Let’s ensure a sustainable future for football - Ian Murray

We’re in the last few days at the business end of the football season. It’s been hugely exciting as make or break games go down to the final seconds, most notably at what was surely the game of the season at Tynecastle where the UK Parliament football team took on the Scottish Parliament team in a crunch match.
Both Hearts and Hibs will take part in Eufa's Europa Conference League next seasonBoth Hearts and Hibs will take part in Eufa's Europa Conference League next season
Both Hearts and Hibs will take part in Eufa's Europa Conference League next season

Yours truly squeezed into the green and red kit of the Westminster team, and we somehow went on to win 8-1. I never thought I’d ever wear green at Tynecastle. Of slightly less significance, congratulations must go to Celtic on the domestic treble.

Nobody knew who Ange Postecoglou was when he came to Scottish football but he has done such a job for the Parkhead side that he will lead Tottenham next season. Keir Starmer, an avid football player and Arsenal fan still fuming after his team threw away their lead in the league this year, will certainly be watching on anxiously.

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Next season will also mark the 150th anniversary of my club, Hearts, with a year of celebrations.

In Europe, the Europa Conference league beckons in the months ahead for both Hearts and Hibs, giving both sets of Edinburgh fans something to look forward to.

And before that we will have had the final of this season’s Europa Conference League with West Ham, under the stewardship of Scot David Moyes, taking to the field against Hearts’ conquerors, Fiorentina. We will know the result of that game as you read this before the showcase Champions League final between Man City and Inter on Saturday.

But for many fans right across the UK, the future of their local team is uncertain. Indeed, Hearts’ forthcoming 150th anniversary wouldn’t have been possible without the supporters’ movement which saved the club a decade ago.

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I will always look back with immense pride on my time as chair of the Foundation of Hearts, and the club’s fan-ownership model – the largest in the UK. It is a beacon in a game that can too often forget the role of the local community.

What happened at Tynecastle was brought about due to a unique set of circumstances, but the subsequent success has captured the attention of fans across the UK and the world. With Scotland showing how this can be done, I believe the Scottish Government should launch a full fan-led review of football here.

Outdated governance from the very top to the grassroots needs to be modernised and reformed to put the fans at the heart of football. It is the government which can initiate this review, although it is the fans’ voices which must be heard.

The UK Government has already concluded a fan-led review in England, and while it was broadly positive, it falls short of the kind of fundamental change needed.

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That’s why the next UK Labour government is commitment to an independent statutory regulator for football in England so that the spoils of success at the top are shared lower down the leagues.

It’s no surprise that so many clubs in England want to learn from Hearts about fan ownership. The beautiful game has given us another season of great memories for many, and heartbreak for others (there’s always next year, Keir), and it’s time to ensure a sustainable future at all levels of the game.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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