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Independent football regulator set to be introduced

Featured image credit: Peter Glaser on Unsplash

Featured image credit: Peter Glaser on Unsplash

Plans for the introduction of an independent football regulator have been confirmed today (Tuesday) in the King’s Speech, with the sale or relocation of stadiums one of the matters that will require approval going forward.

King Charles said the regulator will seek to put fans back at the “heart of football” and help to deliver a sustainable future for all clubs. It follows on from the 2019 manifesto commitment to conduct a fan-led review of football.

In February, the UK government confirmed plans to introduce an independent regulator for men’s professional football. The regulator will oversee the financial sustainability of English football from the top-tier Premier League to the fifth-tier National League.

In the future, clubs that seek to sell or relocate their stadiums will require approval from the regulator. Clubs will also be required to demonstrate how they have consulted their fans as part of this process.

The King’s Speech cited Derby County as an example of how the sale of a stadium can negatively impact a club. Derby purchased Pride Park in an effort to comply with financial fair play regulations, but the deal proved controversial with some rival clubs feeling the move took advantage of the rules.

The regulator will also operate a licensing system, where all clubs in the top five tiers will need a licence to operate as a professional football club. The regulator will have powers to monitor and enforce compliance with requirements in financial regulation, corporate governance, club ownership, fan engagement and club heritage protection, and approved competitions.

New, strengthened owners’ and directors’ tests will also be created, while clubs will be required to meet a minimum standard of fan engagement and the support of a majority of fans for any changes to the club’s badge, name and home shirt colours.

The examples of Cardiff City and Hull City were cited here. Cardiff owner Vincent Tan changed the colour of the club’s home kit from blue to red, while Hull’s former owners sought to change the name of the club to ‘Hull Tigers’ but this was ultimately rejected by the FA Council.

The regulator will also prevent clubs from joining breakaway or unlicensed leagues, while it would be able to intervene as a last resort to ensure financial sustainability through the redistribution of broadcast revenue. A compulsory ‘football club corporate governance code’ will also be established.

Following today’s announcement, English Football League (EFL) chair Rick Parry said: “We welcome the landmark commitment to the football governance bill in the King’s Speech and look forward to it being considered by parliament in the period ahead. We have had many months of detailed engagement with DCMS and will continue to play our part in delivering legislation that is both fair and effective.

“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.”

The Premier League is yet to comment on the announcement.