Crouch undergoes a real landmark for football with the potential for real change | Football

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For the many lovers of football who have long fought for reforms of the game’s modern mega-commercialization, the content of Tracey Crouch’s “fan-led review” is so familiar that it manages to be bothersome and strangely reassuring at the same time. It considers the same conspicuous problems and structural dysfunctions as all the previous serious reports that have piled up since Football League First Division clubs erupted to form the Premier League 29 years ago and reach essentially the same conclusions.

But there is a huge difference this time around, which makes it a real landmark. The review shows that politicians have had enough of being exposed, and veteran advocates in the Football Supporters Association, who have worked hard on the details, have learned from previous reports that produced too little change. So no matter how unlikely it is that a conservative government led by a character like Boris Johnson could seriously consider appointing an independent regulator for the people’s game, it has now become a real option, after Crouch seized her opportunity and recommended that.

The Premier League is against the proposal, but the individual top division of 20 clubs, which houses so many of the game’s billions and has so much power in it, has largely brought this recommendation to itself. Since the new Labor government had a “football task force” starting in 1997 to investigate the flaws in the game’s commercial makeover, the Premier League has traditionally argued and lobbied against regulatory changes. Under former CEO Richard Scudamore, the Premier League also worked hard to oppose action by the Football Association, the governing body, to regulate the finances and ownership of the top clubs.

With its wealth and weight, the league won these grass wars, and the FA’s role has largely distilled itself to manage the sporting heart of football, from the English team to the grassroots and the semi-professional pyramid and develop coaching programs. It has made admirable progress in many of these areas, as heralded by the English team’s startling improvement, but stays largely away from the business end of regulating clubs and the game’s painfully skewed finances.

The Crouch review reached the same overall rating as the clearly reasonable one that all of its predecessors reached, acknowledging the game’s dazzling performance since 1992, while acknowledging its disasters. “This success story of English football is an honor for the hard work and vision of countless people over many years,” it says, “but it is possible to celebrate this achievement at the same time as one has serious concerns about the future viability of football in this country.”

A fan protests against Tottenham's ownership
The crouch review can lead to more checks and balances placed on clubs. Photo: Catherine Ivill / Getty Images

Throughout the years of inquiries, the top clubs have succeeded with one core goal: to keep as much of football’s money as possible for themselves. The outburst was an escape from the Football League structure of splitting money through the four divisions, and no matter which 20 clubs are in the golden climax at any point, they never come close to restoring it much more evenly, 50% distribution of old.

The resulting violent inequality is laid out on page 28 of Crouch’s report with a very simple color graph illustrating the clubs’ revenues for 2019-20. Towering above all other clubs are the four who played in the Champions League, with an average income of £ 444m each. That was £ 424m more than the £ 20m average for Championship clubs without parachute payments. Those with parachute payments – which, as the report acknowledges, are impossible to distort EFL’s finances – still make only small chunks of the graph, averaging £ 52m. The review calls for more equal sharing, which must be imposed by the regulator if the clubs cannot reach an agreement.

The nearly 30-year-old concentration of football money so heavily at the top has turned the venerable clubs, originally founded as Victorian community institutions, into investments, for owners who are likely to “leave” one day and sell for a large personal profit. In December 1999, the FA, Premier League and Football League rejected the majority’s reform proposal on the football task force and drafted their own separate report. Barely one of the then 20 top clubs now have the same owners, and several, notably Martin Edwards of Manchester United and David Moores of Liverpool, sold their shares to investors for a gain of several million pounds. It is shocking to be reminded that the 1999-20 Premier League, which took this position, included Sunderland, Coventry, Wimbledon, Derby, Bradford and Sheffield Wednesday, clubs that have all endured serious difficulties since dropping out.

As Crouch’s report notes, professional clubs have collapsed into insolvency 62 times since the Premier League outbreak, leaving traces of unpaid debt from administrations. Many fell in the early 2000s, when there was no such thing as today’s scale of financial regulation, and no “suitable and proper person test” at all, as the football authorities had argued for years that it would be impractical.

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The Premier League and EFL moved over time, pressured by the various reports, pressures, crises or commercial logic, or at times just doing the right thing. From a historical point of view, it is striking that patience is finally exhausted, and the recommendation for independent regulation when the game is better run and regulated more substantially than ever before, and the clubs have extensive community programs that do excellent work in many areas. disadvantaged by the government’s austerity decade. But now the latest in an exhausting series of queries, led by some people who have been around for a long time, concluded that football can no longer stand alone and needs help to help itself.

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