‘They treat football like their personal fiefdom’

The Football Supporters’ Association has slammed plans to reform the structure of English Football, saying the proposals have been “stitched up behind our backs by billionaire club owners” who treat football as their “personal fiefdom”.

English Football League (EFL) chairman Rick Parry along with Liverpool and Manchester United are leading the proposals that would see the Premier League cut from 20 teams to 18.

The EFL would also be given a £250 million ($326m) bailout to cover the losses suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, while The Football Association would receive a one-off £100m ($130m) payment to help deal with the Covid-19 crisis.

However, in exchange, the Premier League’s nine longest-serving teams would be granted special status and the division’s ‘big six’ – Liverpool, United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham – would be given the collective power to make major changes.

Critics of the proposals see this as a power grab by the elite sides, who would have the power to change rules, contracts, club ownership and even remove chief executives.

The Premier League has already voiced its criticism of the plans, claiming some of the proposals could end up hurting English football.

The Football Supporters’ Association have been even more vociferous in their criticism, saying in a statement: “The Football Supporters’ Association notes with grave concern today’s press reports of proposals for a major restructure of the Premier League, with far-reaching consequences for the whole of domestic football.

“Once again it appears that big decisions in football are apparently being stitched up behind our backs by billionaire club owners who continue to treat football as their personal fiefdom. Football is far more than a business to be carved up; it is part of our communities and our heritage, and football fans are its lifeblood. As football’s most important stakeholders, it is crucial that fans are consulted and involved in the game’s decision-making.

“We have welcomed the government’s commitment to a ‘fan-led review of the governance of football’; we would argue that today’s revelations have made that process even more relevant and urgent.

“We will of course study the detail of the new proposals, we remain open-minded to any suggestions for the improvement of the governance and organisation of the game, whatever their source, and we will continue to engage constructively in all discussions around reform. We would however emphasise that in our discussions so far, very few of our members have ever expressed the view that what football really needs is a greater concentration of power in the hands of the big six billionaire-owned clubs.”

The UK government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport were also critical of the plans, labelling them “backroom deals” that would create a “closed shop” at the top of English football.

“We are surprised and disappointed that at a time of crisis when we have urged the top tiers of professional football to come together and finalise a deal to help lower league clubs, there appear to be backroom deals being cooked up that would create a closed shop at the very top of the game,” a DCMS spokesperson said.

“Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that may undermine them is deeply troubling. Fans must be front of all our minds, and this shows why our fan led review of football governance will be so critical.”

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