February 27, 2023
In the Government’s 2019 manifesto it committed to deliver a fan-led review of football governance following the failings at historic clubs such as Bury and Macclesfield Town, which went out of business because of mismanagement.
In 2021, plans for a breakaway European Super League by a select group of Premier League and other European elite clubs were shelved after widespread public condemnation and action from the Government and football authorities.
Also in 2021, the Government launched a Fan-Led Review Of Football and responded to it in April 2022.
The Government has now published its White Paper, which announces that a new independent regulator for the men’s elite game will be established in law to oversee the financial sustainability of the game and put fans back at the heart of how football is run. The regulator will implement a new licensing system from the top flight down to the National League, requiring clubs to demonstrate sound financial business models and good corporate governance as part of an application process before being allowed to compete.
The Government says that appointing a regulator will also guarantee fans a greater say in the strategic running of their clubs and help protect clubs’ heritage to stop owners changing names, badges and home shirt colours without consulting fans. Clubs will have to obtain regulator approval for any sale or relocation of the stadium, with fan engagement a major part of that process.
There will also be new tests for owners and directors, ensuring good custodians of clubs, stronger due diligence on sources of wealth and a requirement for robust financial planning.
The regulator will have the power to prevent English clubs from joining new competitions that do not meet pre-determined criteria, in consultation with the FA and fans. That criteria could include measures to stop clubs participating in closed-shop breakaway competitions which harm the domestic game, such as the European Super League.
The Government says that to secure the financial sustainability of clubs at all levels, a solution led by those running the leagues and their clubs is needed, and remains the Government’s preferred outcome. However, if the football authorities cannot reach an agreement, the regulator would have targeted powers of last resort to intervene and facilitate an agreement as and when necessary.
As part of its wide-ranging remit the regulator will also:
- ensure club directors demonstrate good basic financial practices, have appropriate financial resources, and protect the core assets of the club;
- improve governance through the introduction of a Football Club Corporate Governance Code; and
- remain proportionate and adaptive in its approach with checks and balances embedded in its design.
In parallel with the publication of the White Paper, the Government will also review the efficiency of the existing visa system for English football in attracting the best global talent while maintaining strong support for young domestic players to develop from the grassroots level.
The Government will now begin the process of engagement and further consultation with selected stakeholders on the key reforms set out in the White Paper. The Government says that plans to bring forward legislation will be announced as soon as parliamentary time allows. To read the Government’s press release in full and for a link to the White Paper, click here.