UK gov’t plans for independent football regulator

The British government is planning to establish an independent football regulator to oversee the sport and encourage financial stability via a bill introduced in parliament on Tuesday.

The regulator will be independent of government and football authorities with the power to fine clubs up to 10% of their turnover for non-compliance with financial regulations, the government said in a press release.

The legislation will strengthen tests of the suitability for those running clubs and would also block “closed-shop competitions” such as the frequently proposed European Super League.

Clubs will also be obliged to consult fans over matters such as strategic direction and anything that impacts their heritage.

“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,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said.

“This bill is a historic moment for football fans — it will make sure their voices are front and centre, prevent a breakaway league, protect the financial sustainability of clubs, and protect the heritage of our clubs big and small.”

The government announcement comes after the Premier League last week failed to agree a new financial settlement with the English Football League (EFL), which runs the professional game in lower tiers.

The government had warned the Premier League in February that it needed to reach an agreement for a new deal or have one imposed on it.

The Premier League said it would study the bill.

“We agree it is vital that football clubs are sustainable, remain at the heart of their communities and that fans are fundamental to the game,” the league said in a statement.

“[But we are] 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 EFL welcomed the bill.

“We hope [it] will be an important milestone to help us secure the long-term financial sustainability of England’s football pyramid,” chairman Rick Parry said in a news release.

“The establishment of the independent football regulator will be at the heart of this reform, and we are encouraged that the regulator will be given backstop powers to deliver financial redistributions should the game be unable to agree a deal itself.”

David Sullivan, the owner of Premier League club West Ham United, said he was opposed to the establishment of a regulator and suggested it would be expensive and inefficient.

“The Premier League is the best league in the world so why change a winning formula?” he told Sky News. “I hope the government don’t wreck something that works. This means we will be competing with teams from leagues in Europe who give a fraction of the money Premier League clubs give to both the EFL and grassroots football.

“If over the coming seasons the Premier League ceases to be the best league in the world, it will be down to an interfering government.”

Information from Reuters was used in this story.

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