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.
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.
“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.
It also called for a pilot on the sale of alcohol in sight of the pitch at selected National League and League Two matches, better support for young players released from academies and a separate review of 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.”
Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens called for the Government to accept all of the recommendations immediately. She described the proposals contained in the review as a “package” that need to be accepted all together, warning: “Anything less would be a botched job.”
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston responded by saying: “I’m sure the honourable lady will understand that I cannot pre-empt every single element of the Government’s response to those conclusions here today.
“But we take the recommendations incredibly seriously and I’m well aware of the strength of feeling behind many of the proposals but I’m sure you’ll appreciate I can’t commit 100 per cent to all the proposals today.
“In terms of how we go forward, I do intend to proceed at pace. I’ve had a meeting this very morning with my officials to discuss that very item in terms of how we move forward and how fast we can move. I would say please watch this space.”
Amnesty International said the fan-led review’s recommendations on how the new owners’ and directors’ tests should look were “unhelpfully vague”.
Crouch has said she feels the Newcastle takeover would have been “stress-tested more” by the proposed system, and been more transparent, than the Premier League test.
But Felix Jakens, head of priority campaigns at Amnesty International UK, said: “Amnesty welcome proposals from the fan-led review – including the creation of a new independent regulator – but to be truly effective in reforming club ownership and rooting out discrimination, they must go further.
“The description of how a team owner should be ‘of good character’ is unhelpfully vague – it is crucial that the introduction of new, stringent human rights-compliant owners and directors tests are a priority for any external regulator.
“We’ve sent the Premier League and Tracey Crouch a suggested new human rights-compliant test and we reiterate our call on them to overhaul their standards on this.”
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