Football Governance Bill to be delayed – but general election brings bonus to fix ‘broken’ sport

Lord Seb Coe, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sir Keir Starmer (Getty Images)
Lord Seb Coe, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sir Keir Starmer (Getty Images)

Work on the Football Governance Bill is expected to be halted until later in the summer, after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed a general election for 4 July, although there is hope from within the game that it could actually result in a much-strengthened regulator that addresses “serious flaws” in the bill.

The Leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mourdant, will on Thursday confirm the bills that will be able to proceed into law in the “wash-up process” for the final week of sitting.

The Football Governance Bill is not expected to be on there, however, due to having too many stages to go through. The process has been entirely shaped by resistance from the Premier League and National League, against the impetus from the wider pyramid and fan groups in the game.

The bill has had cross-party support since the publication of the recommendations from Tracey Crouch’s fan-led review in 2021, although it has been felt within the Premier League that it would be better to get it through under a Conservative government, which would likely be much less interventionist than under the Labour Party.

It could mean the Premier League’s attempts to push back against strengthened regulation end up working against it, if Sir Keir Starmer gets into power, as widely expected.

There has been a feeling of progress from those who want an empowered regulator and the Labour Party has already asserted its commitment to the legislation.

The bill has already had two readings in parliament, as well as two days of committee scrutiny. This led to the Labour Party tabling a front-bench amendment to the parachute payments clause, in the face of strident Premier League opposition. There is even a feeling from within football this could lead to potential for a scale of amendments that were politically under a Conservative government.

Sir Keir Starmer is expected to back the bill, should the Labour Party win the general election (PA Wire)
Sir Keir Starmer is expected to back the bill, should the Labour Party win the general election (PA Wire)

Discussing the potential delay, EFL chair Rick Parry said: “Whilst we had hoped to see the Football Governance Bill passed into legislation in the current Parliament, the EFL remains committed to working with the new Government to ensure no further momentum is lost post the outcome of general election.

“The existential systemic issues facing the game from top to bottom are not going away without external intervention and the introduction of a regulator will assist clubs at all levels to operate in a financially sustainable way so that they can continue to thrive for the benefit of their fans, local communities, and our national game.”

A statement from supporter lobbying group FairSquare read: “There is no doubt that football is broken. It is a shame that the Bill has fallen, but this now represents an opportunity to address the serious flaws that were in it.

“We need a Bill that tackles the growing financial inequality in the game, that ensures the regulator is truly independent, and rewards well-run clubs. It is now up to a new government to pick up the mantle and deliver a fairer future for football.

“For the sake of fans and clubs up and down the country we call on all parties to make a firm commitment that a new Bill is brought forward in the first session of a new parliament.”