Football Governance Bill: Legislation for independent football regulator being introduced

Football Governance Bill: Legislation for independent football regulator being introduced

18 March 2024 0 By Total Football News
Fans protest the European Super League outside Stamford Bridge
Football fans protested outside stadiums following the announcement of the European Super League in April 2021

The UK government will establish an independent football regulator when the Football Governance Bill is introduced in Parliament on Tuesday.

The legislation will grant powers to a standalone body – independent of both government and football authorities – to oversee the UK’s national sport.

The government announced plans to appoint a regulator in February 2023, following a fan-led review in 2022.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it is “a historic moment for football fans”.

“It will make sure their voices are front and centre,” he added. “Football has long been one of our greatest sources of national pride.

“But for too long some clubs have been abused by unscrupulous owners who get away with financial mismanagement, which at worst can lead to complete collapse – as we saw in the upsetting cases of Bury and Macclesfield Town.”

The legislation follows a fan-led review, which said a regulator was necessary for the long-term financial stability of the men’s professional game after issues including financial mismanagement and plans for a breakaway European Super League.

Everton and Nottingham Forest have both been deducted points this season for breaching Premier League profit and sustainability rules (PSR).

The regulator will have powers revolving around three core objectives: improving financial sustainability of clubs, ensuring financial resilience across the leagues and safeguarding English football’s heritage.

Rick Parry, chair of the English Football League (EFL), said: “If delivered on the right terms, this landmark legislation can help fix the game’s broken financial model by offering the independent input ultimately needed to help ensure that all clubs can survive and thrive in a fair and competitive environment.”

A Premier League statement read: “With our clubs, we have advocated for a proportionate regime that enables us to build on our position as the most widely watched league in the world.

“Mindful that the future growth of the Premier League is not guaranteed, we remain concerned about any unintended consequences of legislation that could weaken the competitiveness and appeal of English football.

“The Premier League remains fully committed to delivering its world-leading funding to the wider game, through £1.6bn distributed to all levels of football across the current three-year term.”

What powers will regulator have?

New club owners and directors will face stronger tests to help prevent the possibility of them putting clubs out of business, as was the case with Bury and Macclesfield, while a licensing system covering clubs from the National League up to the Premier League has been proposed.

As part of their licence, clubs will be required to consult their fans on key off-field decisions, such as club heritage and the club’s strategic direction.

“Football is nothing without its fans,” said Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer. “We are determined to put them back at the heart of the game and ensure clubs as vital community assets continue to thrive.

“The new regulator will set the game on a sustainable footing, strengthening clubs and the entire football pyramid for generations.”

The bill also includes new backstop powers around financial distributions between the Premier League and the EFL, so that if the two parties continue to fail to agree on a ‘new deal’, the regulator can ensure a settlement is reached.

The government has long warned the football authorities that an independent football regulator (IFR) would have such powers to intervene.

Former sports minister Tracey Crouch, who chaired the fan-led review, said: “Football fans can begin to breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that the next steps towards protecting the long-term sustainability of the pyramid have now been taken.”

Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Association, added: “The FSA warmly welcomes the tabling of the Football Governance Bill arising from the 2021 fan-led review, and particularly its central proposal to introduce statutory independent regulation of the game.

“The regulator must be given the power to impose a financial settlement in the interests of the sustainability of the game as a whole. It is far too important to be left to the squabbling between the vested interests of the richest club owners.”

However, campaign group Fair Game said “at first glance” it looks like the bill has “missed the target” and that they have “failed to get assurances that the regulator will have the power to intervene”.

Timeline

August 2019: Bury are expelled from League One following the collapse of a takeover bid.

December 2019: Conservatives promise a fan-led review in its 2019 general election manifesto in response to Bury’s demise.

2020-21 season: Covid-19 pandemic causes matches to be held behind closed doors, affecting revenue.

April 2021: A proposed European Super League, involving six Premier League clubs, collapses within days amid widespread condemnation from other clubs and players as well as governing bodies, politicians and fans.

October 2021: Amnesty International urges changes to the Premier League owners’ and directors’ test “to address human rights issues” following the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover of Newcastle United.

November 2021: An independent regulator is among 10 recommendations made by a fan-led review, chaired by former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, on how to improve football governance.

March 2022: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is sanctioned by the UK government as part of its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Abramovich selling the club to American businessman Todd Boehly in May.

November 2022: Representatives of 29 clubs write to the government urging it to press on with plans for an independent football regulator.

February 2023: The publication of the UK government’s white paper proposing reforms in football was delayed to later in the month.

February 2023: The plan for a new independent regulator in English football was confirmed by the government.

November 2023: King Charles outlined the government’s plan for the Football Governance Bill in the King’s Speech.

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This article was originally posted on https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/68602074