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Leading the way to revolutionise football

Campaign for Fair Game gathers pace

19 January 2022

Dons hero John Scales and DTB Board member Niall Couper last night took centre stage at the launch of Fair Game’s Sustainability Index from the Houses of Parliament.

AFC Wimbledon continue to be at the forefront of the drive to revolutionise football. Fair Game is the Dons Trust initiative that now represents 34 value-driven football clubs  – all striving to change the way our National Game is run.

Fair Game’s recommendations were all echoed in the recent Government-commissioned fan-led review into Football Governance. The Sustainability Index is the new mechanism that Fair Game believes will ensure all the recommendations come into force.

John and Niall, who is also the CEO of Fair Game, were among the speakers at the event. Listening in where a range of high-profile individuals, including Tracey Crouch, who fronted the fan-led review; Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat leader; former Labour Sports Minister Richard Caborn; Malcolm Clarke, the chair of the Football Supporters’ Association; and Kevin Grix, CEO of the Independent Football Ombudsman.

Speaking at the event, Niall Couper, who managed to hot-foot it back here in time for the kick-off against Portsmouth, said: “The potential for the index is huge. It could be truly transformational for our National Game. There are significant funds that are allocated from the Premier League. The Sustainability Index provides the mechanism to ensure that those funds are channelled to well-run clubs. We believe it would create a cultural change that would benefit all of football.

“The fan-led review provided the ingredients, we believe the Sustainability Index is the recipe and now it’s up to politicians to serve it and deliver.”

Independent financial and business analytics consultancy LCP was tasked by Fair Game to look into the findings of Crouch’s recent fan-led review and provide a solution into its implementation - the Sustainability Index as the final result.

It looks at using new and existing revenue streams in football, such as the 10 per cent solidarity transfer levy and parachute payments, to incentivise the distribution of funds relating to how well clubs score on four key criteria. These are financial sustainability, good governance, equality standards as well as fan and community engagement.

For AFC Wimbledon, the introduction of the Sustainability Index could be transformational. The club is currently looking at potentially getting B Corp status and if successful would mean that the club would expect to score very highly on the Index. But the Index goes way beyond just helping the Dons.

Fair Game is calling on all fans to write to their MPs or councils to gather as much political support for their proposals and the review as possible. Details of how to do that can be found by visiting the Fair Game website .

John Scales, an FA Cup winner with Wimbledon in 1988, said: “I have worked with grassroots football, the English Schools’ FA, put on events across Europe and worked specifically in this country with the FA, and I’ve been on the PFA committee and worked with the Premier League. Throughout all that time there has undoubtedly been a frustration of mine that there are vested interests and conflicts of interests.

“It really is time this game moves forward, improves itself, becomes fairer, distributes money better, demands better governance, and has equality, diversity and inclusion embedded in the principles of how clubs are run, so we can look forward to a brighter future.”

Bart Huby, head of football analytics at LCP, said: “In simple terms, regulation needs a stick or a carrot to succeed – and carrots tend to encourage more collaborative behaviour than sticks.

“The Sustainability Index proposed by Fair Game provides that carrot for football.

“It takes all the elements recommended in the fan-led review and brings them together to create a scoring mechanism. And the clubs that score well get a larger share of football’s broadcasting revenues – the carrot.

“The index is a realistic and practical solution that will help the game to truly embed the changes it needs to thrive in the future.”

While LCP’s Huby has urged the implementation process of the Sustainability Index to begin “as soon as possible”, he suggested starting with distributing only 20 per cent of income from existing and new revenue streams in year one before transitioning to 100 per cent for year five.

Baroness Ann Taylor, who also spoke at the event, added: “It is fine saying football is a family but you have got to support the whole family.

“I had a debate in the House of Lords where we raised those issues of fit and proper persons and the debate of how football is not regulated and how the people at the top keep it as a sort of magic circle.

“I do think the whole point of this campaign is to make sure the progress Tracey Crouch has made is not just words.”

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