Govt backs fan-led review: Football requires independent regulator

The government has backed the work of the fan-led review and insists "football requires a strong, independent regulator to secure the future of our national game". The new regulator is the central rec

Govt backs fan-led review: Football requires independent regulator

The government has backed the work of the fan-led review and insists "football requires a strong, independent regulator to secure the future of our national game".

The new regulator is the central recommendation of the fan-led review which the government commissioned in April in the wake of the European Super League storm.

Fan-led review: Key recommendations

  • The UK government should create a new independent regulator
  • The independent regulator should oversee financial regulation in football
  • The independent regulator should establish a new 'fit and proper persons' test to replace the existing system which would also include an 'integrity' test on potential owners and 'real time' financial checks
  • Fans should be consulted on all key off-field decisions through a 'shadow board'
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion plans should be mandatory for all clubs
  • Key items of club heritage should be protected by a 'golden share' for fans
  • A new corporate governance code should be set up
  • Women's football should be treated equally and given its own review
  • Stakeholders should work to increase protection of welfare of players leaving the game
  • There should be more support from the Premier League to the pyramid through a solidarity transfer levy

In a written statement to Parliament on Thursday, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: "The government welcomes the work of the review and will now consider the detailed recommendations ahead of providing a full government response in spring 2022.

"The review demonstrates that there are fundamental issues with our national sport, and that this merits radical reform. Fans across the country want and deserve that reform. We have seen in the past how football has been unable to reform itself and to deliver changes that stop the likes of Bury FC or Macclesfield Town FC going out of business, or which stop clubs breaking away to set up the closed shop of a European Super League.

"We are at a turning point for football in this country. The review is a detailed and worthy piece of work that will require a substantive response and plan of action from across government. But the primary recommendation of the review is clear, and one the government chooses to endorse in principle today: that football requires a strong, independent regulator to secure the future of our national game.

"The government will now work at pace to determine the most effective way to deliver an independent regulator, and any powers that might be needed.

"This is an important review that we hope will lead to change for good in football. The government will now work at pace on how to make that happen."

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An independent regulator is at the forefront of proposals following a fan-led review into English football, says MP Tracey Crouch

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston promised to move "as quickly as possible" to bring forward any legislation needed as a consequence of the review when he attended a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee hearing last week.

Former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch hopes the regulator would be fully operational by the start of the 2023-24 season, with the review recommending a shadow regulator be set up at the earliest opportunity.

The Conservative Party included the promise of a review in its 2019 General Election manifesto following the demise of Bury. The subsequent financial shock of the Covid-19 pandemic and then the European Super League have brought the way the English game is regulated firmly into the spotlight, and hastened the decision to start the review.

Arguably the single most surprising recommendation within it was a "solidarity transfer levy" on deals between Premier League clubs and on top-flight sides making overseas signings, to support the English football pyramid.

The review said the proceeds from such a stamp duty system could be "game-changing".

Former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch fears for the future of football if there is not independent regulation
Image: Former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch fears for the future of football if there is not independent regulation

On the thorny issue of parachute payments, the report said the IREF would have backstop powers to "impose a solution" on the Premier League and the EFL if the leagues could not agree one before the IREF had been created. It noted the "poor history" of the industry in reaching such agreements.

The IREF would take over responsibility for administering the owners' and directors' tests from the Premier League, EFL and the Football Association, and control how much cash owners can inject into a club.

The review also proposed the introduction of fixed-percentage promotion and relegation clauses in player contracts.

The report called for the creation of "shadow boards" to give supporters greater decision-making influence and oversight, and on issues such as relocating a club, changing a badge or home club colours, the club name or seeking to enter a competition not sanctioned by the FA, FIFA or UEFA, a 'golden share' power of veto would be afforded to a democratically-run Community Benefit Society (CBS).

The report noted that 73 clubs currently have a CBS in the form of a supporters' trust. It said if the power of veto was exercised, the IREF would arbitrate or appoint arbitrators to settle the dispute.

New Newcastle United chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan (left) and Amanda Staveley prior to kick-off in the Premier League match against Tottenham at St. James' Park
Image: Newcastle is now run by Sad Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (left)

The review makes 47 recommendations in all, after hearing over 100 hours of evidence and receiving contributions from supporters of 130 clubs.

Clubs entering the EFL should be given a three-year grace period to lay a grass pitch, and the review also calls for the government and the UK Football Policing Unit to work on a pilot scheme to allow the sale of alcohol in sight of the pitch at matches in the National League and League Two.

It also called on the game to provide improved mental health support to players released from the game, particularly at academy level, and for a similar review to be conducted for women's football.

Julian Knight, the chair of the DCMS committee welcomed the review and said: "For too long professional football in this country has operated with a disregard for fans and for the most basic good business practice.

"What we need now is urgent government action with a Bill before the House. The Secretary of State must look to introduce a football regulator in the next Queen's Speech."