Independent regulator to step in and resolve football’s financial row – report

A new independent regulator will be given powers to step in and resolve football’s financial row, according to a report.

The regulator will also oversee a more robust owners’ and directors’ test to ensure club bosses are properly vetted, and introduce a licensing system paid for by the clubs to ensure they are being run sustainably, The Sun reported.

The newspaper says it has seen a blueprint of the Government’s White Paper in response to the recommendations of the fan-led review, which was due to be published next week.

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan told the House of Commons last week that the White Paper on football governance would come in the next two weeks
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan told the House of Commons last week that the White Paper on football governance would come in the next two weeks (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The report refers to the regulator being handed “Robin Hood-style powers” to “take money from the mega-rich Premier League to distribute funds across lower leagues”.

The fan-led review had called for the regulator to be given backstop powers to impose a financial distribution settlement if one could not be agreed between the Premier League, EFL and the Football Association.

The three organisations are meeting regularly to discuss the so-called ‘New Deal For Football’ which includes cash distribution from the Premier League to the rest of the pyramid.

The EFL’s chairman Rick Parry has called for a 25 per cent share in all broadcast revenues for his organisation, something the Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters had said would be a “disaster”.

The fan-led review, chaired by Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, called for a transfer levy
The fan-led review, chaired by Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, called for a transfer levy (DCMS Handout/PA)

Parry has admitted his organisation has “virtually no leverage” in the talks and had called for a new regulator to be given backstop powers.

The report does not mention anything in the White Paper regarding a transfer levy of up to 10 per cent to further support the pyramid, which had been one of the recommendations of the fan-led review.

In addition to the backstop powers to potentially increase funding going to lower-league clubs, The Sun reports that a regulator will operate a licensing system designed to ensure clubs are being run sustainably and for the benefit of their supporters and the communities they serve.

It will do this by introducing new tests to more thoroughly vet owners, ensure minimum standards for fan engagement around key decisions related to a club’s cultural heritage, and crucially require teams only to enter competitions approved by the regulator.

The Sun says the intention of this is to prevent clubs staging any repeat of April 2021, where the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ signed up as founder members of a new European Super League.

The league quickly fell apart amid fan protests and opposition from the football authorities and the Government. The fiasco was the catalyst for the Government to commission the fan-led review earlier than it had initially intended, with the country still immersed in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic at the time.

The details reported by The Sun received a ‘B-plus’ from Niall Couper, the chief executive of the football reform group Fair Game, which has long campaigned for an independent regulator and says clubs should be rewarded with greater funding for being run sustainably.

Couper said: “There is at last a new path for a fairer future for football: Financial controls to stop a repeat of the heartache caused by the collapse of Bury. A licensing system that prevents a European Super League. An owners and directors test that is at last ‘fit and proper’.

“Credit must also go to Tracey Crouch MP who began this journey over a year ago with the fan-led review she chaired.

“But it is not perfect. Over the new football weeks those that truly care about football need to work tirelessly to turn this into an A*.”

He added: “Football needs a culture change. We need a fairer financial flow in football controlled by a regulator that rewards well-run clubs.

“Clubs that cherish financial sustainability, good governance, fan engagement, community engagement and equality standards. Football needs the Sustainability Index.”

Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell accused the Government of
Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell accused the Government of “dither and delay” over a new football regulator (Peter Byrne/PA)

Labour’s Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell said: “It’s about time the Government publish the long-awaited football White Paper.

“More than a year after the fan-led review, following the European Super League fiasco, and a number of clubs on the brink, it can’t come soon enough. Yet it still won’t be actual legislation for years to come.

“While we wait to see the published detail, Labour strongly supports football regulation and a meaningful voice for fans. The Government has dithered and delayed taking action.”

The Football Supporters’ Association chief executive Kevin Miles, who was part of the fan-led review panel, said: “The FSA has put supporters at the heart of the fan-led review process, with around 130 fan organisations having direct involvement while seeking to change the game for the better.

“Today’s reports indicate that many of our ideas are included in the White Paper – stronger tests on potential club owners, more supporter engagement, blocks on breakaway competitions like the European Super League and the establishment of an independent regulator.

“We look forward to seeing the full White Paper upon its release and, once again, we will enthusiastically and constructively engage with the consultation process to ensure that the regulator becomes as effective as possible.”

Downing Street said it hoped the plans, when they are finally published, would set out how the Premier League’s leading status could be protected while ensuring the rights of fans are respected.

“Our ambition remains to drive forward the radical reform needed to ensure football’s sustainability in the long term. The exact detail of the plan is being finalised and we’ll publish that shortly,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“What we are doing with this White Paper is seeking to strike the right balance across the board to ensure that this country continues to have and plays host to the best football teams in the world and also respects the rights of fans and ensures they are at the heart of these plans to tackle the big issues that face the game.”