English Football Needs Independent Regulator, Fan-Led Review Chair Says | Football

The prospect of a government legislating to impose an independent regulator on England’s most popular and successful sport has come closer than ever after being recommended by Tracey Crouch, chair of the ‘fan-driven review’ of the UK. government on the governance difficulties of the game.

Former Conservative Sports Minister Crouch made the recommendation in a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden setting out preliminary findings after collecting testimony from many fan groups, leagues, clubs and others, including groups German supporters. She pledged that her ‘expert group’ would do further work before producing more recommendations on some of football’s structural challenges, in particular the huge financial divide between the Premier League and the rest.

Citing the need for independent regulation, Crouch acknowledged the “many strengths” of English football, as well as its divisions and shortcomings, describing the Premier League as “one of the UK’s most successful exports”, the championship as “the biggest ‘second division’ in Europe”, the important roles of clubs in their communities and the depth of the pyramid.

Of the Football Association, which is officially the governing body of football, Crouch hailed her progress in developing St George’s Park as the foundation for English teams’ successes, building women’s football, said she had ” worked hard to improve diversity, including appointing its first female president, ”improved governance in county FAs and invested in the grassroots.

“There is much to celebrate and be proud of,” says his letter. However, describing the game’s flaws, Crouch wrote: “The short-lived threat from the European Super League has put the future of the English football pyramid in jeopardy. While this threat has receded – for now – the dangers facing many clubs across the country are very real with their precarious futures and in most cases dependent on the owners’ willingness and continued ability to fund. significant losses.

“When this is multiplied by poor financial controls, reckless behavior by owners and reluctance by authorities to intervene, the results are clear – as recent fates show. [financial collapses] de Bury and Macclesfield. Historic and popular clubs are disappearing. Loyal private fans and decimated communities.

Interim recommendations to help resolve some of these failures include granting a “golden share” club vote to a group of Democratic supporters on fundamental “heritage” issues, including relocation to the ground and alterations to the ground. club badges, colors and competitions. Such changes are rare, however, and the proposal currently falls short of real fan involvement in the management of their clubs, although the letter says the panel “will explore measures to enforce greater fan engagement” .

Avoiding making any firm proposals on the extremely unequal sharing of the game’s income, describing it as “one of the most difficult issues,” the letter also indicated that more work would be done on the issue of parachute payments. Premier League for relegated clubs, and urged the Premier League and EFL themselves to “work together to seek a viable and achievable solution”. The payouts cushion the relegation blow through the gambling pit, but also seriously distort the finances of the championship. EFL President Rick Parry has publicly described the system as “an evil that must be eradicated”.

Crouch’s interim letter was, however, already firm on the need for regulation, stating: “I have publicly stated that there is a strong case for a new independent regulator, and I have not heard. no evidence to deter me from that point of view. “

The Football Supporters Association, of which chief executive Kevin Miles is a member of the Crouch panel, called the recommendation “particularly welcome” and the other proposals “extremely encouraging”.

However, there will be concerns that the proposed mandate for the regulator appears limited, to the detailed application of financial and governance rules for individual clubs, rather than leading a more progressive overall view of the game.

Fair Game, a group of 20 clubs including fan-owned “phoenix” Bury AFC and fan-owned League One AFC Wimbledon, warned, saying if the need for a regulator independent is “indisputable”, the letter “misses the mark with regard to the financial difficulties of football”, and that the recommendations should go further.

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Dowden suggested in response that the government would consider implementing the final recommendations, expected in the fall.

“We have seen this year with the failed proposals of the European Super League and Euro 2020 how central football is in our national life,” he said. “I have been clear that now is the time to take a broader look at reforming the game. I will not hesitate to take bold action if necessary.

However, the Premier League, FA and EFL have always resisted independent regulation and could do so again if the government comes up with such a historic intervention.

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