JULIE ELLIOTT: Return football into the hands of those who love it the most

The announcement and subsequent collapse of the proposed European Super League last week was a landmark moment for football.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 12:00 am
football fans

It was an attempt to create a closed shop league from which the rich and powerful clubs could never have got relegated, and so it was an attempt to destroy the very nature of the sport.

Part of the appeal of football is knowing that the small sides always have a chance against the biggest ones on the day - but this sought to destroy that to satisfy the greed of the billionaire owners.

The fans rightfully fought back, and the plans were stopped - but without significant reform this will only happen again. This is only a few months on from the failed attempts at Operation Big Picture.

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This is why this needs to be a landmark moment in football. It needs to be a tipping point where the balance of power in the game moves back to the fans – those who know their club, and their community, best.

I have stood on manifestos since 2010 supporting fan involvement in the running of football clubs, and since the Government was elected in 2019 with themselves a commitment to a fan-led review, I have been holding them to account on this commitment in Select Committee.

The fan-led review is a long time coming, and should have already happened, but with its announcement in reaction to the ESL, it is needed now more than ever. Football clubs belong to the fans, and I would encourage everyone, once the opportunity arises, to make this clear in the Government’s review.

Football clubs do amazing work in the Community - not least here in Sunderland – the Foundation of Light winning the EFL North East Community Club of the Year Award is a deserved reward for the contribution they make to our city.

The work they do supporting our community is incredible and serves as an example to the rest of the country.

But other clubs are not so lucky. This episode shows that those clubs at the top are out for themselves, and only by the power of fans and supporters across the country was their ESL halted.

We need to use the momentum we gained on this, to reform the game forever, and return it to the hands of those that love it most. It should not have taken the partial collapse of the game to get to this point, but we have to make the most of it.