Liberal Democrats

F29: Reclaiming the People's Game

Watch the whole debate below or click 'Playlist' on the left of the video to select individual speeches.

This motion creates new policies to strengthen democracy, equality and representation within the governance of football, improve football administration and reform football finances. In particular it proposes to make homophobic chanting a criminal offence, on a par with racist chanting, strengthen the ‘fit and proper person’ rule, and divert a contribution from TV revenues to support the grassroots of the game.

F29: Reclaiming the People's Games

(Passed with Amendments 1 & 2)

Conference notes that:

I. Football is the highest participation male and female team sport in Britain, and a major social, cultural and economic force.

II. Football clubs provide an outlet for civic identity, play an important role in national prestige, and raise the international profile of many regional cities.

III. The English Premier League is a major UK export, and the world's richest league.

IV. Football also assists in the delivery of many public sector and community projects on health, education, community safety and social cohesion.

Conference is concerned that:

A. Winning has become the primary motive in the sport - leading to financial risk taking, high debt levels and almost a hundred instances of club bankruptcy since 1992.

B. The 'Football Creditors Rule' dictates that when a football club enters administration, any debts owed within football take precedence over all other creditors, including HMRC.

C. British football has experienced an influx of overseas investment unjustified on purely financial grounds, and some of these owners have shown a disregard for the heritage of the clubs they have bought.

D. A significant proportion of the population has been priced out of regularly attending top-level football matches in England.

E. Power within British football has shifted from the national football associations towards the biggest clubs under their jurisdiction.

F. The principle of elite clubs 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.

G. 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.

Conference further notes that:

i) Germany's 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.

ii) Over twenty five football clubs in Britain have been rescued from financial collapse by their supporters in the last decade, and converted into sustainable, democratic cooperatives.

iii) The 2010 Coalition Agreement stated that "We will encourage the reform of football governance rules to support the cooperative ownership of football clubs by supporters".

iv) A CMS Select Committee into football governance was established in 2011, but its recommendations have yet to be implemented.

Conference believes that:

a) As the public purse provides significant direct and indirect subsidies to football, there is a duty on government to ensure the game is well administered.

b) Football needs to thrive at all levels.

c) Professional football clubs would not survive without their supporters, and fans should therefore be entitled to input into major decisions affecting their clubs.

d) A football club's name, location, badge and home colours are important community and heritage assets, central to the club's history and identity.Conference therefore calls for:

1. Measures to strengthen democracy, equality and representation within the governance of football including:

a) The establishment of an independent commission, representative of the whole game, to comprehensively review governance to make it more effective, inclusive, and no longer subject to conflicting vested interests. 

b) All league-level football clubs in Britain to have an independent and formally recognised Supporters' Trust to represent the views of their fans. 

c) Football licensing rules to be reformed to  protect the core identity and heritage of football clubs from change without the backing of supporters.

d) All four UK football associations to fully investigate mechanisms to protect individual stadiums, including provisions under the 2011 Localism Act, and publish their findings.

e) All senior clubs to be required to achieve football's 'Equality Standard'; the standard should be revised to ensure that racism, sexism, homophobia and sectarianism are treated equally.

f) Secure, long-term funding to be provided for key stakeholder groups that are promoting representation, democracy, equality and diversity within football; in return, such groups should commit to robust governance and performance agreements.

g) An equality and diversity programme for schools to be funded and introduced by the sport, using the power of the game to promote greater tolerance and respect.

h) A strong, mandatory commitment for all league-level clubs to play an active role within their local communities, with funding available to enable this.

i) Homophobic chanting to be made a criminal offence, on a par with racist chanting.

2. Measures to improve football administration, including:

a) Greater clarity and robustness in the rules regarding what constitutes a 'fit and proper person' to serve as a director or owner of a football club.

b) All stewards working at football games in the UK to have full Security Industry Accreditation, including training on equality and diversity issues.

c) Training on diversity and equality issues to be mandatory for all professional football players, club directors, administrators, referees, and disciplinary commission members in Britain.

d) Clubs to face greater responsibility for the on-pitch behaviour of their players.

e) Training on diversity and equality issues to be made available to all levels of the amateur game for players, clubs and administrators and to be mandatory for referees.

3. Measures to reform football finances including:

a) Abolition of the Football Creditors' Rule.

b) All clubs to be required to provide complete transparency on their ownership.

c) The introduction of 'Financial Fair Play' rules for all league clubs across Britain, with suitable penalties.

d) Ten percent of all tickets for matches at English Premier League, English Football League and Scottish Premier League level to be made available at an 'affordable' price.

e) Annual publication by all professional clubs of how much they spend on player agents.

f) Annual publication by every UK police of the amount it bills individual football clubs for the policing of their games.

g. A five percent tithe on English and Scottish Premier League TV revenues to fund the strengthening of the game's grass roots and lower leagues, and to ensure greater democracy and equality within the game.


Applicability: Federal.

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