privileged few.”

Wider fan participation in sports governance will also be reviewed. The party would ensure the Premier League “delivers on its promise to invest 5% of its television rights income into the grassroots to help the next generation of players and coaches, and improve facilities and pitches”.

The document adds: “The Premier League has so far failed to do so, despite lucrative new domestic and international TV deals.”

Anyone who has followed the national debate about how football is governed will know how difficult it has been to introduce any meaningful changes. The preferred option seems to be to get the football business to come up with ways to re-organise and self regulate itself. It won’t happen. Unless legislation is introduced and regulations put in place the self interests of those involved in running the game will prevail.

There’s no sign at the minute that the Tories or Lib Dems are planning to include anything in their 2017 manifestos and their previous records give no reason to believe anything will change.

So, if you are sick to death of the whole election process or think that politics doesn’t interest you, take a decision on the 8th of May based on being a football fan and use your vote to try and get the best deal for fans everywhere.

Peter Fanning

Vice Chairman

Newcastle United Supporters Trust

Follow the Trust on Twitter @nufctrust and find them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/nufctrust/

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