With England’s poor performance at the World Cup fresh in delegates’s minds, proposals to revive the national game came under scrutiny, with delegates concerned over FA plans for a new tier of clubs.
Although he could not make it to the Supporters Summit in Wembley last month, Greg Dyke, chair of the Football Association, sent a recorded video message. He said England’s failure was connected to the lack of English players in the Premier League.
To remedy this, the FA aims to increase the number of English players in the Premier League from 30% to 45% by 2022. A report by the FA’s England Commission suggests the introduction of Premier League B teams into English football and the creation of a new tier within the league to accommodate these.
But delegates were worried that this move would grant even more power to Premier League clubs.
Dan Crawford, of Fulham Supporters’ Trust, said the majority of delegates believed grass-roots football was important and did not just care about their own club. He said: “People in this room see football as something wider and more important.”
But Paul Clifford, another delegate, said England’s failure in Brazil has made a lot of trusts sceptical about the national team, so that their focus is now on their own club.
Theresa Magee, of Chelsea Supporters Trust, said government legislation was required to address issues such as diversity, ticket prices, transfer fees or TV rights. She added that young players needed to look beyond borders to succeed.
“There are foreign players in all countries but only in England it has led to shrinkage. Why don’t English players want to take chances in leagues abroad?” she asked.
Other delegates criticised the FA for being “too weak” and said the new proposal to create B teams would result in football being even more concentrated at the top of the game.
Along with the Football Supporters Federation, Supporters Direct backs the campaign Against League 3, which opposes the FA Commission’s proposals to introduce B teams into English competitive football.
According to Robin Osterley, chief executive of Supporters Direct, supporters trusts can make an important contribution to grass-roots football.
“Supporters trusts do have a part to play in terms of bringing pressure to bear on their clubs and in helping grass-roots football’s reputation as the really important place where it all starts.
“Supporter-owned clubs also have a role to play. We have plenty who are making a fantastic job in their community and actually making grass-roots football thrive in areas where it wasn’t doing so well. We think the supporters movement can be very influential in helping grass-roots football,” he said.