New government report insists fans’ voice must be listened to

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A new government report launched today [Tuesday 19th January 2016] on supporter ownership and fan engagement says that the supporters’ voice must be listened to by the football authorities and clubs.

The report says that clubs must meet with fans’ groups at least twice a year and tells the FA to consider “greater supporter representation on FA Council”.

The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) was part of the group tasked with making recommendations to the government, along with Supporters Direct, the Premier League, Football League, National League and FA.

The report follows 10 meetings of the group over the course of 12 months.

Kevin Miles, chief executive of the FSF, said:

"A government report, endorsed by the football authorities, that requires clubs to listen to supporters on strategic issues including finance, governance and ownership, has to be a step in the right direction. 

"All too often, crucial club decisions have been taken over the heads of fans, with the real financial and strategic position of clubs shrouded in mystery. 

"We welcome the recommendations in this report that supporters' representatives should be entitled to regular structured engagement with clubs, and that supporter representation within the FA should be strengthened. 

"Fans aren't only concerned with facilities and team performance; we also care deeply about the ownership, governance and strategic direction of the clubs we support. 

"We are under no illusions; for this report to have a meaningful impact, supporters' representatives must have access to the necessary financial and strategic information. 

"We call on government to join us in being vigilant in ensuring that clubs deliver on the commitments made in this report, so that fans' voices are genuinely heard."

The report also looks at ways to give supporters more opportunities to bid for their own club when the opportunity arises and calls upon the Owners and Directors Test to be kept under “constant review” by the FA, including “structured dialogue” with the FSF and Supporters Direct.

It’s also recommended that the government should look at tax breaks for supporter-owned clubs via the Social Investment Tax Relief and a new Community Owned Sports Club model.

The group was independently chaired by Joanna Manning-Cooper, who was Director of Marketing and Communications for England Rugby 2015, organisers of the Rugby World Cup. She is a Portsmouth season ticket holder and member of Pompey Supporters’ Trust.

As well as the FSF, Supporters Direct and football authorities, expert witnesses included supporters’ trusts at Portsmouth, Swansea City, Wrexham, and AFC Wimbledon.

Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this article.