The Labour Party has called on the government to “deliver on its manifesto pledge to football fans” by implementing a review into the reform of the game.
The sustainability of the football pyramid has been called into question amid the Covid-19 crisis, while long-running issues over governance contributed to Wigan Athletic’s dramatic slump into administration this past month.
The government had promised a “fan-led” review into the structures of the national game in its election manifesto last year but has yet to commission the review or draw up its terms of reference.
Alison McGovern, the shadow minister for sport, has written to the sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, asking for a cross-party process to deliver the committee, which she says “must be genuinely driven by what fans want and need, from the grassroots up”.
In her letter, McGovern also pointed to a previous review, commissioned by the digital, culture, media and sport committee in 2011, that said “big changes need to be made to the way football is run in England to address financial instability” but which was never fully implemented.
“Almost ten years on, the situation is becoming urgent,” she wrote. “Like other challenges in our country, Covid-19 has magnified the long-term structural challenges for football. What happened at Wigan Athletic is a perfect example.
“Labour MPs are very concerned about the financial future for many clubs in the immediate term and we believe that no community should lose a much-loved club and local institution as a result. We hope this is an objective the government can support.”
Talks between the government and football’s governing bodies have been ongoing during the pandemic and were central to enabling the restart of the Premier League and Championship.
One government condition of the return of live football was that it should ultimately provide financial benefit to the whole football pyramid. There remain, however, significant differences of opinion over how that should play out, with the EFL calling for a bailout of the lower leagues and the Premier League insisting it has done all it can by advancing monies that otherwise might not have been paid.
The review, it has been determined, will assess the controversial owners’ and directors’ test, which played a part in the disastrous Wigan takeover in June. The department for digital, culture, media and sport confirmed that other details had yet to be decided.
“The government has committed to a fan-led review of football governance, which will include consideration of the owners’ and directors’ test,” it said. “We will shortly be deciding on the scope and structure of the review and will announce further details in due course.”