DCMS’ year-long review into football has concluded announcing the headline directive that an ‘independent regulator’ will be established to oversee and improve football’s relationship with fans, business and local communities.
Tracey Crouch served as the Minister spearheading the review – with support from an expert panel – which began last May. The review formed part of the Conservative Party’s 2019 General Election pledge made by PM Boris Johnson.
Calls for investigation into and overhaul of the way English football clubs are managed mounted after the fiasco surrounding the European Super League (ESL) last year, with widespread criticism of the so-called ‘Big Six’ Premier League clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.
Outlining the powers of the new regulator, the government revealed that the body will able to financially oversee the activities of clubs, investigate and gather information, hand out penalties and apply a test for prospective owners and directors.
Although it is not clear when the regulator will commence operations – the government intends to update the sport and public on this matter via a White Paper due for publication in the summer – the Premier League has supported the announcement.
“The Premier League recognises and accepts the case for reform and for a strengthened regulatory system across football,” a statement from the top-flight read.
“We welcome the clarity from the government about their position, and are committed to working with them during this next phase of consultation, although we will continue to maintain that it is not necessary for there to be a statutory-backed regulator.”
Addressing the PA news agency, Minister Crouch lauded the ‘enormous step’ made with regards to football’s reform, but added that concerns remain among fans that ‘vested and conflicted interests in the game’ will continue to resist ‘much-needed’ changes.
The Minister remarked “I am exceptionally pleased (the government) has accepted or supported all the strategic recommendations of the review, including committing to legislation for a statutory independent regulator which will regulate financial resilience as well as ownership of clubs. This is an enormous step forward in providing much-needed reform for football.”
Taking football supporters views into account, the DCMS’ has further stated that the white paper will enable fans to have a greater say on matters relating to club stadiums, logos, names and kits under a ‘golden share’ arrangement, granting followers a role in club ownership and safeguarding teams as ‘vital community assets’.
The announcement comes as further implications for football clubs are expected as a result of the 2005 Gambling Act review, the White Paper on which is due for publication ‘following April’s Easter break” (according to sources close to DCMS).
In particular, the overhaul of the UK’s gambling legislation could see a ban on shirt sponsorship arrangements between Premier League clubs and betting operators – campaigners have been arguing for a more extensive ban, but it has been reported that the government is cautious about the impact this could have on lower league teams.
Increased fan ownership and influence of clubs – which as mentioned before, will allow supporters a say in sponsorship arrangements – could also play a part in this, with supporters’ preferences for or against the betting industry playing a part in their team’s business dealings with the sector.
Some football clubs, predominantly ones in the lower leagues such as Bolton Wanderers and Forest Green Rovers, have made the decision to sever their ties with betting firms, with fan opinions often cited as a motivating factor along with other reasons whilst The Big Step campaign has also built up momentum.
“Football is nothing without its fans and for too long the football authorities have collectively been unable to tackle some of the biggest issues in the game,” said DCMS Secretary Nadine Dorries.
“The government took decisive action to conduct the fan-led review and today we have endorsed every one of its 10 strategic recommendations and the approach set out by Tracey Crouch.”