Government to introduce independent football regulator in England after backing fan-led review

Government to introduce independent football regulator in England after backing fan-led review

The government says it will establish an independent regulator in football after endorsing

The regulator will have power to sanction clubs in English football who break financial and other rules.

The Premier League said it "recognises and accepts the case for reform" but that a regulator "is not necessary".

A new owners' test will be introduced and legislation will give fans more say in the running of the game.

It comes after the review made 10 recommendations to government on how to improve football governance last year.The review was chaired by former sports minister Tracey Crouch following a number of high-profile crises in the sport, such as the

Crouch called the government's endorsement of the review "an enormous step forward" but also said that the unclear timeframe for making the changes was "worrying".

No direct timeline for implementing the changes has been announced but the government said a white paper - policy documents which set out proposals for future laws in detail - will be published in the summer.

The new regulator will be backed by laws which allow it to hand out punishments and have financial oversight of clubs, meaning it can investigate and gather information.

It will also apply the new "enhanced" owners' and directors' test which will replace the current tests carried out by the Premier League, Football League and Football Association.This follows Roman Abramovich's ongoing sale of Chelsea amid government sanctions and a in October 2021 among others. Both ownerships were criticised by Amnesty International UK.

The new test will be implemented before acquisition but also on an ongoing basis.

It will include a new 'integrity test' for owners and executives and stronger investigations before a purchase, including sources of funding.

"I am exceptionally pleased [the government] has accepted or supported all the strategic recommendations of the review, including committing to legislation for a statutory independent regulator which will regulate financial resilience as well as ownership of clubs," Crouch said in a statement to PA news agency.

"This is an enormous step forward in providing much-needed reform for football."

Crouch said she believed fans would welcome the reforms, but "remain nervous that this commitment will be delayed or watered down by the vested and conflicted interests in the game which have resisted the much-needed reform for so long".

"Further delays could be catastrophic for clubs, communities and fans seeking a more secure and certain regulatory environment," she added.

Last month, Helen MacNamara, chief policy and corporate affairs officer at the Premier League, told a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee that the league "definitely" does not want a statutory independent regulator.

The government says its white paper will set out plans for "a greater role for fans in the day-to-day running of clubs" and make sure fans have a "bigger say on changes to their club stadia, logo, name and kit via a 'golden share', in order to protect clubs and the central role they play as vital community assets".

The white paper will also aim to improve equality and diversity in club boardrooms.

BBC Sport understands that football's major bodies will be looking for more detail about the proposals.

The Premier League is understood to be wary of anyone with a stated desire to reform football but with no working knowledge within the sport.

Its view remains that using two pre-eminent football lawyers together with a 'football expert', who has experience in the administration of the game, offers the best way to deal with contentious cases.

A league statement read: "The Premier League recognises and accepts the case for reform and for a strengthened regulatory system across football. We welcome the clarity from the Government about their position, and are committed to working with them during this next phase of consultation, although we will continue to maintain that it is not necessary for there to be a statutory-backed regulator."

England's top-flight said it will be introducing its own plans for the start of next season to make sure fans are listened to, while it has also been working to "design and implement policies" in response to the review's objectives, including reviewing its owner's and director's test.

The EFL welcomed the government's announcement and said it had worked with ministers and officials following the release of the fan-led review in November.

"Our focus throughout has been on how we can make clubs financially sustainable at all levels of the football pyramid for future generations of football fans," said EFL chairman Rick Parry.

Crouch's review recommended looking at financial distribution, including "more support from the Premier League to the pyramid through a solidarity transfer levy, paid by Premier League clubs on buying players from overseas or other top-flight clubs".

But the government said it believed "that this should be solved by the football authorities in the first instance".

"It is noticeable and disappointing that there has been no progress on discussions between the football authorities on the redistribution of finances and I share the view of government that this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency," Crouch added. backed the government's announcement but said "what we need now is a firm timetable for change".

"There can be no more delay or dithering," Fair Game added, going on to say that it was "disappointing that at first glance there is no mention of a new international transfer tax". said: "Football is nothing without its fans and for too long the football authorities have collectively been unable to tackle some of the biggest issues in the game.

"The government took decisive action to conduct the fan-led review and today we have endorsed every one of its 10 strategic recommendations and the approach set out by Tracey Crouch." said delaying the introduction of any legislation until 2024 was "a real disappointment".

"Football clubs are at the heart of communities. We need to urgently bring in new laws to stop any more clubs going bust or being used as a plaything for the wealthy," Powell said.said the government were acting "as fast as we can", adding: "You'll have to hold your breath and contain your impatience. It's been decades without one but I'm happy we'll be able to make rapid progress.", who chairs the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said the government had "parked the bus" by not establishing a firm timescale on creating a regulator.

"The commitment to introduce an independent regulator is a welcome step, but the Government must now get on with setting it up for the sake of the health of our national game," Knight said.

"Developments such as the proposal of the preposterous European Super League and the struggles for survival faced by clubs in our communities, have exposed football governance in this country for the joke that it is." told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I believe that if this is handled properly by the right people, it could make a real difference.

"This proposal is bringing greater independence into the game and ensuring that the very strong vested interests that have controlled the game for so long will be balanced." tweeted: "If we take this at face value it's what the game desperately needs. However why the delay? It's needed now." said it welcomed the recommendations made regarding player welfare, particularly for those whose careers are coming to an end.

"Support needs to be consistently and adequately funded, and we look forward to playing a major part in establishing a system that achieves this," a statement read.

"For the PFA, it is also critical that those who play the game - at all levels - remain at the centre of conversations about its future."

"Each day drafting white papers is another day when a club might cease to exist," it added in a statement.

Last month the Premier League told MPs that it was steadfastly opposed to a statutory independent football regulator, so this will be seen as a major defeat for the country's top clubs, and a significant moment in the sport's history.

Despite the turmoil sparked by the attempted European Super League, controversy over the Saudi takeover of Newcastle United, and financial meltdown at Derby County, the Premier League had still hoped to persuade ministers to let the FA act as regulator.

But the chaos at Chelsea after the sanctioning of Russian owner Roman Abramovich was perhaps seen as one footballing crisis too many, and the government may have felt it had no choice but to back the key recommendation of Crouch in her 'fan-led review'. That - along with the commitment to greater supporter engagement - will please many who have been calling for radical reform.

What is not yet clear is whether the beefed-up owners and directors test the regulator will oversee would have prevented any of the club takeovers or financial issues that have blighted the game in recent years, and when exactly it will be brought into law and fully established.

Not everything Crouch called for has been supported. She also recommended that the Premier League clubs pay a "solidarity transfer levy" to further support the football pyramid and redistribute wealth. But for now at least, the government has left this to the football authorities.

That will no doubt be a relief to the Premier League and disappoint clubs in the Football League, who may feel this is a missed opportunity to balance out football's financial landscape.