Government to introduce independent football regulator in England after backing fan-led review

Government to introduce independent football regulator in England after backing fan-led review

Fans protested across the Premier League against the European Super League

Government says it will establish independent football regulator after approving recommendations made in the fan-led review in the men’s game.

The regulator will have the power to sanction English football clubs that breach financial and other rules.

A new Owners Test will be introduced and the legislation will give fans more say in the gameplay.

It comes after the review made 10 recommendations to the government on how to improve football governance last year.

The review was chaired by former sports minister Tracey Crouch following a number of high-profile crises in sport, such as the European Super League failure and the collapse of Bury FC.

Crouch called the government’s endorsement of the review “a huge step forward”, but also said the unclear timetable for making the changes was “concerning”.

No direct timetable for implementing the changes has been announced, but the government has said a white paper – policy documents that detail proposals for future laws – will be published this summer.

The new regulator will be backed by laws that allow it to impose penalties and exercise financial control over clubs, meaning it can investigate and gather information.

It will also apply the new “enhanced” Owners and Administrators test which will replace the current tests carried out by the Premier League, Football League and Football Association.

This follows the ongoing sale of Chelsea by Roman Abramovich amid government sanctions and a Newcastle United takeover backed by Saudi Arabia in October 2021 among others. Both owners have been criticized by Amnesty International UK.

The new test will be implemented before the acquisition but also on an ongoing basis.

It will include a new “integrity test” for owners and managers and more in-depth investigations before a purchase, including sources of finance.

“I am exceptionally delighted [the government] has accepted or supported all of the review’s policy recommendations, including committing to legislation for an independent statutory regulator that will regulate financial resilience as well as club ownership,” Crouch said in a statement to the agency. release PA.

“It’s a huge step forward in the much-needed reform of football.”

Crouch said she believes fans would welcome the reforms, but “remain nervous that this commitment will be delayed or watered down by the vested and conflicting interests in the game that have resisted much-needed reform for so long.”

“Further delays could be catastrophic for clubs, communities and fans seeking a more secure and certain regulatory environment,” she added.

Last month, Helen MacNamara, the Premier League’s director of policy and general affairs, told a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee that the league “definitely” did not want a a statutory independent regulator.

The government said its white paper would set out plans for “a greater role for supporters in the day-to-day running of clubs” and ensure supporters have “a greater say in changes to stadiums, the logo , in their club’s name and kit via a “privileged share”, in order to protect the clubs and the central role they play as vital assets to the community”.

The white paper will also aim to improve equality and diversity on club boards.

Crouch’s review recommended looking at financial distribution, including “more Premier League support for the pyramid through a solidarity transfer tax, paid by Premier League clubs on the purchase of overseas players or other top clubs”.

But the government said it believed ‘this should be resolved first and foremost by the football authorities’.

“It is remarkable and disappointing that there has been no progress in discussions between the football authorities on the redistribution of finances and I share the government’s view that this needs to be addressed urgently,” added Crouch.

Campaign group Fair Game backed the government’s announcement but said ‘what we need now is a firm timetable for change’.

“There can be no more delay or hesitation,” Fair Game added, adding that it was “disappointing that on the face of it there is no mention of a new international transfer tax.”

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “Football is nothing without its fans and for too long footballing authorities have been collectively unable to tackle some of football’s biggest problems.

“The government has taken decisive action to lead the fan-led review and today we endorsed each of its ten policy recommendations and the approach set out by Tracey Crouch.”

Analysis – “An important moment in the history of sport”

Dan Roan, BBC Sport editor

Last month, the Premier League told MPs it was strongly opposed to an independent statutory regulator of football. It will therefore be seen as a major defeat for the country’s top clubs and an important moment in the history of the sport.

Despite the turmoil caused by the European Super League bid, the controversy over the Saudi takeover of Newcastle United and the financial collapse of Derby County, the Premier League still hoped to persuade ministers to let the FA act as regulator.

But the chaos at Chelsea after Russian owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned may have been seen as one football crisis too many, and the government may have felt they had no choice but to back the recommendation. key to Crouch in his “fan-led review”. That – along with the commitment to greater fan engagement – ​​will please many of those who have called for radical reform.

What is not yet clear is whether the heightened testing of owners and directors that the regulator will oversee would have prevented any of the club takeovers or financial problems that have plagued the game in recent years, and when exactly it will be enacted and fully established.

Not everything Crouch asked for was taken care of. She also recommended that Premier League clubs pay a “solidarity transfer tax” to further support the football pyramid and redistribute wealth. But for now at least, the government has left that to the football authorities.

It will no doubt be a relief for the Premier League and disappoint Football League clubs, who may feel it is a missed opportunity to balance the financial landscape of football.

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