Watchdog for English football on the anvil



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Independent football regulator for the UK Image: Coliseum GSVA

The UK Government is to put a football governance Bill before the Parliament in the coming year, confirming the legislation that will create an independent regulator for the game.

‘The Guardian’ stated that announced as part of the King’s speech recently, the news effectively guarantees the arrival of a regulator, two years on from the landmark publication of the fan-led review of football governance.

In his address to Parliament, King Charles made a brief acknowledgment that “legislation will be brought forward to safeguard the future of football clubs for the benefit of communities and fans”.

Notes published by the Government, however, confirmed that such safeguarding would be the responsibility of an independent regulator and laid out its key responsibilities. These include control of a licensing regime under which football clubs in England and Wales will be expected to operate. The regulator will also, in the Government’s words, “have powers to monitor and enforce compliance with requirements in financial regulation, corporate governance, club ownership (owners’ and directors’ tests), fan engagement, and club heritage protection, and approved competitions.”

The news was welcomed by those advocating for change in the game. Tracey Crouch MP, the author of the fan-led review, said she was “delighted”.

Added Crouch, “I am pleased that the Prime Minister, a passionate football fan himself, recognizes that fans throughout the pyramid want to see the long-term financial sustainability of their clubs and have a greater say in how they are run. On the pitch, English football is admired the world over, but it is important that measures are put in place to ensure our national game is fit for the future, which is exactly what an independent regulator will do.”

‘The Guardian’ further stated that in responding to developments, the English football authorities emphasized the work that still needs to be done. The Chair of the English Football League (EFL), Rick Parry, acknowledged “many months of detailed engagement” as he welcomed “the landmark commitment” of the football governance Bill, adding that the Football League would “continue to play our part in delivering legislation that is both fair and effective”.

The Premier League did not comment publicly but is understood to be focused on resolving the practicalities of how any regulator would work. Recently, the Premier League proposed a new configuration for the regulator to Government, under which the league would continue to administer much of its own regulation. The league believes its plans for revised cost controls across the football pyramid – as part of a deal over financial redistribution – is one example of solutions devised by the game that any regulator should look to adopt.

London (UK)-based the Premier League is the highest level of the English football league system. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the English Football League. Seasons typically run from August to May, with each team playing 38 matches against all other teams, both home and away.

London (UK)-based the English Football League (EFL) is a league of professional football clubs from England and Wales. Founded in 1888 as the Football League, the league is the oldest such competition in the world. It was the top-level football league in England from its foundation until 1992, when the top 22 clubs split from it to form the Premier League.

Fair Game, an alliance of football clubs that has led calls for reform, expressed their pleasure but said the legislation must deliver a regulator that has the ability to deliver change.

Said Niall Couper, Fair Game’s CEO, “This is a historic moment for football and represents a real chance to end the cycle of overspending and mismanagement that has plagued our national game and threatened the very existence of our clubs. There will be intense pressure to weaken the regulator’s remit at a time when proper protection and scrutiny of our national name is needed more than ever. Those tasked with setting up the regulator must resist that pressure and remain laser-focused to deliver a fairer future for football and the culture change the sport desperately needs.”

The creation of a code of governance for the game is to be part of the Bill. The anti-racist organization Kick It Out said it was vital this code included commitments to guaranteeing equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

Stated Tony Burnett, Kick It Out head honcho, “The Kick It Out will continue its drive to ensure that substantive EDI measures, including the mandatory transparency of representation and discrimination data, are included.”

The Government recently advertised for an interim Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the regulator and the Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Caroline Dinenage, MP, said it should act swiftly – “Now the Government is committed to establishing the independent football regulator, it should get on with setting it up in shadow form by the end of the year.”

Crouch and Dinenage reiterated concerns that the Premier League and EFL have yet to agree a deal on financial redistribution, a process that has long been entwined with the creation of regulator. The football governance Bill would give a regulator backstop powers to enforce a settlement should one not be agreed.

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