Laura Trott is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Sevenoaks & Swanley and was first elected in December 2019. She is here to help the community, regardless of how you voted, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Football plays a key part in community life across the country, and here in Sevenoaks and Swanley we are lucky to have a number of thriving clubs, including Chipstead, Ide Hill, Kemsing United, Otford United, New Ash Green, Sevenoaks Town, Swanley and Westerham to name just a few. All play such a huge part in their local communities, providing sport for hundreds of local people.
Whilst the Premier League is watched every week by billions globally, local matches in the Football League can be just as exciting. And, the one thing that unites every club is the fans. They are the life and soul of English football, and this must not be lost.
Sadly, over the past few years, the need to protect the voice of fans has become a real concern. And, the case for reform became even clearer after the attempted breakaway of the European Super League in 2021.
The financial situation of many clubs has also been a cause of worry, with the Covid pandemic only exacerbating the multi-billion-pound issue of debt across the Premier League and Championship. The football economy had sadly become unsustainable, especially for the smaller clubs.
In 2019, the Conservatives were the only party that recognised these issues and called for a fan-led review of football which was chaired by my brilliant fellow Kent Conservative MP Tracey Crouch. After accepting its recommendations, the Government has now published a White Paper – a policy document that outlines plans for new legislation – on significant reforms to professional club football governance.
The White Paper proposes a new licensing system and independent regulator with statutory powers to secure the future of English football and protect the voice of fans. The regulator will have the power to scrutinise the financial sustainability of individual clubs and their owners, as well as the wider stability of the nation’s football pyramid. And, crucially, a new minimum standard of fan engagement will now be expected for professional clubs.
Importantly, professional clubs will also only be allowed to play in competitions approved by the new regulator. Any new competition must not undermine the sustainability of the existing football leagues, and fans must be consulted on any potential changes – a point I believe will stop any repeat of the European Super League fiasco. If clubs do not comply with these requirements, then their football licence could be revoked.
The last few years have shown the powerful case for reform in football, and I am pleased that these proposals will place the voice of fans at the forefront and ensure the sustainability of our clubs – both big and small. And importantly, it doesn’t impact all the fantastic work done by local clubs in non-professional leagues.
However, it is not just through these reforms that Government is supporting English football. As part of its ongoing commitment to deliver the grassroots facilities every community needs, a further £168 million will be invested across England by 2025 – on top of a continued £18m annual commitment.
It will be delivered by the Football Foundation – a partnership between the Premier League, The FA, and DCMS – to improve and upgrade pitches and facilities across the country.
Since the summer, Ide Hill, Kemsing United, New Ash Green and Sevenoaks Town Juniors have collectively received nearly £10,000 to improve their facilities through the Football Foundation’s Small Grants Scheme. And this follows in the footsteps of Sevenoaks Town who have previously worked with the Town Council to fund the installation of a state-of-the-art 3G pitch. This pitch is now used by junior and senior players alike, with the club now the largest provider of grassroots football in the Southeast with around 64 teams and over 1000 players.
As last summer’s West Kent Sport & Wellbeing Showcase event underlined, local sports clubs are so important to families across the constituency. In my house alone, my daughter plays for a local football team and my husband coaches one.
The game must be protected, and I would encourage everyone to support their own local club – be it by playing or watching. Hopefully, we may have a future Cristiano Ronaldo or Jill Scott right here in our midst!