woman in black and white soccer jersey kicking soccer ball on green field during daytime
Photo by Tobias Flyckt on Unsplash

The long awaited fan-led review into football came out today. Started in response to the outcry over attempts to create a European Super League, this review had a mandate and window of opportunity for real reform. Nothing should have been off the table.

As co-operators, the most important questions for this review have always been: who should own football and where should power lie?

So, do these proposals change who owns our clubs, and in whose interest they operate? Will they result in fans taking back control of their clubs from overseas investors?

The short answer is no. The 47 recommendations do little to advance fan ownership in sport.

What the review does contain is a provision for a Golden Share for fans. This doesn’t change the ownership of the club, but it does give supporters the ability to veto certain decisions, such as changing the name to selling the ground. Shadow boards made up of fans will need to be consulted by clubs on key decisions.

There are other welcome measures too – including many things we at the Co-operative Party have campaigned hard for. An independent regulator, for example, to ensure proper oversight of club finances. A fit and proper person tests for owners and directors, including a new integrity test. Proper equality, diversity and inclusion plans for every club, and a focus on the future of the women’s game.

These are some positive proposals here, but at the end of the day they aren’t enough. This review fails to take a brave and honest look at ownership in sport. As a consequence, this review will not result in a new generation of supporter-owned clubs, and they won’t result in our biggest clubs following the German Bundesliga’s example and letting fans lead. Clubs will still be owned by and, ultimately, operate in the best interests of investors and corporate buyers.

We know that community ownership creates fairer, more resilient local economies, and that in sport it can protect the game we love and the teams we value. Community ownership provides the best protection from irresponsible owners, and no amount of tinkering around the edges will make up for the review’s silence on putting fans in charge.