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MPs Eye Giving Football Regulator More Power To Distribute Premier League Funds

Wembley Stadum (Alamy)

4 min read

MPs and football sector figures are looking to amend the Football Governance Bill to give the newly established regulator more power to force elite clubs to distribute money to smaller teams.

The Government introduced the Football Governance Bill to the House of Commons on Tuesday. The legislation will finally pave the way for an independent regulator which will aim to reform the Game.

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) source told PoliticsHome they were relieved the Government found Parliamentary time to table the legislation for its first reading this week after concern that any further delay would limit its chances of passing in the remaining parliamentary session. Both the Conservative Party and Labour are keen for the Bill, which commands bi-partisan support across the House, to be implemented before the next election.

But now the details of the proposed legislation have finally been confirmed, football fans’ groups are divided over whether the legislation has “teeth” to protect the financial sustainability of the game.

Kevin Miles, Chief Executive of Football Supporters’ Association, said he warmly welcomed the Bill and felt the regulator provided the first steps to prevent historic clubs from being run in to the ground.

Yet Niall Couper, CEO of Fair Game, was more critical of the Bill and said the Government needed to redraft the legislation and put the flow of finances across all levels of the game at the heart of it.

"The key objective of the regulator is to deliver financial sustainability. Which means it should be right at the heart of the action, it should be playing right in the middle of the game and at the heart of everything,” he said.

"At the moment this Bill, particularly the part on financial distribution, has the regulator not even on the subs bench, but back at the treatment table and the training ground."

Critics of the Bill believe the regulator will not have the immediate responsibility over how revenue earned by clubs in the top flight will be distributed across the football pyramid.

Under the current wording of the Bill the Premier League and English Football League (EFL) can only trigger the "backstop", which is a mechanism which will force elite clubs to share more money with smaller ones. 

On Tuesday there were discussions at the APPG for Football Supporters between activists and MPs about proposing future amendments. Industry sources told PoliticsHome there were conversations about whether to give the new independent regulator the full power to impose a financial deal.

Clive Efford, Labour MP for Eltham, who sits on the DCMS Committee, told PoliticsHome he agreed with campaigners that a major concern was to improve how money was redistributed across the football pyramid.

He said he was concerned that too many amendments could be laid out by MPs which could delay the Bill's implementation. This concern has also been echoed by a number of Tory MPs who are close to the legislation.

“The most important thing is to get the Bill through. If the Bill needs tweaking, we need to do it when its passed, and we will be in a stronger position,” he said.

“The biggest area of concern is financial flow. We need to make sure revenue from TV is distributed in a way to make the whole Game sustainable.”

A Conservative MP said they were looking at how amendments could be used so that the regulator could more easily trigger the backstop.

This would allow the regulator to enforce a deal on the Game if it feels top-flight clubs are not helping to ensure the long-term sustainability of football.

The Football Governance Bill was included in the King’s Speech. It will be a piece of legislation which Rishi Sunak would like to showcase at the next general election – and show voters what his Government has achieved.

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

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said the Government was "determined" to put football fans back at the heart of the Game. She added a new independent regulator would help put football on a more sustainable footing and strengthen clubs and the football pyramid "for generations".

But the timetable to get a Football Governance Bill is shortening as we move closer to the Autumn, where an expected election is likely to take place.  

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