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Findings of survey sees majority of 10,000 fans backing independent regulator

Findings of a survey, launched by the FSA, sees majority of 10,000 fans who took part backing an independent regulator to be brought in.

It found that fans don’t trust many owners, leagues, authorities with 88.2% of 10,000 fans from 200 clubs surveyed by the FSA wanting an introduction of a “regulator to ensure clubs run sustainably”.

They were also surveyed on VAR, cost of living, matchday spending, tickets, away price cap and the state of football in the near future.

Nearly two-thirds (67%) of football supporters in England oppose the system of video assistant referees.

According to a survey conducted by fans, 63.3% of respondents were against the use of VAR. 79.1% said that they had a poor or very bad experience with VAR.

This is in contrast to a 2017 survey conducted by the Football Supporters’ Association, which found that 74.6% supported the use of video officials to assist on-field officials make game-changing decisions.

In March and April, the FSA commissioned a survey of 9,645 supporters with the survey conducted online.

Nearly 92% of respondents said decisions take too long, and only 26.8% were in favour of VAR.

Only 5.5% of matchgoers rate their VAR experience as good or very positive, while 65.4% say their experience is poor or very negative.

According to the survey, 80% of respondents believe that they should be allowed to hear the discussions between VAR and on-field referees.


Fans overwhelmingly back the introduction of an independent football regulator to ensure their clubs are run sustainably, according to the results of our National Supporters Survey.

The findings also reveal the impact that the rising cost of living is having on the amount the supporters have to spend on attending football, as well as widespread criticism of VAR.

Almost 10,000 fans took part in the FSA’s National Supporters’ Survey – last run in 2017 – to give their thoughts on the state of football ahead of the new season.

  • Nine in ten fans (88.2%) agreed on the need for an independent regulator to ensure clubs are run sustainably.
  • Only one in 20 (5.5%) of fans who had experienced VAR in stadiums rated their experience of it as good or very good.
  • Just under half of those polled (46.9%) believed that their club cared about them and their views.
  • Only a third (37.8%) feel optimistic for the future of football.
  • One in five (21.7%) fans said they were attending fewer games because of the rising cost of living, and almost a third (31.9%) had reduced their matchday spending on items such as food, drink and programmes.


The FSA first asked about video referees in their 2017 survey, and there was widespread support of trials of video referees for game-changing decisions – three-quarters (74.6%) of fans were in favour.

Now that they have seen the system in action, only a quarter (26.8%) of fans said they were absolutely or somewhat in favour of it, compared with almost two-thirds (63.3%) who were against it.

More than three-quarters of matchgoers (79.1%) and two-thirds of TV viewers (65.4%) rated their experience as either poor or very poor.


The delays to the game in terms of the length of time it takes to come to a VAR decision are a major negative factor – an overwhelming majority (91.9%) agreed that decisions take too long to make.

The lack of clarity around the process is also an issue – four in five respondents (80%) said that fans should be able to hear discussions between the VAR and the on-pitch referee.

Cost of living

The rising cost of living has had an impact on how much people spend on attending football, with two in five (40.1%) of respondents saying they were already spending less on football due to the current financial climate.

One-fifth (21.7%) of fans said they were attending fewer games because of the cost of living.

Of fans who said they were attending less than in previous seasons, the most commonly cited factors are work/family commitments (30.9%), high ticket prices (30.3%), an inability to obtain tickets (22.8%), and changes in financial circumstances (21.9%).

On the back of the EFL’s record TV deal, there was strong support for an away price cap as there is in the Premier League to help keep football affordable – almost nine in ten (88.2%) were in favour of such a measure.

FSA Chair Malcolm Clarke said: “Football has said for years that it can regulate itself. The findings from our survey show that it has become apparent to the overwhelming majority of fans that it can not, and that independent regulation is required to safeguard the future of our clubs, and the game itself.”

“Football clubs can’t continue to be allowed to mark their own homework, and so we will be pressing the Government to make sure that the regulator laid out in their White Paper becomes a reality.”

“The results also reveal the extent to which football fans, as with many millions of others up and down the country, are feeling the pinch due to the rising cost of living. We support any initiative which keeps football affordable and available to all.”

The results of the survey will be discussed at this weekend’s FSA AGM – register here – , which is to be held in Manchester as part of the European Football Fans Congress run by pan-European fan body Football Supporters Europe.

Speakers at the event, which runs from Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th June, include UEFA president Alexander Čeferin, FA chair Debbie Hewitt, and Gary Neville.

Here’s what Twitter users are saying as findings of a survey sees majority of 10,000 fans backing an independent regulator…

@Skyblue72Paul: I’m all in favour in principle of an independent regulator, on the other hand about the only people I trust less than the FA/PL is the government.

@stevekmad: Good idea, probably 20 years too late though with the current ownership situation and probably needs to be wider than just in England to look at what’s going on globally with multi club ownership and investment

@castringblue: Now tell us which premier league clubs want / don’t want an independent regulator.

@Thesingingblue: The truth is the old top clubs want no contest from less historical clubs and the lower clubs want a chance to win things.. noone has any concern for the game.. its a smokescreen

@ChrisItalianJob: The big question will be who funds the ‘Independent Regulator’. Always follow the money. There will undoubtedly be lots of pressure to ‘maintain the brand’ by keeping certain clubs competitive, as we saw in 2019/20.

@ashleyh151: Those same fans that want clubs run sustainably will be the first to complain when their owner isn’t making loads of signings each window

@AndyMk_83: It’s up to the likes of Henry and other reputable journalists to keep banging this drum. I dont want MUFC to be State owned. I dont care how much success it brings. If what we’re seeing at City, Newcastle, PSG and Chelsea continues we won’t have a sport worth watching.

@RickyBeresford: City were they only PL club to back the introduction of a Gov Regulator…let that sink in. The PL were desperate to avoid it as well, why…what have they all got to hide?

@CFC_Jayz: The Regulator will become corrupt or accused of being corrupt within the first year , guarantee it

@snowbiggee: Even some clubs don’t even trust football to police itself, as shown by pending court cases.

@fred_fre: Price cap for home fans too. Football is nothing without fans

@Debstu0: Watched Rugby League the other day for the first time in years. How refreshing to hear the reasoning behind the decision making process when the video referee was called upon. Why can’t football learn from this an adopt a similar approach?

@dolleyolley: VAR spoils the game. Neither fans nor players dare celebrate a goal. VAR decisions are often seemingly arbitrary and as controversial as those made before it came in. Do we really want to pause a game and diffuse an exciting moment to rule a player’s todger was 3mm offside?

@MartinJohnson10: I hope if it does come the independent regulator is more competent and effective than OFWAT, OFGEM etc. We will end up swapping one set of problems for another if all of the sewage in our waterways is any indication

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