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New Football Law “Could Risk World Cup and Champions League Participation”

Wembley Stadium (Alamy)

3 min read

Exclusive: The Government has been warned the Football Governance Bill could risk England’s participation in the World Cup and the country's elite clubs from taking part in the Champions League.

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

The Football Regulator's focus will be to reform financial flow and ensure money is distributed across England's clubs.

A senior source with knowledge of discussions between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and FIFA has told PoliticsHome concerns have been raised by the football industry that the regulator will not be seen as independent from Government control.

They claimed this could jeopardise the national team's right to play in the World Cup, and for elite clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal from competiting in the Champions League, Europa League or Europa Conference League. 

Fifa, the world football governing body who organise the world cup, and Uefa, which governs football in Europe, have rules in their constitution which prohibit the state being involved in its domestic leagues. 

Both Fifa and Uefa threatened the Greek Government in 2015 from competiting in its competitions after it tried to pass laws on violence which would affect its domestic leagues.

A DCMS spokesperson dismissed the claims as "completely false." However, another industry source said that the plan had a "strong degree of government involvement" despite the Government and ministers claiming it was independent.

PoliticsHome understands that neither Uefa or Fifa has raised concerns so far about the independence of the regulator during recent talks.

The Government has the ability to appoint the chair of the regulator, and has already appointed Martyn Henderson OBE as its Chief Interim Operating Officer. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will have the opportunity every three years to make a statement advising what the regulator should be focusing on. 

The football regulator is also obliged to respect the policy objectives of the Government's trade and foreign departments. Added to this the Culture minister can also provide the regulator with financial assistance. 

The Government has consistently argued that the regulator will be independent from Government. 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 new law will also see clubs from the Premier League to the National League requiring 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 also be imposed to protect football fans from “careless owners”.

A regulator would be able to prevent clubs from breaking away from existing leagues to joining new ones, such as the European Super League, with the regulator obliged to consult fans and the FA on breakaway competitions in line with a predetermined criteria.

The legislation is expected to receive its second reading within a matter of weeks.

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