MPs raise stakes in reforming national game (from Northampton matchday programme)

David Lampitt, Chief Executive of Supporters Direct, reports on the recent Parliamentary event and an ultimatum to the football authorities.

Supporters Direct “While some progress has been achieved, much greater reform in football is needed…If football cannot reform itself, the Government should introduce legislation as soon as practically possible.”  This ultimatum, delivered by John Whittingdale MP in the introduction to his Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s latest Football Governance follow-up report, summarises the state of play in the continuing efforts to reform our national game.

Many of those committed to change were present at Portcullis House on February 5, where Supporters Direct hosted our latest Parliamentary event. The phrase ‘standing room only’ has become less common in this era of all-seater stadiums, but on this particular occasion, it seemed apt as Trust members and an unusually high number of MPs crammed into the meeting room to hear speeches from a range of political perspectives, but all unanimous in their approval of Mr Whittingdale’s sentiments: the Committee are disappointed that more of their 2011 recommendations have not been acted on, and so are we.

But this is not the end of the road. As the Committee’s report states, “Supporters’ Trusts have become an increasingly significant and successful model for club ownership and can have a beneficial influence on, particularly, financial governance.” Supporters’ Trusts and supporter owned clubs have grown steadily in number since SD was established in 2000, and their successes have not gone unnoticed.

The event saw speeches from Mr Whittingdale, his colleagues Penny Mordaunt MP and Damian Collins MP (sponsor of a new Football Financial Transparency Private Members’ Bill); John Leech MP (the newly appointed Liberal Democrat spokesman for Culture, Media and Sport); and Clive Efford MP (Shadow Minister for Sport). In total, there were estimated to be 70 MPs present or represented.

SD also launched three new publications, which will hopefully feed into the wider discussion regarding football reform. ‘Grounds for Benefit: Developing and Protecting Community Benefit in Football Stadia’; ‘Community Right to Bid: The Implications for Supporters’ Trusts’; and our draft agenda for a future Government Expert Group, which outlines the key topics that a future group would need to discuss. These papers cover issues such as protecting stadiums and clubs from asset-strippers, the benefits of supporter involvement in community activities, and many more.

All in all, it was an encouraging Tuesday afternoon, and SD is committed to capitalising on what Whittingdale described as “the huge strength of feeling” in the coming weeks and months.