Government endorses an independent regulator for football 'in principle'

Morecambe and their fellow professional clubs look set to come under the eye of an independent regulator by the start of the 2023/24 season.

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 11:15 am

The creation of an independent regulator for football has been endorsed in principle by the Government.

The fan-led review of football governance, chaired by former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, has concluded that such a regulator is required to provide financial oversight in the English game and that football could no longer be left to run itself.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries welcomed the review, and said the Government would now work on a substantive response which it would present next spring.

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However, she has already indicated the Government’s support in principle for an independent regulator.

“We are at a turning point for football in this country,” Dorries said in a written ministerial statement to the House of Commons.

“The review is a detailed and worthy piece of work that will require a substantive response and plan of action from across Government.

Former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch

“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.”

The Conservative Party promised the fan-led review in its 2019 General Election manifesto, following the demise of Bury earlier that year.

It commissioned the review in April of this year, following the controversy surrounding the short-lived European Super League.

The creation of an independent regulator via an Act of Parliament was the central recommendation of the review.

Its primary purpose would be to ensure clubs are run sustainably and for the benefit of their communities through a licensing system.

The regulator would have responsibility for administering strengthened owners’ and directors’ tests, and would impose a solution on financial distribution between the Premier League and the EFL if they cannot work one out themselves.

The review called for a shadow regulator to be set up immediately and Crouch told the PA news agency she hoped it would be fully up and running in time for the 2023-24 season.

The review also proposed a transfer levy of up to 10 per cent on Premier League clubs signing players from overseas or from other top-flight clubs, as well as 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.

The review makes 47 recommendations in all, after hearing more than 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.

Dorries added in her statement: “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.”

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