English football needs an independent regulator to solve its “crisis”, says a group of key figures including Gary Neville and ex-Football Association chairman David Bernstein.
Ex-Olympic gold medal list Denise Lewis and the mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, are also part of the group. They have issued a manifesto for change titled ‘Saving Our Beautiful Game’.
“It also needs to be complemented by an effective and independent body to oversee the financial regulation of the game. “The FA lacks credibility and has proved to be largely ineffective as a governing body. It has not modernized and is not sufficiently independent.”
It added that “core issues” that need to be dealt with include:
- Financial disparity and unsustainability
- A power structure that is fundamentally out of balance
- The shortage of BAME coaches and managers at the top level, a general lack of diversity and the “exploitation” of clubs and fans
The group said it is clear “football has shown itself incapable of self-reform”. Project Big Picture: Premier League managers react after proposals rejected.
‘Project Big Picture’ was put forward amid clubs trying to deal with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Its suggestions included reducing the Premier League from 20 to 18 clubs and scrapping the EFL Cup and Community Shield.
In addition, the English Football League would have received 25% of all future TV deals, which would have been negotiated jointly, plus a £250m bail-out. However, it would also have seen more power transferred to the so-called ‘big six’ Premier League clubs – Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham.
The controversial plans were rejected at a meeting of the 20 clubs in England’s top flight on Wednesday, with the members agreeing to “work together” on a new “strategic plan” for the “financing of English football”. And, while they did agree on a £50m rescue package for League One and Two clubs, there was no decision over financial support for the Championship.
Bernstein led the FA for three years from January 2011 and was also previously chairman of Manchester City.
He has his doubts about the Premier League coming up with a new “strategic plan” and believes in the need for a parliamentary-backed independent regulator after previous reform plans failed to deliver change.
“It’s all very well suddenly talking about strategic plans a day after something else has fallen through,” Bernstein told BBC Sport’s Laura Scott.
“It doesn’t ring really true to me. I don’t believe that football across the board is going to be able to come together sufficiently to do this.” He added: “Football may come kicking and screaming into this, it may well have to be forced on football.
“History has repeated itself time and time again, football has not taken up the opportunities it has had to fundamentally reform, and we are seeing the consequences, it’s there in front of us.
“I think everybody agrees something has to be done – people differ on what it might be. I think the other things you’re seeing are potentially either unworkable or destructive for part of the game as we know and love.