Fan groups meet with England Commission
A joint delegation from the two national football supporters’ organisation – the Football Supporters’ Federation and Supporters Direct – met with representatives of the Football Association Chairman’s ‘England Commission’ in late September to discuss the content and recommendations of its first report. The England Commission had set out to address the issue of the lack of available, quality English players appearing regularly at the top end of English football.
Senior members of the England Commission – including Greg Dyke, chairman of the Football Association, and Roger Burden, FA vice-chairman and chair of the National Game Board – were supported by other staff from the Commission Research Group, ensuring that the discussion was both well-informed and in the presence of decision-makers.
The supporters’ delegation carried clear messages to the Commission, based on consultation with members, interaction with fans’ campaign groups, and thorough debate at this summer’s Supporters’ Summit. This input included conveying the strength of feeling of fans in position to the proposal to introduce a system of B teams operating in a “League Three”, but also offering support and constructive suggestions on areas where there was agreement.
The FSF and SD welcomed the comprehensive research carried out by the Commission and endorsed much of the analysis of the problems as set out in the report. A response was also provided to the four specific proposals raised by the report in May 2014.
The two proposals “to address the ineffectiveness in preserving the desired balance of British, EU and non-EU players in clubs” – specifically the proposal to reduce from 17 to 12 the maximum number of non-Home Grown Players allowed in a Premier League squad, and the imposition of more restrictive non-EU work visa requirements – were generally welcomed and supported. Suggestions were also made about ideas to go further and potentially address the issue of non-British EU players.
Clear opposition from the supporters’ organisations was outlined to the two other proposals.
Commission members were left in no doubt about the strength of feeling about the need to preserve the pyramid of English football and the rejection by fans of the B Team and ‘League Three’ proposal, while the suggested development of Strategic Loan Partnerships between clubs was characterised as ‘feeder clubs by the back door’ and also deemed unacceptable.
An honest and frank discussion took place around the supporters’ input, which appeared to be taken seriously and have importance attached to it. Further dialogue around these issues, and also around the content of the imminent second Commission report on coaching and grassroots football, has been assured.
The supporters’ delegation consisted of the chair and chief executive of each of the two national organisations, namely Malcolm Clarke and Kevin Miles from the Football Supporters’ Federation, and Brian Burgess and Robin Osterley from Supporters’ Direct.