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Reactions to the British government’s move to establish an independent regulator in English soccer

The UK announced on Monday that it would establish a regulator to deal with finances, owners, and corporate governance within the English teams.

Jennifer Bubel

The Premier League said last month that is was opposed to an independent soccer regulator, so it may seem defeating that the UK has now announced it will establish exactly that.

In a fan-led review by former sports minister Tracey Crouch, she laid out ten recommendations to improve governance in soccer. Several crises within the clubs have led up to this: controversy over the Saudi takeover of Newcastle United, the failed attempt at the European Soccer League, the financial crisis at Derby County, and finally (and perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back), the sanctioning of Russian owner Roman Abramovich.

The announcement of the regulator concluded that the reason for the state of soccer and all of the crises happening were due to careless decision-making within its finances and owners who were not good for the job.

What will the regulator be able to do?

The government will endorse the ten recommendations laid out in the review. The independent regulator will deal with the finances, ownerships, and corporate governance. They will also enact a test for owners and directors that they will be required to take before they can acquire a club, as well as throughout their ownership. They will have the authority to license and sanction clubs.

“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,” said Crouch.

Though the Premier League is perhaps less thrilled about the reforms, they did state their support for reforms in a league statement - just not for a regulator.

“The Premier League recognises and accepts the case for reform and for a strengthened regulatory system across football. 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.”

However, not everything that Crouch laid out in her review will be backed by the government. For example, she recommended that the Premier League teams pay a “solidarity transfer levy” to redistribute the wealth, and for now, they have left this to the authorities, which should make the Premier League a bit happier.

When will the changes take effect?

There was no clear timetable as to when the changes will take effect. The British government said they would make a more detailed announcement before the 2022-2023 season begins.

Reactions to the establishment of an independent regulator in English soccer

Most people tend to agree that a reform was necessary, but that the lack of a fixed time as to when the reforms will take place is concerning to some.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “You’ll have to hold your breath and contain your impatience. It’s been decades without one, but I’m happy we’ll be able to make rapid progress.

Campaign group Fair Game said, “There can be no more delay or dithering” adding “it’s disappointing that at first glance there is no mention of a new international tax transfer.”

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is pleased that the government has taken action to make the change. “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,” she said.

Lucy Powell, Shadow Culture Secretary, on the other hand, reiterated that the delay of any change was “a massive disappointment.”

“After a government review and many previous promises to legislate, today’s announcement of a further consultation later this year, and a delay to legislation until at least 2024, is a kick in the teeth to proud footballing communities across England.

Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee Julian Knight agreed, saying it exposed the governance of English soccer as a joke and said they’ve “parked the bus” by delaying the implementation of such legislation.

Former Football Association chairman David Bernstein said that “if this is handled properly by the right people, it could make a real difference.”

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville echoed the thoughts of Powell, saying, “If we take this at face value, it’s what the game desperately needs. However why the delay? It’s needed now.”

The Professional Footballer’s Association expressed its support for the changes, but also urged the government to move quickly to enact them.

“Each day drafting white papers is another day when a club might cease to exist.”


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