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”The clubs are pricing fans out of the game”

”The clubs are pricing fans out of the game”

In the light of the increased cost of football and the recent news about the release of Ched Evans, Sheffield United’s player convicted of rape from prison, The Sports Gazette met Billy Reid, director at HonestGame, a global campaign to raise the level of integrity in world football.

“The idea came to me through my passion for football” says Reid , 46, a west Londoner and a festival director, music producer, actor, singer and dancer.

Billy (pictured) played and has been involved in football throughout all his life. “I played for 4 years at a semi-professional level for Fisher Athletic F.C. of Rotherhithe and Barking F.C in the Vauxhall conference as a right back,” recalls Reid, an avid Liverpool supporter.

The fairly new project has been created by Billy and his business partner Fiona Pelahm only four months ago and Billy currently dedicates to the project two days a week, aiming for it to become his full-time career.

“Fiona is originally a Manchester United supporter, and now supports FC United of Manchester. We chose them as our model which is a very clear choice. We decided to go directly to grass-roots football and to look at not what to fix in football but at what works in football” says Billy enthusiastically.

“This club was put together by the Manchester United fans that were not pleased by how the Glazers run club. It is fan owned and operates on a high level of integrity and total transparency and linked with the community. They work closely with clubs such as AFC Wimbledon who were one of the first to come up with this model. A lot of other clubs start to align to that.”

How have fans and other clubs respond to your initiative so far? “Everyone we speak to thinks it is a great idea. Football currently is directed and run by finance, the thinking is how much money can we make of that? It pushes the fans out and they find a second team to support, usually a non-league side. They have more fun and get more involved with the game there.”

Do managers of big clubs ask you to vow for secrecy? “Yes, they comment only off the record, they also think our cause is worthy.”

How do you fund all that? “We plan to fund the projects from media organisations and sports federations or corporate sponsors but only if these brands are aligned with our level of integrity and what we’re up to. We look at their sustainability. We haven’t started raising funds yet but we plan to soon via Kickstarter or Indigogo.”

Do you think we’ve finally reached the tipping point? “There is an analogy to how the football world works. It is the music industry where in the 80-90s there was abundance and money and people were superstars, etc but there was an extremely low level of integrity where artists were not getting paid, millions were spent and put aside on petty cash. It was set as ‘how can I make money out of you?’ For instance when CDs were introduced, record companies decided to charge more on CDs than on vinyl, even though CDs cost a lot less to produce. After a while consumers had enough and decided to stop buying music and the illegal sharing and Napster came along. It became harder and harder to create music and charge for it. In football, big sides like Portsmouth and Rangers collapsed because of this mentality.”

Which clubs are you working with, apart from FC United of course? “We visit all the clubs that started like that including AFC Wimbledon and Chester. We use FC United as our trial model and it works really well.”

What is your view about the Ched Evans case? Should he be allowed to go and play football again? “I cannot comment myself. HonestGame isn’t to take sides, but rather to ask what is the impact. If he would have admitted it still wouldn’t matter, there is still an impact. Professional footballers are role models and they have a duty to act in a certain way. They have a huge influence in their community and the world.”

Lastly, where do you see HonestGame in 3-5 years Billy? “We will have a presence in every major city in Europe and we will have all the federations aligned – FIFA, The FA, UK government working with us implementing an honest game.”

The HonestGame website can be found on
The Twitter account is available via

 This story was first published on the Sports Gazette on October 27th 2014.

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