Football regulator will not affect competitiveness at top level of game, MP says

A Bill to introduce a new football regulator will not affect competition at the top level, an MP behind the legislation has said.

Conservative former minister Tracey Crouch told the PA news agency: “Good financial sustainability in football clubs is not going to impact competitiveness negatively, I think it’s going to help them thrive.”

The regulator will have a raft of powers to ensure clubs are sustainably run, to force unfit owners to divest their stakes in clubs, to ensure fans are consulted on major issues affecting their clubs, and to block teams from joining unapproved competitions such as the European Super League.

Arguably the most eye-catching aspect is the backstop powers it will have to impose a financial settlement on the Premier League and the EFL if they cannot agree on one themselves.

Ms Crouch said the new regulatory body would not impact the game.

She said: “What will impact competitiveness is what is happening on the pitch – it’s all the decisions around VAR, or blue cards, that’s the sort of thing that will make the Premier League less attractive, if it were to happen, speaking hypothetically.

“Not, are all the accounts in order, to make sure the football club is sustainable on a long-term basis.”

Ms Crouch was one of a number of MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for football supporters who attended a meeting at Westminster on Tuesday on how the Bill would progress.

She told the meeting: “A lot of the questions that I’ve faced on – it’s taken three years, why has it taken so long – I think you only need to look at the Bill that’s been published today to see why it’s taken so long.

“It is a brand new regulator, it is something that is going to take a really good piece of legislation, and I think that’s what we’re going to do.”

Conservative MP Mark Eastwood (Dewsbury) said he worried about the “unintended consequences” of the Bill.

Mr Eastwood told PA: “I want to make sure that football benefits, from the Premier League to the grassroots. So if the Premier League is weakened, how does this affect the smaller clubs’ funding?”

Ms Crouch said she wished to reassure “more cautious colleagues about the so-called unintended consequences”.

She said: “One of the things we were very careful about in the actual review was making sure that we had assessed the impact of any of our recommendations on domestic competitiveness, and the ability to attract talent, and we’ve come to the conclusion that none of this impacts on that.

“Because actually, if you think about it, what we’re doing is putting better regulation and governance into football, which ultimately would mean that it would thrive rather than anything else.”

Ms Crouch added: “When the Chelsea takeover was happening, interested buyers were asking to have conversations with me.

“None of them wanted to talk about the threat of regulation, I assume because they had made their billions in highly regulated environments.

“What they wanted to talk about was fan engagement, and they wanted to know how they could do it better, which I thought was really interesting.”

She added: “Most aspects of business are already regulated, it doesn’t stop companies making profits.”

Conservative MP James Sunderland said the Bill was “too late for Reading” and called for “retrospective action”.

The Bracknell MP said owners who “wilfully destroy” clubs should be “banned as directors, banned from football, or even sent with their tail between their legs to HMRC and ban them from operating in the UK”.

Sport minister Stuart Andrew replied: “We can’t do retrospective legislation, but let me say if an owner has done something to a club in the past and they want to then buy a new club, well all this would come up in the director’s test so they’d probably get disqualified.”