Government on 'potential collision course' with Premier League over plans for football regulator

A flag with the Premier League crest
Credit: PA

The government is on a potential collision course with the Premier League over radical plans for an independent regulator to overhaul the way football is run in England.

Privately, top clubs are concerned about the unintended consequences of the government’s proposals which they say could act as a deterrent to current owners to spend, and potential owners to consider investing in the Premier League.

In a statement the Premier League said: "The publication of this White Paper is a significant moment for English football.

"The Premier League and its clubs will now carefully consider the Government’s plan for England to become the first major nation to make football a government-regulated industry. 

“It is vital that regulation does not damage the game fans love to watch in the deepest professional pyramid in the world, or its ability to attract investment and grow interest in our game.”

Among a raft of proposals, the government says:

  • The regulator would help prevent financial failings at clubs like Derby County, Bury and Macclesfield Town.

  • It will adopt a beefed-up directors and owners test to root out unscrupulous owners. A licensing system will monitor the way clubs are run and their continued financial sustainability.

  • Fans would be given a greater say in the way their clubs are run and would have the ability to veto changes of club colours, badges or stadia.

  • And there would be powers to block clubs joining break-away leagues, like the European Super League.

The Prime Minster Rishi Sunak has said the government’s plans will "safeguard the beautiful game for future generations”.

In a statement FA Chief Executive Mark Bullingham said the governing body will push for increased funding for the grassroots game.

“The players, referees, coaches and volunteers in grassroots football are the foundation of the English game, and it is important that an independent regulator recognises this, and supports the long term health of the whole game,” he said.

FA chief Executive Mark Bullingham. Credit: PA

The Premier League points to £1.6bn it has earmarked for the football pyramid over the next three years.

But the regulator will be given powers to intervene and decide how much and how any money is redistributed if the Premier League and the lower leagues cannot agree a deal.

They are currently at a stand-off with the English Football League (EFL) who is calling for a ban on parachute payments for clubs that get relegated from the Premier League.

It is pushing for a wider and fairer distribution of Premier League profits across the lower leagues.

The Premier League statement continued: "We will now work constructively with stakeholders to ensure that the proposed Government regulator does not lead to any unintended consequences that could affect the Premier League’s position as the most-watched football league in the world, reduce its competitiveness or put the unrivalled levels of funding we provide at risk.

"We are committed to delivering a football-led solution to address key issues in the game - including financial distributions, financial controls and the football calendar - together with The FA and the EFL."

In a statement the EFL said this is a "landmark movement".

“The EFL has been clear that the English game needs a fundamental financial reset in order make the game sustainable," the statement read.

"It is therefore pleased to note that the Government’s announcement regarding an Independent Regulator proposes to 'oversee the financial sustainability of the game' and we welcome that a Regulator will have 'targeted powers of last resort to intervene and facilitate an agreement as and when necessary', should football be able to find a funding agreement that safeguards the future of our pyramid for the long term.” 

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