APPG: what is the future of lower league football?

Accrington Stanley PA 38073274

Disincentives to promotion. The top clubs hoarding too much of the cash. Owners gambling a club’s long-term future on immediate promotion. All major issues and all covered when Accrington Stanley majority shareholder and chairman Andy Holt met with MPs on Wednesday (9th January 2019).

The What is the future of lower league football? event was co-hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Football Supporters, which the FSF acts as secretariat to, and the All-Party Parliamentary Football Group.

Holt told MPs that not enough revenue trickles down the leagues, with the Premier League’s solidarity payments to the EFL being received predominantly by Championship clubs with League One and League Two clubs receiving far smaller amounts. Second tier clubs receive 80% of the cash, League One clubs 12% and League Two clubs 8%.

He argued that this led to some owners gambling their club’s future with cash injections intended to secure promotion. But if those promotion bids fail then clubs can swiftly find themselves in financial difficulties having overspent to reach dreamland.

Clubs that live within their means such as Accrington Stanley, Holt said, are at a significant disadvantage and promotion can even create problems as owners are expected to spend millions they might not have, to establish the club at a higher level, such are the financial gaps between the leagues.

Disincentives to promotion didn’t just exist amongst playing staff though, it even relates to infrastructure. Holt pointed to the example of a non-league club with a 4G artificial pitch who would be forced to replace it with grass, should they be promoted to the EFL. This is costly and the club would lose revenue as it could no longer hire the pitch out midweek to amateur players.

Aside from more equitable distribution of cash Holt also said he’d like to see the EFL create a “distress fund” which clubs could access in times of trouble. This wouldn’t pay a club’s debts but would fund the EFL or another regulator to send in independent administrators to rescue clubs who are in crisis. While some of these owners might be incompetent, Holt feels many of them want a way out, but don’t know how, without liquidating the club.

What is the APPG for Football Supporters?

All-Party Parliamentary Group (or APPGs for short) act as vehicles for MPs to register their interest in specific subjects and then hold events and invite guest speakers to broaden and deepen their understanding in those areas.

The APPG for Football Supporters was launched by Ian Mearns MP with support from the FSF in November 2015 and aims to “represent the interests of match-going football fans and to support the aims and objectives of the Football Supporters' Federation”.

Since then we’ve held events on TV’s impact on ticket prices, fixture changes and match-going fans, FA reform, diversity, and standing at football.

As a result of these events members of the group have debated issues relating to football governance, diversity, young adult ticket prices, TV kick-offs, and grassroots funding in Parliament. The most high-profile story came when standing at football was debated last year, with MPs overwhelmingly backing the FSF’s arguments. The APPG has proven to be a very useful ally for fans.

If you think your MP would be interested in the work of the APPG please send them the link to this page and they can find out more about the work of the group by emailing the FSF or calling Michael on 0330 44 000 44. To see a full list of MPs and Lords who are APPG members visit www.fsf.org.uk/appg

APPG group officers:

  • Chair: Ian Mearns MP (Labour) 
  • Vice Chair: Ian Blackford MP (Scottish National Party)
  • Vice Chair: Damian Collins MP (Conservative)
  • Secretary: Gavin Newlands MP (Scottish National Party)
  • Treasurer: Jo Stevens MP (Labour)

Thanks to PA Images for the image used in this blog.