Gary Neville leads fans’ groups in support of review’s preliminary findings

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville says the football authorities must embrace the preliminary recommendations of the fan-led review, not “scheme away against it”.

Neville has been an outspoken critic of the game’s governance and was particularly scathing of his former club and the other members of the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ over their involvement in plans for a Super League in April.

That breakaway attempt prompted the Government to bring forward the fan-led review it promised in its 2019 General Election manifesto.

The chair of the review, former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, set out her preliminary recommendations on Thursday in a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.

She has called for an independent regulator to oversee the financial regulation and corporate governance of the game, citing what she sees as repeated failures from the existing authorities to make the game sustainable.

The full series of measures being proposed or still under consideration would represent an unprecedented change to how football in England is run if implemented.

Crouch and the review panel consulted extensively and her recommendations are designed to put supporters at the heart of the game, by stabilising and protecting the clubs they love and giving them greater decision-making power.

Neville said how the game’s governing bodies reacted would be telling.

“I hope the interim findings of the fan-led review are endorsed by football’s key stakeholders,” he tweeted.

“They have 2 choices: 1. Scheme away against its findings or 2. See it as an opportunity to reset the governance of the game and build a unified, stronger football for all. 2 please!”

Neville is part of the Save Our Beautiful Game group, which is led by former Football Association chair David Bernstein.

He also reacted positively to the news and said: “I am absolutely delighted but not surprised that Tracey Crouch’s review has rapidly found that an independent regulator, set up by Parliament, has to be the way forward.

“The fact is, as the findings recognise, the football authorities have repeatedly failed to significantly reform themselves.

“Now of course there is detailed work to be done. But the expert panel’s recommendation is a huge step forward.

“I am bound to say I doubt whether the urgently necessary reforms to football governance that our group is seeking would happen without an independent regulator.

“The ‘Save Our Beautiful Game’ group intend to continue their campaign to ensure today’s recommendation leads to the necessary legislation.”

The Football Supporters’ Association also welcomed the recommendations, and its chief executive Kevin Miles said: “It’s clear from the preliminary report that not only has the evidence been led by fans but also that those fan voices have been heeded.

“The commitment to the establishment of a new Independent Regulator for English Football is especially welcome.

“Additional proposals linked to the sustainability of the game, golden shares for fan groups, grassroots investment, mandatory supporter engagement and a strong voice for fans in governance at all levels, are hugely encouraging.”

The Fair Game group, which is calling for the game’s governance to be reformed to make football more sustainable and includes 10 EFL clubs among its membership, also broadly welcomed the interim findings.

“The need for a new football regulator is now indisputable,” the group’s director Niall Couper said.

“Football cannot continue in the same unsustainable way. We welcome the opportunity to work closely with Tracey Crouch to build a new and refreshing direction for football.

“English football has become a Siren to gamblers. As the letter rightly highlights, too many clubs routinely spend way above recommended levels on players’ wages.

“Owners should no longer be allowed to play Russian roulette with the history and traditions of football clubs.

“If we want realistic long-term change, we need to incentivise and encourage good governance. Let’s ditch the parachute and solidarity payments and distribute that money to clubs that are run well and properly support the pyramid.”

The Premier League and the EFL issued statements following the publication of Crouch’s letter.

A spokesperson for the top flight said: “The Premier League welcomes the publication of the preliminary findings.

“We will now consider the initial update and are committed to supporting Tracey Crouch, the panel and the DCMS team as they finalise their recommendations.

“Supporters play a crucial role in football and clubs have a significant impact in their communities. We look forward to working closely with the FA, EFL and other football organisations on these important issues.”

The EFL said: “We will now consider the recommendations in full, and continue to push for a redistribution of the game’s finances which require a fundamental reset in order to deliver long-term sustainability across the pyramid.

“As ever, the league will continue to engage with clubs, authorities, supporter groups, the review team and others as part of the process.”

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