It’s time to put MPs under a bit of pressure ahead of the election

The West Ham United Supporters’ Trust want us to push the Football Governance Bill up the agenda

General view at the West Ham United v Manchester City EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th September, 2023.

When rain-soaked Rishi Sunak stood outside Number 10 to call a snap general election, he pulled the plug on the long-fought-for regulator for English football. With widespread cross-party support, it was thought that the Bill that grew out of the Fan-led Review of English Football might go through on the nod.

There is an official procedure when Parliament is about to end. If the opposition and government can agree on either entire bills, or elements within them, they can be voted through in the final days before Parliament is dissolved. This procedure is called Wash Up.

The Football Governance Bill was still under scrutiny among MPs. There were elements of disagreement still. So instead of wash up, the Bill was washed out. This was a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

But all is not lost. It might be that both main parties agreed not to include the Bill in wash up because they want to campaign on the issue. A lot of voters are football fans. Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher famously invented Basildon Man as the stereotypical hard working ordinary bloke who was determined to get ahead and make a better life for his family.

This might be a way for sometimes distant politicians to show they are on the side of Basildon Man. The thing that was never mentioned about Basildon Man is that he would have been a West Ham fan. It’s not something that’s escaped the West Ham United Supporters’ Trust (WHUST).

WHUST has a former civil servant on its board. Nick Drane has been working closely with the Football Supporters’ Association on the Football Governance Bill. He wants fans to use the election as a chance to push prospective MPs and parties to commit to real regulation.

He says: ‘The key next step is for the FSA and fans to press parties and those likely to be senior ministers in a new government to include in their manifestos a commitment to implement the Fan-Led Review in full.’

Drane believes there is hope. He suspects a Labour government might be more inclined to go for tougher regulation or to extend the scope of the regulator’s powers. But the Tories too might offer more if they think fighting for fans can win round voters.

‘The delay is two edged,’ Drane says. ‘It’s disappointing because it means prolonging uncertainty for clubs and fans, but it is an opportunity to get a better Bill.’

The elephant in the room when MPs were discussing the now washed-out bill was ticketing. The word did not even appear in the Bill. The Fan-Led Review said ticket prices should not be regulated. Ticketing – rising prices and the end of concessions – is something WHUST has been pushing to be included.

The FSA had been resistant, up until now, wanting to get a regulator on the statute books and to work on strengthening it later. But with that now down the drain, WHUST’s Drane thinks we have more opportunity.

The FSA has been gathering supporter groups’ signatures to write to all party leaders. It demands that should they win the election, they agree to work with the FSA in a new Parliament to reintroduce legislation in the first King’s Speech.

WHUST will be pushing within the FSA for ticketing and ticket prices to be included. We will also be urging West Ham fans to raise this with local candidates in the coming weeks ahead of the general election.

The figures on this year’s season ticket price rises speak for themselves. The abolition of concession prices in all but the cheapest two bands will hurt families at what West Ham still likes to call ‘the home of affordable family football’.

WHUST told MPs scrutinising the Bill: ‘A regulator that cannot regulate the cost to consumers and protect concessions will be no regulator at all.’

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