Independent regulator to oversee football in England

·3-min read
The Premier League believes there is no need for a "statutory-backed regulator" (AFP/Isabel Infantes) (Isabel Infantes)

The British government on Monday set out plans to radically reform the governance of football, pledging to establish an independent regulator to deliver financial sustainability across the game.

Ministers have given their formal support to 10 key recommendations set out in a fan-led review launched after last year's failed European Super League project.

The most eye-catching move is the planned introduction of a regulator with statutory powers to sanction clubs as part of its remit to tackle the most pressing issues affecting the game in England.

Other recommendations include a new owners' and directors' test to ensure "only good custodians and qualified directors" can run clubs, and greater consultation with fans via shadow boards.

The government said there was a widespread culture of clubs operating unsustainable financial practices, placing the pursuit of success over sound financial management.

The Premier League has been warned it must move swiftly to redistribute cash or risk a transfer levy and other tougher terms being imposed on it.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said: "The message to the Premier League is quite clear -- they need to act sooner rather than later because, otherwise, (a settlement) will be forced on them through the regulator."

One of the most controversial recommendations of the fan-led review, led by former sports minister Tracey Crouch, was a transfer levy on English top-flight clubs.

Huddleston said such a solution was "potentially in the mix depending upon what the Premier League and others come up with".

The Premier League is currently committed to providing £1.6 billion ($2 billion) in funding to clubs outside the top-flight over the next three seasons.

Chief executive Richard Masters has previously said it would be "a disaster" if the request from the English Football League, which runs the second, third and fourth tiers of the game, for a 25 percent cut of broadcast revenues were met.

The Premier League said in a statement on Monday that it accepted the need for reform but that a "statutory-backed regulator" was not necessary.

- Owners' tests -

The government is also backing a strengthened owners' and directors' test, including a tough new "integrity test" for owners.

It comes during the ongoing sale of Chelsea by Russian owner Roman Abramovich, who was targed by UK sanctions last month after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Rights group Amnesty has raised concerns over the ownership of the Stamford Bridge club and also criticised the purchase in October of Newcastle by a Saudi-backed consortium, saying it was an attempt to "sportswash" the Gulf kingdom's human rights record.

It is not clear yet whether any integrity test would include human rights issues within its scope.

Ministers have been praised for endorsing the review recommendations but have been criticised over the lack of a firm timetable to pass the legislation needed to underpin the regulator.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people would have to "contain their impatience".

Huddleston said: "We shouldn't underestimate the complexity of this.

"Even setting up a regulator itself, exactly what the scope is, exactly what are the compliance measures, exactly what the sanctions would be, exactly what would the appeals process be, where would it be set up?

"All of these kind of things need to be thought out in quite a fine degree of detail and we just need a bit more time to put that in."

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