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TUST DELEGATION MEETS TRACEY CROUCH MP TO DISCUSS FAN-LED REVIEW OF FOOTBALL GOVERNANCE




Further to our bulletin earlier this week, TUST board member Bob Cole here provides full details of our meeting with Tracey Crouch MP A record of Torquay United Supporters Trust’s (TUST) meeting with Tracey Crouch (TC) on Tuesday 8th March at Portcullis House, Westminster. Also present were the MP for Torbay, Kevin Foster and his parliamentary secretary Livvy Fox. The meeting lasted for 50 minutes.


The meeting began with the TUST chair Michel Thomas (MT) introducing us individually and stating that we were generally pleased with the findings and Recommendations of the Fan-Led Review of Football Governance (the Review). TUST had liaised with the Leader and Deputy Leader of Torbay Council, Steve Darling and Darren Cowell, who had asked that we pass on to TC their concern that the recommendations of the Review be implemented as soon as possible, which MT did.


The meeting then proceeded with each of the other four TUST board members giving a short presentation on their “specialist subject” followed by TC presenting her view of the Review and addressing all the points made in the presentations. MT informed TC that we had based our presentations on the assumption that she wanted to know how the Review would impact on TUST and TUFC.


Nick Brodrick (NB), TUST’s Supporter Liaison Officer, began by outlining how TUFC’s owner and two directors have progressively shut down communications with TUST to the extent that there was now very little reassuring transparency or productive engagement with the Club. NB said that for clubs in our situation the implementation of the Review could not come soon enough. NB’s second point was that he was concerned that resistance from the Premier League would mean that the Independent Regulator of English Football (IREF) would fail to come to fruition and that without it all other Recommendations would not be able to be implemented. On this point, TC later reiterated the importance of the IREF and assured us that the Premier League supported it in principle.


NB also informed TC that TUST was the founding member of the South West Supporters Trusts group, the only group of its kind in the country, and that TUST was jointly sponsoring with Exeter City Supporters Trust, the area women’s cup final between the two clubs.


Robin Causley (RC) put a number of questions to TC regarding the Review’s Recommendations passing into statutory law. TC said that there was cross party support from all MPs (who had been inundated with the FSA template letter in support of the Review). TC also said that she thought that politically support for the Review was a vote winner and that MPs with clubs in their constituencies (particularly marginals) were likely to want to see the full implementation of the Review. The Recommendations should receive their Royal Assent in May and TC hoped that after that the passage of the Bill would commence immediately. When RC quizzed TC on whether there was any resistance to the Review from third parties, she assured us that the EFL, all fan groups and even the “Big Six” (who needed to restore their reputations after the huge opposition to their breakaway plans) were behind the Review, although she thought that there might be a compromise as to how much money the Premier League clubs allowed to cascade down to the lower leagues and grass roots football. However, TC said that the ownership and directors tests outlined in the Recommendations were a key part of the legislation.


With regards to TUST, TC recommended that we continue working with the FSA to inform Torquay fans, emphasising how the Review would be beneficial to our club given the issues we have regarding lack of engagement and transparency with the owner and two directors.


Rob Dickinson (RD) reported how TUST had sponsored the Torquay United Women’s Team (TUWFC). He compared TUWFC, who get limited support from TUFC and play at a different ground, with Exeter women’s team who are fully supported and get paid expenses for playing. TC said that she was intending to set up a separate review for the women’s game as she acknowledged that it had its own set of problems as a result of the way it had grown as it had become more popular. MT added that Torquay United Community Sports Trust (which also received limited funding from TUFC and was supported financially by TUST) was currently coaching over 400 girls in the Torbay area. RD also pointed out that the prize money for the FA Cup first round was so low that it meant that the club actually lost money participating and he would like to see it increased, to which TC concurred.


TC was already aware of Bob Cole’s (BC) concern as in the introduction of Chapter 7: Improving Supporter Engagement, there were reports of “clubs neutering fan engagement mechanisms…”. BC said that his worry was that rogue owners could sideline the existing supporters trust with a group of their own that they could control.


To prevent this, BC suggested that the observance of the independence of the Shadow Board should be one of the licensing conditions for clubs with the IREF. It could be an addition to Recommendation 26 (a Shadow Board should be a licensing condition of IREF. The club should engage…). As with other Recommendations, this could be made 26a and the observance of the independence of the Shadow Board could be 26b. TC agreed with this point and encouraged the Trust share the idea with the Football Supporters Association.


BC also suggested, with the prevention of meddling by rogue owners in mind, that supporters trusts and shadow boards should be registered and regulated as a Community Benefit Society with the IREF.


TC then described how the structure of the Review was sequential. It would begin first with the creation of the regulatory body, the IREF, which would then allow the implementation of the effective regulation of football finance, ownership, management and fan engagement to follow. She explained how the diversity of the Shadow Board would be ensured by having representation from various fans groups for example, supporters trusts, supporters clubs, youth supporters and diversity and inclusion groups. Matters of heritage would be decided by the Golden Share and this could be bestowed on the supporters trust. Those eligible to vote on matters of heritage would be members of the supporters trust, season ticket holders and any fan that had been to at least one match in that season (to be verified with a ticket or stub).


The only negative to come out of the meeting would seem to be that TC is still waiting to hear if the Review would be part of the Queen’s Speech. She said in the strongest possible terms that she would be very disappointed if MPs and the Government back tracked now after being so supportive.


We all agreed that Tracey Crouch was highly knowledgeable, passionate about the Review and the future of football in this country.


 

Pictured below (l-r): Robin Causley (TUST vice chair), Nick Brodrick, Tracey Crouch MP, Rob Dickinson, Kevin Foster MP, Bob Cole and Michel Thomas (TUST chair)


 



 

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