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Confidence Grows That Football Regulator Can Be In Place Within A Year

Sports Minister Stuart Andrew (left) speaks with fans during a DCMS media event at Cherry Red Records Stadium, home of AFC Wimbledon (Alamy)

4 min read

Football campaigners and MPs are confident a new football regulator could be made law in a year’s time, after a proposed Football Governance Bill to reform the Game was announced in the King’s Speech on Tuesday.

Activists are confident the legislation will pass through the Commons quickly as it is supported by the majority of parliamentarians on both sides of the House of Commons. In addition, a commitment to reform football governance was included in all of the main political parties' manifestos during the 2019 election.

Sara Britcliffe, Conservative MP for Hyndburn, who has long-championed an independent football regulator, told PoliticsHome she was pleased to see a promise to reform football was at the heart of the King's Speech

She said she was confident the Bill could be passed through Parliament relatively swiftly due to bi-partisan approval. 

“I am very happy the Football Governance Bill was included in the King’s Speech. Everybody is very happy and there was a big sigh of relief when we stood in the gallery and it was announced,” she said.

“I think a shadow regulator is something up for discussion, but we have to wait for the legislation to come through. In the meantime, we have to look at what happens to other clubs who are facing financial problems.

“The key for me was the financial regulator and owners and directors test. Luckily my owner, Andy Holt for Accrington Stanley, is great, but we know this isn’t always the case for other clubs.”

On Tuesday the PM’s spokesperson said the government could not set out an “exact time” for when the new regulator would be in place, but stressed that work to do so had already started.

“Work is already underway to set up the regulator and we are appointing an interim team to oversee the process,” they said.

"The process to launch a chair designate will begin in due course with a proper leadership team in place.” 

PoliticsHome previously reported that Stuart Andrew, the Sports Minister, had been receptive to MPs’ demands to bring forward a new regulator.

Niall Couper, CEO of Fair Game, told PoliticsHome he also believed the Bill may be able to be legislated for by the next election – expected within 12 months – as it did not appear controversial on either the Conservative or Labour benches. 

Couper said the announcement of a football regulator marked a “historic moment for football” and represented a real chance to end the cycle of mismanagement and overspending.

"There will be intense pressure to weaken the regulator’s remit at a time when proper protection and scrutiny of our National Game is needed more than ever,” he said.

“Those tasked with setting up the regulator must resist that pressure and remain laser-focused to deliver a fairer future for football and the culture change the sport desperately needs.

“Reckless spending, disconnect between clubs and their communities, and lip service to equality standards must be consigned to the rubbish bin of history. This transformation can only be achieved if the regulator has the teeth and resources to deliver.” 

Former sports minister Tracey Crouch, who launched the fan-led review into football in 2021, said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that she was “delighted” to see legislation to establish a new independent regulator set out in the King's Speech. 

However, prior to its implementation, she wanted to encourage the Premier League and English Football League (EFL) to resolve "long-standing" issues of how money was distributed in football

She added that she was looking forward to supporting the legislation passing through Parliament.

Earlier this year, a White Paper on Reforming Club Football Governance was published, which set out a plan to govern the top five leagues of English football. 

The Government said in September that a new regulator would “have a tightly defined scope focused on financial sustainability”.

The regulator will specifically look and address financial issues in football. The Bill will also force clubs to get a licence to play in any of England’s top five leagues.

To protect teams from poorly behaved owners, the Government will introduce a directors’ test which will help vet owners and directors more effectively. 

The proposed legislation has also promised to give fans more say over important club decisions, including when a team plans to change its name, badge or shirt colours. 

Football clubs will have to be given permission by the independent regulator if it wants to relocate or change stadiums. 

The regulator will prevent clubs from joining breakaway leagues, after several top flight clubs tried to join a proposed European Super League last year. The proposal sparked outrage amongst Premier League fans.

Damian Green, MP for Ashfield, who sits on the DCMS Committee, told PoliticsHome he welcomed the Bill in the King’s Speech.

“I’m delighted it’s in the King’s Speech and I hope they set up a Shadow Regulator ASAP while the legislation is going through,” he said.

It is expected a shadow football regulator could be launched as early as March next year. The Government has begun hiring for a senior role to kickstart an independent football regulator.

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