The way forward for clubs
Representatives from clubs around the country discussed a number of important items relating to the future of their competition at the Football League AGM.
Topics included how to increase attendances at matches, the League’s future commercial strategy, refereeing standards, the League’s global fanbase, relationships with the media and job opportunities for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic managers and coaches.
Operations Director and Club Secretary David Charles attended on behalf of AFC Wimbledon.
As part of the AGM, Clubs agreed a number of changes to League regulations and policies ahead of the 2015/16 season, which begins on the weekend of August 8, and these are summarised below:
Clubs have approved changes to the League’s Insolvency Policy - under which it manages any club that suffers an insolvency event - with the aim of strengthening a number of its key principles, while maintaining a ‘rescue culture’ that gives clubs the opportunity to restructure their financial affairs and continue in league football.
Going forward, any club that goes into administration will suffer an immediate 12-point Sporting Sanction, an increase on the current 10-point penalty.
Once appointed, the administrator will be required to market the club for at least 21 days during which time he/she will be required to meet with the club's supporters’ trust and provide it with the opportunity to bid for the club.
The League has removed the requirement for the purchaser to achieve a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), meaning that it will transfer the club's share in The Football League to the administrator's preferred bidder subject to their compliance with the League's other requirements.
Again, it is expected that this will deliver a better return for creditors by increasing the number of potential purchasers. It will also prevent the administration process being controlled by the club’s previous owner, who in some instances will be the only party able to achieve a CVA. It is anticipated that this will reduce the insolvency period and the associated professional costs, as well as providing greater certainty that the club will continue, thereby delivering a greater return to creditors.
On exit, the purchaser will be required to pay creditors a minimum of 35 pence in the pound over three years (or 25 pence on transfer of share) or face a further 15 point deduction at the start of the season following the insolvency event.
Clubs also underlined their commitment to the use of the Football Creditors Rule, which underpins the rescue culture principle by giving financially stricken clubs a second chance without unfairly disadvantaging their fellow clubs.
The use of Financial Fair Play regulations in all three divisions, the requirement for new owners to demonstrate the source and sufficiency of their funding, and the ongoing monitoring of club’s tax affairs have helped us bring more stability to club finances. The Football League’s Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey said: “The League has now gone two full seasons without a club suffering an insolvency event, which is an encouraging sign.
“However, we cannot be complacent and this is the right time to strengthen our Insolvency Policy and also refine its effects, so that it is as fair as it can possibly be for clubs, creditors and supporters.”
Clubs have agreed changes to the League’s concussion and heart screening policies to protect the health and wellbeing of players.
From the 2015/16 season onwards, the final decision as to whether a player can play, train or rest following a head injury will be made by the team doctor or any other medically qualified practitioner certified by the FA.
Additionally, clubs will be required to conduct mandatory heart screening on all players aged 16 or over. These tests will have to be reviewed by an experienced sports cardiologist and retained by each club.
Regulations relating to club ownership were amended so that clubs will now be required to notify the Football League if an individual acquires a club shareholding of 10 per cent. This is in addition to the existing requirement to publish this information on their website. This will also apply to an individual with a significant interest in one club who acquires a stake of 10% or more in another club, at home or abroad.