Fair Game: Tracey Crouch’s review represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change football for the better

Thursday 09th September 2021

EBBSFLEET UNITED, Maidstone United and Tonbridge Angels today joined forces with 21 other teams at a prestigious launch in London today calling for a new direction for our national game.

The three Vanarama National League South clubs are three of the founding members of Fair Game, a group of value-driven clubs, supported by 40 world-renowned experts and backed by politicians.

The Government is currently developing policies on how to change the national game as part of Tracey Crouch’s football governance review. Fair Game aim is to help develop the long-term realistic solutions needed.

The details of that vision are outlined in Fair Game’s 48-age manifesto, ‘Putting Pride Back In the Shirt: Fair Game’s Solution for the National Game’, which was launched today at AFC Wimbledon’s Plough Lane ground – one of the 23 clubs.

It details solutions to various problems within football, including the owners and directors test, financial sustainability, protecting the heritage of clubs, a fairer distribution of TV revenues, opposing the European Super League and tackling discrimination.

The document is the result of over six months of hard-work from Fair Game and follows ongoing consultation with the clubs, recruitment of global experts, brainstorms, four workshops, nine expert-led working groups, a 66-page options documents, five surveys of clubs and two open scrutiny sessions.

Damian Irvine, the Chief Executive Officer of Ebbsfleet United, said in a statement: “Given what we as a club and a wider football community have experienced the last 12 months, a sustainable, well-governed sport is something we all aspire to.

“With that in mind, Fair Game is absolutely the right vehicle to ensure mature, measured and meaningful debate and lobbying where needed.

“Their core principles mirror our own as a club and what we aim to reflect on behalf of our investors, partners and supporters.”

The Stonebridge Road outfit, meanwhile, have racked up the largest financial losses of non-league football clubs here in Kent.

Oliver Ash, the joint-owner of Maidstone United, added: “Having read what Fair Game stands for, it was a simple decision for us to sign up.

“Football needs far better governance. The events of the past year and the Government review into football have given us a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the game.”

Maidstone United were the first club to install an artificial pitch at their stadium and many clubs here in Kent have followed in their footsteps and have reaped the benefits within their communities.

Tonbridge Angels chairman Dave Netherstreet added: “This is really a once in a lifetime opportunity to save the game we love and change the way football operates.

“The demise of the likes of Bury and Macclesfield, and the recently proposed European Super League are real wake-up calls.

“It is time to put aside our rivalries and for clubs to work together and turn the game that we love into one that is sustainable.”

The Longmead Stadium outfit struggled financially when their games were played behind closed doors last season due to the Coronavirus health pandemic before the sixth-tier of English football was curtailed.

Among those backing the call is Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester.

“Fair Game’s proposals are exactly what football needs.  I’m only too aware of the dangers that exist. We’ve seen the collapse of Bury and the spectre of the European Super League. Football is integral to our communities.

“The game needs a reboot. I back the need for an independent regulator, for an Owners and Directors Test that is fit for purpose and most importantly the protection of the heritage and traditions of our clubs.”

Niall Couper, the Chief Executive of Fair Game, said: “Tracey Crouch’s review represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change football for the better.  We have to grasp it and we believe our proposals lay that path.

“We want a sport where every fan can put their shirt on in the morning proud in what it stands for, safe in the knowledge that the traditions and heritage of their club will always be there.”

Meanwhile, the 24 clubs of Fair Game are Accrington Stanley, Basingstoke Town, Bury AFC, Bristol Rovers, Cambridge United, Carlisle United, Chester FC, City of Liverpool, Curzon Ashton, Dorking Wanderers, Ebbsfleet United, Grimsby Town, Leyton Orient, Lincoln City, Luton Town, Maidstone United, Newport County AFC, Rochdale AFC, Tonbridge Angels, Tranmere Rovers and AFC Wimbledon.

For more information on Fair Game, please visit: www.fairgameuk.org