After we called for political intervention in football via F.A.N’s This Game is Our Game manifesto, Baroness Olly Grender of the Liberal Democrats replied. Here she spells out the Lib Dem vision for future football:
Dear Football Action Network
Thank you for contacting me about the Football Action Network’s manifesto. The LibDems share many of your concerns about the state of modern football, and believe that reform is needed to ensure that the beautiful game lives up to its name and is made more accessible for supporters.
We agree with the call in the Football Action Network manifesto to look again at safe standing. If the Liberal Democrats form part of the next Government we would require the Sports Ground Safety Authority to prepare guidance under which domestic football clubs, working with their supporters, may introduce safe standing areas.
Football should be a sport that is open to everyone, where no one feels discriminated against based on race, gender or sexuality. There have been few non-white football managers within professional football, women are almost entirely absent from club boardrooms, and homophobia remains a problem throughout the sport. Liberal Democrats would make homophobic chanting a criminal offence, just like racist chanting. All senior clubs should be required to achieve football’s “Equality Standard”, which itself should be revised to ensure that racism, sexism, homophobia and sectarianism are treated equally.
Football governance also needs to be reformed substantially. In Germany, football rules require all professional clubs to be majority owned by supporters, and despite having low ticket prices, German clubs are Europe’s most profitable. In contrast, over twenty five football clubs in Britain have been rescued from financial collapse by their supporters in the last decade.
Professional football clubs would not survive without their supporters, and fans should therefore be entitled to a greater say in how their clubs are run. We would encourage the reform of football governance rules to promote engagement between clubs and supporters. This would include reforming football licensing rules to protect the core identity and heritage of football clubs; greater clarity and robustness in the “fit and proper person” rules on club ownership; complete transparency on clubs’ ownership arrangements and the abolition of the Football Creditors’ Rule.
Recent efforts by the Premier League to introduce an Away Supporters Fund to provide for things like discounted travel to select away fixtures for fans go some way to making watching football more affordable, but do nothing to address ticket prices, which have increased 15% since 2011. That’s why we want at least 10% of all tickets for matches in the English Premier League, English Football League and Scottish Premier League to be made available at an “affordable” price
The principle of elite football clubs voluntarily redistributing 5% of their income to lower levels of the game as “solidarity payments” was accepted when the Premier League was established in 1992, but has become eroded over time. The voluntary contribution should become a formal 5% tithe on English and Scottish Premier League TV revenues to fund the strengthening off the game’s grass roots and lower leagues, and to ensure greater democracy and equality in the game.
Thanks so much for coming to see us. I hope this answers some of your questions. As you can imagine our manifesto and policy debates are across a much wider range of issues and therefore not concentrated on all the issues you’ve raised. But I hope this reassures you that we have, in policy terms, focused attention on at least some of the issues.
With kind regards