FAIR GAME, a group of 25 value-driven clubs supported by 40 world-renowned football expert, revealed their new vision for football at a prestigious launch at Plough Lane, the home of AFC Wimbledon, today.
The government is currently developing policies on how to change the national game as part of Tracey Crouch’s football governance review. Fair Game aim is to help develop the long-term realistic solutions needed.
The details of that vision are outlined in Fair Game’s 48-page manifesto, Putting Pride Back In the Shirt: Fair Game’s Solution for the National Game.
It details solutions to various problems within football, including the owners and directors test, financial sustainability, protecting the heritage of clubs, a fairer distribution of TV revenues, opposing the European Super League, and tackling discrimination.
The document is the result of over six months of hard-work from Fair Game, and follows: ongoing consultation with the clubs, recruitment of global experts, brainstorms, four workshops, nine expert-led working groups, a 66-page options documents, five surveys of clubs, and two open scrutiny sessions.
Among those backing the call is the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. He said: “Fair Game’s proposals are exactly what football needs. I’m only too aware of the dangers that exist. We've seen the collapse of Bury and the spectre of the ESL. Football is integral to our communities.
“The game needs a reboot. I back the need for an independent regulator, for an Owners and Directors Test that is fit for purpose, and most importantly the protection of the heritage and traditions of our clubs.”
Niall Couper, the Chief Executive Office of Fair Game, added: “Tracey Crouch’s review represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change football for the better. We have to grasp it and we believe our proposals lay that path.
“We want a sport where every fan can put their shirt on in the morning proud in what it stands for, safe in the knowledge that the traditions and heritage of their club will always be there."
Andy Holt, owner of Accrington Stanley, said: "As one of the smallest clubs in the EFL it is paramount that Accrington Stanley communicate to and listen to their supporters and between the two, build a community club for future generations to enjoy.
“Blowing huge amounts of money to win the ‘golden ticket’ to the Premier League is putting some clubs into a financial abyss without a thought of what they are doing to the heritage of their community football club.
“Now is an ideal opportunity for change and a chance for the football family to look after its own, right down the football pyramid. We want other football clubs to join Accrington Stanley as part of ‘Fair Game’ and to be part of the future changes to make football for everyone, not just the elite few.”
Xavier Wiggins, co-chair of the Dons Trust Board, owners of AFC Wimbledon, said: "I urge all club owners to join Fair Game. Let’s implement a structure that is more responsible, fairer and more equitable.
“Let’s not wait for bad stuff to happen. Let’s not be dictated to. Let’s implement a structure that is more responsible, fairer and more equitable. Let’s shape our own future. Together we can be powerful.”
Mike Gilham, Director of Basingstoke Town Community Football Club and Fair Game Policy Advisor, said: “We were really pleased to attend the launch of Fair Game’s manifesto. As a club, our vision and purpose centres around the principles that Fair Game are campaigning to implement throughout the game. It is well documented that we have faced our own challenges in respect to our club and our facility in particular and we believe had Fair Game principles been implemented our situation would have looked remarkably different. We are fully supportive of Fair Game and the work they are seeking to achieve.”
Tom Gorringe, Commercial Director of Bristol Rovers, said: “The collapse of Bury and Macclesfield, and the European Super League have shown very clearly that there needs to be changes within the game to safeguard the core components that make it special to us all.
“Right now there is a small window of opportunity to do this with widespread feeling within the game and the fan-led review of the game that is taking place currently.
“Upon hearing about this campaign we could instantly see a natural alignment between their core values and our strategic approach at the football club.
“As custodians of the club, our responsibility is not only to do all we can to make the ongoing improvements to the football club, but we also have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the wider game and the football pyramid that makes football in this country so special.
“This is a view that we hope will be shared by clubs across the country and we hope that through this campaign we can come together to help affect positive change and that is why we have chosen to join and play an active role in the ‘Fair Game’ campaign.”
Phil Young, Chair of Shakers Community, the owners of Bury AFC, said: “We can’t think of anything more wasteful than for the demise of Bury FC to be just a sob story. We set up Bury AFC to help point the way to a better future for football, and remind the country that supporters can and should have a sense of agency in the clubs they follow.
“When we saw the other clubs involved in Fair Game we had no hesitation in joining, as many of them provided the inspiration for us to pick ourselves up and start again.”
Cambridge United CEO Ian Mather said: “The structure of football is in desperate need of reform. The game is the richest sport in the UK yet we continue to see clubs post eye watering losses leading to the collapse of many. As we emerge from the pandemic there is an opportunity to reset how football operates. We should not waste this chance and we are keen to work with other like-minded clubs to help shape the organisation of the sport which gives so much joy to so many communities.
"We are fortunate in this country to have football clubs that provide joy to millions of people as well as doing great work in their communities. This network of clubs is under real threat as it operates in a way that is financially unsustainable. That needs to change for the benefit of future generations which is why we are supporting Fair Game."
Nigel Clibbens, CEO of Carlisle United, said: "Carlisle is a great community club. The recent European Super League debacle, and the long standing instability from parachute payments have all shown that we need to act.
“We need to use this opportunity to look at what needs to change, and we need to look at what needs to be protected within the game.”
Chester Director Mike Vickers said: “Fair Game epitomises the values of Chester.
“Football needs far better governance. We need to take sustainability seriously. We need integrity in the football pyramid. And we need to work with our community.
“We can all be rivals for 180 minutes but for the rest of the season we need to come together.
“The pandemic, the European Super League, the demise of Bury and Macclesfield, and the new government review into football, have given us a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the game.
“We need to grasp that. We want Chester to be part of that. And that’s why we’ve joined Fair Game.”
Chesterfield chairman Mike Goodwin said: “We fully support Fair Game’s values as sustainability. Integrity and community are at the heart of what we are about as a football club owned by a Community Trust.”
Peter Furmedge, Director, City of Liverpool FC: "Football needs root and branch reform. Supporters, as a minimum, deserve transparency from club owners and football authorities alike. City of Liverpool FC is delighted to stand alongside like-minded clubs at this launch and we look forward to us working together to give football supporters the Fair Game their loyalty and dedication deserves."
David Johnston, Darlington FC chief executive officer, said: “We strongly support the aims and principles of Fair Game, which is acting in the wider interests of football.
“It’s clear from recent events that much more needs to be done in the way that the game of football should be governed and administered, and Fair Game will play a key role in ensuring that happens.”
Marc White, Chair of Dorking Wanderers, said: "Dorking Wanderers are 100% in support of the Fair Game manifesto. We, as a club, have a strong desire to see fair play off the pitch as well as on and are determined to see a change in how football is governed."
Ebbsfleet United CEO, Damian Irvine, said: “Given what we as a club and a wider football community have experienced the last 12 months, a sustainable, well-governed sport is something we all aspire to.
“With that in mind, Fair Game is absolutely the right vehicle to ensure mature, measured and meaningful debate and lobbying where needed. Their core principles mirror our own as a club and what we aim to reflect on behalf of our investors, partners and supporters.”
Grimsby Town Fan Elected Director Kristine Green said: ”The clock is ticking. The last year has been tough on football and has seen an unprecedented amount of financial pressure put on clubs like ours.
“And we have joined forces with several other ‘like-minded’ clubs through Fair Game to put pressure on the government and the football authorities to deliver real change.
“I am acutely aware of how much our club means to our fans. Long-term security rests with working with our communities.
“As clubs, we need to work together to make that happen and that is why we are endorsing Fair Game.”
Danny Macklin, CEO of Leyton Orient, said: “We’re very pleased to join Fair Game. We will be working closely with all the associated clubs in the coming weeks and months, to achieve long term sustainability for the football pyramid, that is beloved in this country."
Clive Nates, Chairman of Lincoln City, said: “The review represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to reboot the game we love.
“All clubs should be encouraged to ensure a sustainable long-term future so that our traditions and heritage built up over decades is never put at risk.
“Football should be at the heart of a community."
Oliver Ash, joint owner at Maidstone United said: “Having read what Fair Game stands for, it was a simple decision for us to Register.
“Football needs far better governance. A good example of this is last week’s National League EGM, where half the clubs voted for a motion of no confidence in the chairman and board, yet the league pass it off as a convincing result in their favour because of an unfair voting system.
“The events of the past year and the government review into football have given us a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the game.”
Newport County AFC chairman Gavin Foxall, said: “Our goals are simple. We want a sport that has integrity, sustainability, independent regulation and community at its heart.
“This, I believe, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Time is of the essence as Tracey Crouch has announced a fan-led review to address governance of football in the UK.
“If we want to achieve our goals then we need to grasp this moment and join together.”
Rochdale Chairman Simon Gauge, said: “We are delighted to become a member club of Fair Game.
“We believe wholeheartedly in the principles of Fair Game – sustainability, integrity and community. The values are so closely aligned to our own, especially acting with fairness and integrity, being open and transparent, being collaborative and engaging, and being community focused.
“Becoming an active member of Fair game seems a very natural step for Rochdale AFC. With the fan led review of football currently taking place, now is the time to try and change football for the better.
“By being a member of Fair Game, our voice will be heard on this and hopefully clubs like ours will not be penalised in the future for trying to operate in a sustainable manner.”
Mark Palios, Chairman of Tranmere Rovers, said: “Fair Game’s core principles align with our own. We can be rivals for 180 minutes a season, but when it comes to improving football we need to act as one – and that is why we have joined Fair Game."
Dave Netherstreet, Tonbridge Angels Chairman, said: “This is really a once in a lifetime opportunity to save the game we love and change the way football operates.
“The demise of the likes of Bury and Macclesfield, and the recently proposed European Super League are real wake-up calls.
“It is time to put aside our rivalries and for clubs to work together and turn the game that we love into one that is sustainable.”
Luke Cox, Director of Worcester City FC, said: “Worcester City FC is enthused to join a rich tapestry of like-minded football clubs across England & Wales to call for change in how football is governed.
“Football needs significant changes to protect the future of our football clubs and leagues. We are aligned with our new fellow Fair Game clubs that we wish to see football governed with fairness, openness and transparency at its core.
“We are so proud to be a part of our local community and strive to do good within it through Worcester City.”
The original article can be found here.