1 July 2016
The Independent Football Ombudsman (the IFO) is appointed by the Football Association (FA), the English Football League (EFL) and the Premier League (PL) [hereafter, the football authorities], in consultation with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The IFO provides independent external scrutiny of complaints within a transparent, accountable and effective system of self-regulation by the football authorities. This includes a commitment to the Customer Charter or other relevant Club policies and review PL, EFL and FA processes where necessary.
The football authorities are committed to providing robust and open complaints procedures, widely publicised, taken seriously by the Clubs, reinforced by the PL, EFL and the FA and subject to external review. The IFO will also provide an external and independent voice in discussions within football on issues which affect the public.
2. The Independent Football Ombudsman's Terms of Reference
(i) The IFO acts as a check and balance within football's complaints procedures and its adjudications will be published. These adjudications shall be final and the football authorities expect that normally IFO recommendations will be implemented. If, in exceptional cases, there is a failure to agree, the football bodies concerned will publish their reasons and their proposed alternative resolution of the issue.
The IFO’s role is not to interpret the rules and regulations of the football authorities and it cannot change the outcome of disputes, overturn decisions made or provide alternative interpretation of the rules. Instead the IFO’s function is to check that due process is followed, and, where necessary, check that the process is a reasonable one - for example, the timeliness of response and whether it has been viewed by appropriate levels within the football authorities.
(ii) The IFO will have regard to best practice in commercial matters within professional football, particularly with regard to customer service. The IFO will be consulted and will advise on:-
• Codes of Best Practice relating to supporters and customers in general, and customer charters or other relevant policies issued by each of the football authorities, and by individual clubs;
• the football authorities' operation of the complaints resolution hierarchy based on the Codes of Best Practice, with the Independent Football Ombudsman as the final step in that hierarchy checking that due process was followed; and
• the football authorities' procedures for review and monitoring of commercial and customer matters.
In this, the IFO is to have particular regard to:-
• Ticketing policies
• Accessibility of matches
• Merchandise; and
• Supporter and other stakeholder involvement.
(iii) Where complaints resolution indicates wider action is appropriate, to recommend changes to Codes of Best Practice and Customer Charters or other relevant policies, to request review of the rules and regulations of the football authorities relating to commercial and customer-related matters and to request research or other investigation into policy relating to those matters.
(iv) The IFO will be consulted by the football authorities on significant changes to regulation or practice in the areas of supporter and customer relations.
(v) The IFO is tasked with meeting supporter organisations on an annual basis and with reporting the outcome to the authorities. The IFO will produce an annual report to be submitted to the football authorities and to the DCMS. The published IFO annual report will identify broader issues arising from its investigations and adjudications which should be addressed by the authorities. The work of the IFO will be reported in Club, League and FA annual reports as applicable and any public policy implications will be reported to the DCMS by the football authorities at the existing established and regular meetings between football and the Department.
3. The Constitution of the IFO
The office of the IFO will consist of the Ombudsman and a Deputy. An Advisory Panel will be appointed by the IFO so that, according to the requirement for particular expertise, a Panel member can sit with the IFO and/or Deputy IFO to advise on complaint adjudication or on issues arising from complaint investigations.
The Ombudsman and Deputy will be appointed by the football authorities in consultation with Government.