Everton has released the findings of a survey that provided supporters with the opportunity to have their say on the future of football.
Immediately following the withdrawal of six Premier League clubs from the proposed European Super League (ESL) in April, the Club and the Everton Fans’ Forum announced it would begin a wide-ranging consultation with supporters on the future of the game, with Everton CEO Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale vowing to ensure the voices of Everton and Evertonians “will be heard”.
The survey, which was open to supporters in July and attracted almost 10,000 responses, was structured based on feedback delivered by the Fans' Forum following a series of workshops with fan groups. The groups involved in the workshops included the Everton Supporters’ Club Committee, Everton Shareholders’ Association, Everton Disabled Supporters’ Association and the Everton Heritage Society - and represented more than 3,000 supporters.
The results of the survey have been used to help inform Professor Barrett-Baxendale's input into the Government's fan-led review in her role as a member of the advisory board being led by Tracey Crouch MP.
The survey responses show there is widespread concern from Evertonians over how English football is regulated and how the fallout from the ESL proposals could impact Everton as well as the wider footballing pyramid in future, and that the overwhelming majority supported the Club's robust and unequivocal opposition to the proposals.
The results of the survey show that, while there was support for fans having a presence at Board level, a number of key factors were considered more important by respondents in positively influencing and protecting the future of the game.
These included the need for Government and/or football adopting legislation to prevent future threats to the integrity of the sport. Evertonians also suggested the need for clear and defined sanctions for clubs that breach guidelines, the appointment of an independent football regulator, and fairer distribution of broadcast revenue.
The survey also identified that a large majority of Evertonians trust the Club's leadership team to make decisions that are in the best interests of the Club and that Everton puts its supporters “at the heart of decision-making”.
Professor Barrett-Baxendale said: “I’d like to thank every supporter that took the opportunity to share their thoughts as part of this survey. The feedback that has been received has provided myself and the board with a clear picture of how Evertonians want the future of football to be shaped.
“Over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege of working closely with Tracey Crouch MP and my fellow panel members as part of the Government's fan-led review of football. Every one of us is keen to ensure the voices of fans right across the country are heard during what is a vital and pivotal point in the history of our game.
“I’d like to thank the Everton Fans’ Forum and the fan groups and Club stakeholders - including our Shareholders' Association - for their continued support and working with us to shape the structure of this survey. While our own decision-making and governance scored highly from fans in this survey, I am determined to ensure we continue to work hard to improve and develop what we do as a Club to listen and engage with every Evertonian. I look forward to working alongside our supporters in exploring the feedback we have received and further enhancing our own governance structures.”
Among the most notable results, 88% of respondents agreed the ESL proposals had raised serious questions about how football is regulated in England, while 89% said they had "concerns" about the future of the English game.
Only one in five people believe the current level of regulation in English football is appropriate, with the majority - 55% - holding the view that there is too little regulation.
Backing for the creation of a supporter committee or custodian group comprised of representatives from fan groups to advise the Board on key matters came from 91% of respondents.
Eight in 10 people said they would be in favour of introducing a single, independent regulatory body for football in England.
Jazz Bal, Chair of the Everton Fans' Forum, said: “Evertonians are proud of how our Club responded to the failed attempt of other clubs to create a European Super League. The issue has really united football fans across the country and it is clear from the findings of this survey that there is real concern about how the game we love is regulated; the integrity of our football pyramid needs to be protected.
“We have worked alongside other fan groups, stakeholders and the Club to make sure our voices are heard and the strong set of results demonstrate the true feelings of Evertonians.”
When questioned about Everton's response to the prospect of a European Super League, 97% of survey respondents said the Club's stance matched their own, while 91% said they believe Everton as a club strives to maintain the ethos and traditions of the game.
The Club compared favourably in the eyes of its supporters in this regard, with only 30% believing Premier League clubs, in general, have the same respect for those traditions.
Similarly, nine in 10 fans stated they feel positive about Everton's leadership and governance when it comes to them making decisions that are in the best interests of the Club, with 86% stating they are confident Everton acts in the interests of supporters in its decision-making.
While nine in 10 supporters also agreed Everton is committed to investing in local communities and grassroots football, the flow of money through the football pyramid in England was a cause for concern more widely, with 82% of respondents believing it to be an issue. There was also little agreement that the majority of Premier League clubs are committed to investing in grassroots football.