New independent regulator would have powers to licence and sanction football clubs

The government says it is committed to giving fans a voice in the running of their clubs. Credit: PA

The government has set itself on a collision with men’s football bosses in England with an unpopular power grab that it claims will stop the madhouse economics of the national game and protect established clubs like Bury FC from going bust. The dramatic changes will come in the form of a “strong, independent regulator” with legal powers to deliver financial sustainability across the football pyramid. The government also claims that fans will be at the centre of their new proposals.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Football brings friends, families, and communities together, which is why we are taking forward the fan-led plans to secure the future of our national game – from the £230 million investment to level up grassroots pitches to strengthening the voice of fans in the running of their clubs." The new regulator, a role the FA had hoped to adopt, will have legal powers to licence and sanction clubs.

It will also have the ability to investigate the financial operations at every club and be responsible for a strengthened owners’ and directors’ test, that will not only be active before a take-over but also on an ongoing basis.

Some critics of the current system had hoped a new regulator would also take responsibility for the distribution of Premier League wealth throughout the leagues, but in one concession the government has stopped short of that. It is leaving football to resolve that itself but intends to retain ‘backstop’ powers should those discussions not end satisfactorily. EFL have recently described the parachute payment system, where relegated Premier League clubs receive huge sums, as ‘evil’. One of the biggest government concerns is that Premier League and Championship clubs depend too much on owner funding and are vulnerable should owners decide they’ve had enough. Clubs in the top two leagues in England are currently exceeding UEFA’s guidance that only 70% of revenue should be spent on player wages. In the Championship that figure exceeds 100%. On fans involvement, the government says it will now look at proposals for a ‘shadow board’ at each club and a fans’ ‘golden share’ where clubs would be outlawed from changing the club stadium, shirt colour or logo, for example.

An FA spokesperson said: "English football is the envy of the world, but with success, comes challenges."

"While many clubs are at the centre of their community and are prospering, some have spent beyond their means in order to chase success.

"We agree that stronger financial regulation and cost controls are needed in the English game to ensure that fans and sustainability always comes first.

"New independent regulation is needed and we will continue to work with the Government to ensure that we are protecting the future of clubs whilst also supporting the global appeal of English football."

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