Clause 49 - Duty not to change crest, home shirt colours or name without approval

Football Governance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:30 pm ar 21 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Equalities)

A club’s name, home shirt colours and crest are intrinsic parts of its heritage, and therefore the decision to materially change any of them requires considered thought and consultation. The clause requires a club to establish that a majority of domestic supporters approve any material changes to its badge or predominant home shirt colours. In practice, we expect that to take place through a formal survey of fan opinion, as happened last season when Bristol Rovers supporters opposed the final proposal put to them, resulting in the club halting the redesign of its crest.

The clause also requires clubs to get Football Association approval prior to changing the name their team plays under. The view of supporters is a significant factor in the FA’s final decision, but it may also need to balance wider considerations, such as the effects on other clubs in the pyramid, and the relationship between the club’s current name, the proposed name and the locality with which it is traditionally associated.

Photo of Ian Byrne Ian Byrne Llafur, Liverpool, West Derby

On the scope of the independent regulator, Liverpool football club tried to trademark the name “Liverpool”, which caused absolute outrage among Liverpool and Everton supporters and market traders. The local community fought back, and the supporters of both football clubs came together. Is something like that within the scope of the regulator’s ability to influence?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Equalities)

That is a very good question, and I feel my officials thinking, “Not another letter!” If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, we will write to him. I apologise to my officials, who have enough on their plate, but I want to make sure I am not saying something that is not correct.

The existing FA rule has been used to prevent name changes that have been proposed in the past against the wishes of fans, as happened at Hull City, for example. Codifying that as a legal duty will mean that there are additional powers to ensure that clubs do not make changes without proper approvals and to respond to instances of non-compliance. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Heritage assets are incredibly important to a football club and its fans. They carry the history of where the club is based, what its identity is and the journey fans have been on through the years, in victory and loss. It is therefore pleasing that, in the light of the fan-led review, the FA has updated its rules on changes to club heritage assets. Those rules, supported by the clause, will hopefully ensure that a majority of fans are in favour of a change.

It is not just fans who will benefit from owners not being able to make unilateral changes to heritage items. There have been cases of clubs changing badges and crests without consultation, only to find that fans dislike them and will not buy replica kits or merchandise. Avoiding such situations is beneficial for people on all sides.

I know that some fan groups and Fair Game are disappointed that fans will not have a direct say over changes to a club’s name, because that is done via the FA. However, the FA told us in evidence that it consults fans as part of the name change process, so it would be good if the Minister can confirm whether he thinks that that is adequate.

The clause offers the bare minimum of fan engagement. Clubs can and must build on it through the consultation requirements in other clauses, forging ongoing listening exercises with their supporters on relevant matters. In many ways, therefore, this measure should be seen as a backstop, ensuring that a club cannot be stripped of its identity against the wishes of fans. In that context, I am pleased to welcome it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 49 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.