Independent regulator for English football outlined in King's Speech

The European Super League collapsed after mass fan protests (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The European Super League collapsed after mass fan protests (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The plan for a new independent regulator for English football has been outlined with its inclusion of the Football Governance Bill in the King's Speech.

The creation of a new regulator is at the core of the Bill and is expected to be passed into law in the new parliamentary session.

The regulator will operate a licensing system for professional clubs. Its key objective will be to ensure clubs are financially sustainable, whilst being accountable to their fans.

It is also set to be given 'last resort' powers to impose a settlement on how the Premier League distributes television revenue to the EFL and the rest of the pyramid, should the game's authorities be unable to agree one themselves.

Talks between the Premier League, the Football Association and the EFL over the so-called 'New Deal' - which also covers cost controls and changes to the domestic football calendar - are understood to be reaching their final stages. Top-flight clubs could be asked to sign off on the deal at their next shareholders' meeting in London on November 21.

Dame Caroline Dinenage, the chair of the Culture, Media and Sport committee, insists the Government should set up a shadow regulator before the year is out and warned: "Today's announcement should be a clear indication to the footballing authorities negotiating a revenue sharing agreement that they are firmly in added time.

"If they can't strike a deal to protect clubs throughout the pyramid soon, the new independent regulator should be in place and ready to step in to impose one upon them."

Fair Game, a group which has long campaigned for greater regulation to make the English game more sustainable, warned legislators they must remain "laser focused" on ensuring the Bill is not watered down.

The Premier League's chief executive Richard Masters says his organisation is open to the concept of a regulator but has warned of "unintended consequences" if its remit is too wide-ranging, which could risk damaging the league's growth and by extension the health of the leagues beneath it. The league has actively engaged with the Government on the practicalities of how the regulator can be embedded into football's existing regulatory framework, and will continue to do so.

"There will be intense pressure to weaken the regulator's remit at a time when proper protection and scrutiny of our national game is needed more than ever," Fair Game chief executive Niall Couper said.

"Those tasked with setting up the regulator must resist that pressure and remain laser-focused to deliver a fairer future for football and the culture change the sport desperately needs.

"Reckless spending, disconnect between clubs and their communities, and lip service to equality standards must be consigned to the rubbish bin of history. This transformation can only be achieved if the regulator has the teeth and resources to deliver."

The Football Supporters' Association has also argued for many years that an independent regulator was needed to protect clubs and ensure financial stability.

Its chair, Malcolm Clarke, said: "There have been far too many clubs in crisis throughout the pyramid and they cannot be allowed to fail - supporters deserve better and this represents a very significant step forward.

"No-one cares more about a club than its supporters, they'll be there after others are long gone, and supporters should be at the heart of their club's decision-making processes.

"We will continue to work constructively with the Government and football authorities to give supporters a stronger voice and establish an independent regulator with the powers it needs to protect our clubs."

EFL chair Rick Parry welcomed the inclusion of the Bill in the King's Speech and added: "This is an opportunity to create a regulator that can help football to address the systemic issues that are facing the game, so that we can avoid clubs getting into financial trouble and the threat of supporters losing their club altogether.

"The football pyramid matters. It is a unique strength of the English game and something that must be protected and nurtured. Therefore, creating an independent regulator that is given that specific mandate is essential, so that clubs throughout the country can be sustainable, competitive and serve their communities long into the future."