Leading MP backs Blackpool fans' calls for independent regulator for English football

Chris Matheson sits on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee
Chris Matheson sits on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee

A leading MP has pledged his support for an independent regulator to be introduced for English football.

READ MORE: Blackpool fans launch petition to change the way football is governed

Blackpool fans protested outside the EFL's headquarters at the start of March

Blackpool fans protested outside the EFL's headquarters at the start of March

Chris Matheson, who sits on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, told Blackpool supporters he will introduce a private members’ bill on the issue.

It comes in response to a petition set up by the Blackpool Supporters’ Trust, which calls for change in the way football is governed.

The government responded after the petition gained 10,000 signatures, saying there was no "desire" or "need" to introduce an independent regulator.

But Matheson, speaking at Wednesday night’s meeting of the North West division of the Football Supporters Federation, said he fully backs what the Blackpool supporters are trying to do.

But the Labour MP for Chester, who is part of Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench, warned fans change will not happen overnight.

Matheson said: “The problem with football is that as fans, we’re very tribal. But we are all football fans and these issues could happen to any single one of us. It’s so important we stick together.

“The trouble is, the people that own our clubs are not business owners - not normal ones anyway.

“If I go shopping but I don’t like the service or I don’t like what’s on offer, I can always choose a different shopping market.

“With football, you can’t do that. I am an Everton fan, that’s who I am. So it must be bloody awful not being able to go and watch Blackpool.

“It is completely correct to say the FA and the EFL simply pass the buck - they both say it’s the others’ responsibility.

“The issue is the owners of the EFL are the member clubs, so I can’t see them changing unless we force them to change. That applies for the FA, too.

“I like the idea of fan-owned football clubs but as much as I like it, it does not always work out.

“It is a tricky balance because, as much as I want to see fans involved, in my experience at Chester there needs to be someone involved who has some knowledge of business.

“As fans you have got to continue the pressure and you have to propel this group to the top table of football to give fans a proper voice.

“They will take us for granted as long as we let them take us for granted.

“These things are not pleasant, we want to just be able to support our clubs at the end of the day, but these people need to recognise it is our club and our game.

“These things will not happen overnight, not politically anyway, but I will put forward a bill and the matter will be debated.”

READ MORE: Government responds to petition set up by Blackpool fans

The petition, which was published in February, urges the government to introduce an independent regulator for English football, charged with ensuring the "highest possible standards of governance" for all clubs.

It recently passed the 12,000 mark. Should it receive more than 100,000 signatures, the petition will be considered for debate in parliament.

BST chairman Christine Seddon was also in attendance at Wednesday night’s meeting

She said: “We are having to stand by and watch the situation play out in front of our own eyes without having a say.

“That is why we believe an independent regulator should be introduced as the current system does not work.

“We speak to the EFL but they refer us to the FA, so we go to the FA but they just refer us back to the EFL. It’s like playing pass the parcel.

“So something needs to be done and the petition we set up is for all football clubs, not just Blackpool.

“After all, every single club is only one bad owner away from disaster. It should not be a matter of pot luck, but at the moment we are all at the mercy of our owners.

“Something needs to be brought in to limit the damage of owners who treat football clubs like their personal play-thing.

“It is wrong and investment needs to be done in conjunction with the fans.”

To sign the petition, click here.