Government takes next steps towards major reform of English men’s football. The government has backed the key recommendations made by Tracey Crouch in her fan-led review of men’s football in England; reforms to include the introduction of an independent regulator and greater powers for fans in the running of clubs; Premier League hits out at plans for regulator.
The independent regulator will also be tasked with applying an enhanced owners’ and directors’ test, both ahead of the takeover of a club and on an ongoing basis. An ‘integrity test’ will also be introduced for all owners and executives, with a focus on the sources of funding.
However, the Premier League says that, while it “accepts the case for reform”, it feels the introduction of an independent regulator “is not necessary”.
A 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.”
The Premier League added that it is reviewing its own owners’ and directors’ test and says it will reveal plans before next season on how it will ensure fans are given a greater say in the running of clubs.
As well as an independent regulator, the government will also introduce legislation to give fans greater powers regarding the running of clubs, and will work with relevant football bodies and the police to consider the case for piloting the sale of alcohol at lower-league matches.
The government is expected to publish a white paper with full details of their plans, as well as an indicative timetable for their implementation, this summer. Tracey Crouch MP, who led the review, said she was “exceptionally pleased” the government had supported her recommendations, but said the “unspecified timeframe for implementation” was “worrying”.
Speaking to the PA news agency, she said: “I am grateful to the government for publishing its response to the fan-led review of football governance. I am exceptionally pleased it 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. This is an enormous step forward in providing much-needed reform for football.
“While fans will be reassured by the commitment to an independent regulator and its powers, they will 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.
“Fans fully recognise the complexities of the recommended reforms, but the unspecified timeframe for implementation due to a white paper at some point in the summer is worrying. Further delays could be catastrophic for clubs, communities and fans seeking a more secure and certain regulatory environment.”
Crouch’s review also recommended a transfer levy on Premier League clubs that could be used to support the football pyramid, but the government said it believed “that this should be solved by the football authorities in the first instance”.
Crouch said: “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.”
Rick Parry, the chair of the English Football League (EFL), said his organisation would continue to work with the Premier League over a new agreement regarding distribution of finances, but added: “It should be recognised that the EFL has been seeking to progress this issue for the last two years, calling for a 75/25 split of revenues with the Premier League, without achieving any tangible progress.”
The fan-led review – which was published in November 2021 – was launched after a series of footballing crises, including the collapse of Bury in 2019 and the attempted creation of the European Super League in 2021.
The review had input from supporters’ trusts, fan groups, women’s football representatives, football authorities, club owners, player representatives, underrepresented interest groups and over 20,000 football fans who responded to an online survey.