The government has submitted its white paper on the governance of football to the House of Commons and fans have given their first reactions.

Key recommendations include a new independent regulator, tougher ownership and director tests and the ability to bar English clubs from entering breakaway competitions like the European Super League.

Neil Jackson of the QPR 1st Supporters Trust is cautiously optimistic but hopes fans who have suffered from irresponsible owners in the past will be given more protection.

He said: “There have been too many bad owners coming into the sport and that really affects us at lower levels.

“The most important thing is wealth redistribution and proper ownership testing – we need government intervention to sort out the worst of things and stop charlatans and speculators from moving in and ruining clubs, which is what we see with the likes of Bury and Wigan have seen in the past.”

Despite the government’s aim to put fans back at the heart of football operations, Jackson is still concerned about the lack of detail on fan representation and argues fans need to sit on their own club’s boards to provide guidance to owners .

Charlton Athletic is another club that has suffered from mismanagement of late, first with Roland Duchatelet in the mid-2010s, the short-lived takeover of ESI (East Street Investments) and now with Thomas Sandgaard.

Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust’s Heather Alderson contributed to the fan-led review and welcomes the white paper and the introduction of an independent regulator who agrees with the EFL (English Football League) that this could be a milestone for English football.

She said: “The test for owners and directors has now been improved and the test is even more robust in terms of funding source and in terms of making clubs more sustainable.”

Alderson notes that had such reforms been implemented beforehand, it would have prevented ESI from buying Charlton in the first place, and months later three members of the company would have failed the ownership test by not approving the raising of funds.

This would see her own club penalized as the south-east London team would face a transfer embargo in the summer of 2020.

She believes fans will be delighted to see the primary duty of protecting cultural heritage protected – with the ability for owners to prevent their club’s name, badge and traditional club colors from being changed.

In addition, Alderson supports measures such as the proposed regulator being given backstop measures to ensure top-flight revenue is spread across the football pyramid even if there is no deal between the Premier League, EFL and National League.

She said: “The Premier League benefits from a healthy pyramid and the pyramid itself fosters people’s relationship with football – it’s all about hope in your football club.”

Still, Alderson believes there is still work to be done to ensure reforms to protect the game as a whole are implemented.

She said: “We have to get involved; we cannot assume that the job is done. The government will need help getting all of this through in detail and fans need to stay engaged.”

A similar review of domestic women’s football is already underway.

Photo credit: FromMorningToMidnight, via CC BY-SA 4.0

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