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Government Introduces "Historic" Football Regulator Legislation

Culture secretary Lucy Frazer launches the Football Governance Bill at Leyton Orient Football Club (Alamy)

4 min read

The Government has introduced the much-anticipated Football Governance Bill to the House of Commons, finally paving the way for an independent regulator which will aim to reform the financial flow of football.

The Bill aims to give powers to a new independent body which will manage and discipline the top five leagues of English football.  

The announcement of the legislation follows the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto pledge to implement one, and the subsequent fan-led review by Tracey Crouch which was published in 2021.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, who will introduce the Bill to the Commons on Tuesday, said the government was always prepared to bring the legislation forward even if the country's elite clubs and lower league teams had not reached an agreement on how the new system should work.

“The best outcome is that the Premier League and the EFL come to a deal that works for them, because then they can negotiate something for them. I’ve been pressing them do to that," she said during a trip to Leyton Orient football club in east London to launch the legislation. 

“I’ve met all the Premier League clubs. I’ve met all the EFL clubs. I’ve encouraged them to do that and I was very disappointed that they didn’t manage to do that and that the Premier League didn’t make an offer as a result of their meeting last week.

“In the absence of that, we have always been very clear that if they can’t come to a deal, then the regulator will. Now we are bringing forward the legislation that will allow which will enable that to happen.”

What will the Football Regulator do?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hailed the Bill as a “historic moment for football fans” which would make sure fans were at the “front and centre” of football.

The regulator's core aims will be to improve financial sustainability of football, the football league and to protect the heritage of clubs. This issue became more pressing in recent years after historic clubs such as Bury FC and Macclesfield Town went out of business. 

Football clubs from the Premier League to the National League will need a licence to compete and play in domestic competitions. Supporters will have to be consulted on key decisions about their club if individual owners want to change their teams badge or relocate to a new stadium.

A new owners and directors test will be imposed to protect football fans from “careless owners”. A regulator will be able to prevent clubs from breaking away from existing leagues to joining new ones, such as the European Super League.

How did we get here?

The introduction of a football regulator was promised by both the Conservative Party and Labour at the general election in 2019.

Former sports minister Crouch launched the fan-led review into football in 2021 which included recommendations such as making the football pryamid more financially sustainable. 

In a White Paper published in 2023 the government said money was not sufficiently distributed between England's elite clubs and teams in the lower leagues. 

A Football Governance Bill was included in in the King’s Speech setting out the Government's latest legislative agenda in November.

A number of industry sources believed the Football Governance Bill should have had its reading months ago. 

Why was there pushback?

The football regulator has divided opinion between football stakeholders, ministers and the Premier League.

MPs and campaigning groups such as Fair Game have been largely supportive of a new independent regulator.

The government has for years been keen to emphasise that it wanted all 20 Premier League clubs to come to a financial settlement before the football regulator was in place.

However, a number of clubs in the Premier League have tried to resist the idea and have pushed back about redistributing more revenue to smaller clubs down the football pyramid.

Top-flight clubs in March tried to come together to reach a “New Deal” to redistribute funds and revenue with EFL clubs.

More than half of top-flight clubs reportedly opposed a new financial deal which would do this, including Arsenal, Chelsea, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Tottenham, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest and West Ham.

What progress has the Government made so far?

The government has been recruiting for positions on the new football regulator since it was introduced in the King’s Speech.

In November, the role of Interim Chief Operating Officer of the Independent Football Regulator was advertised internally and to the public to kick start the process. Martyn Henderson OBE was appointed to the role in December with a salary of more than £100,000-a-year.

In January a Football Regulator implementation unit was set up in January with the civil service hiring under the banner.

The introduction of the Football Governance Bill marks the next step of the Bill, which is now expected to be put in to law prior to the next election. 

 

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