Government Backs Independent Regulator For Football In England
An independent regulator in football will be established by the UK government after endorsing recommendations made in the fan-led review into the men’s game.
The regulator will be given the power to sanction clubs for breaches of financial and other rules as well as a new owners’ test introduced as part of the review’s 10 recommendations highlighted in the Fan-led review.
The Premier League said it was committed to working with the Government during the next phase of consultation and accepts the need for reform. However, they noted that they opposed to the idea of an independent regulator.
“We welcome the clarity from the Government about their position, and are committed to working with them during this next phase of consultation, although we will continue to maintain that it is not necessary for there to be a statutory-backed regulator,” they said in a statement.
“Since the publication of the Fan-Led Review, the Premier League and our clubs have been working at pace to understand the full impact of the Review’s recommendations and design and implement policies in response to its objectives; including through reviewing our Owners’ and Directors’ Test.
“We agree that fans are of vital importance to the game and their voices should be better listened to across the League. We will be introducing a number of measures to improve this area and plan to make a detailed announcement before the start of the 2022/23 season.”
Fair Game, the campaign group set up to see football governed with fairness, openness and transparency, gave a cautious welcome to the commitment to football legislation.
But it warns that this cannot represent another false dawn where bureaucracy kicks the change the sport needs into touch. They added that any long-term change must come with reform to how monies in the game are distributed.
Niall Couper, CEO of Fair Game, said: “Football is in crisis. The announcement at last offers a real opportunity to save our game.
“The argument for an independent regulator is now over. There is huge cross-party political support for it and the ideas put forward by Fair Game and the Fan-Led Review.
“What we need now is a firm timetable for change. There can be no more delay or dithering.
“If reform is allowed to be kicked into the long grass, it will represent the death knell to the hard-working clubs at the centre of our towns and communities.
“The financial situation at most clubs is perilous. For too long the challenges in our national game have been booted down the road by the football authorities and successive governments putting our clubs on the edge of ruin.
“Legislation has the power to change football and protect our community clubs for the generations to come.”
Also welcoming the news, the Football Supporters Association has urged the government to move fast to implement the legislation.
In a statement they said: “The Government has acknowledged that “the free market will not fix football” – the FSA urges it to move fast and implement the fan-led review recommendations now.
“The introduction of an independent regulator is long overdue and we welcome the announcement that “IREF” should oversee financial regulation at all levels and establish a new, strengthened owners’ and directors’ test. We will look at further details very closely.
“Fans have long argued that clubs are vital community assets with stadiums and heritages that deserve special protections – and the Government backs that position while acknowledging that supporter engagement by clubs “often falls far short of what fans rightfully expect”.
“The announcement that “women’s football should be treated with parity and given its own dedicated review” is an important step, and one the FSA has long supported, as is the goal to give IREF a role in assessing football’s equality, diversity and inclusion action plans.
“But time is of the essence – as the Government says there are “serious concerns around the fragility of football finances”. There’s no time to dwell on the ball.
“Since the Government committed to a fan-led review of football governance in its 2019 manifesto we have seen: Macclesfield Town disappear, “Project Big Picture”, the European Super League, ownership controversy at many clubs, billionaire owners sabotage Premier League reform and existential crises at Coventry United, Derby County and Oldham Athletic, amongst others.
“Each day drafting White Papers is another day when a club might cease to exist. Another day for a dodgy owner to get their hooks into a club. Another day for remote billionaires to try and create European Super League 2.0.
“The FSA urges the Government to move fast and legislate now.”