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Premier League's Man City Investigation "Taking Too Long", Says Committee Chair

Caroline Dinenage MP (Photography by Louise Haywood-Schiefer)

4 min read

A senior Conservative MP has criticised the boss of the Premier League for talking of “small clubs” and said the organising body's investigation into Manchester City rule breaches is “taking too long”, which is “unfair” to fans.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in January that he did "understand the issue and I have tried to separate the two" when asked whether smaller clubs should be expected to front the same legal costs as wealthy football giants. 

"I have said that those standard directions are for everybody. They are not just for small clubs," Masters said. 

In a letter to the committee following the hearing, Masters insisted that Premier League profitability and sustainability rules apply equally to all clubs. “It would be incorrect to infer from this that there is any unfair treatment based on club size,” he said.

Now in a new interview with The House magazine, Caroline Dinenage, who chairs the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said: “It does sometimes feel like there's some kind of two-tier system here.

“When the boss of the Premier League came and gave evidence to the select committee, he spoke about ‘big clubs’ and ‘small clubs’.

“The whole committee found that a little bit puzzling, because actually there shouldn't be a different standard of behaviour depending on the size of the club.”

Dinenage also made clear she was unhappy about the length of the Premier League’s investigation into 115 charges against Manchester City, which they deny. The allegations against the club were confirmed in February 2023 after a four-year investigation.

“It's taking too long, and it feels unfair to teams like Everton for whom the decisions have been already made and the penalties have already been handed out,” the MP said.

“Teams like Everton, they've taken points deduction, they've taken punishment, and meanwhile Man City, who've got a whole rack of allegations against them, are tied up in legal red tape. That could go on for years.”

The comments from the select committee chair come after Manchester City were crowned Premier League champions for the fourth consecutive time earlier this month.

Asked about the lengthy investigation, the Premier League pointed to recent comments from Masters who has explained that he cannot offer details on the timescale.

“All we have said is that a date has been set for the hearing. We haven’t said when that is. Our rulebook requires these commissions to be held in private, and everything to be confidential,” Masters said.

The Premier League has highlighted that the charges against Everton are different to those levelled against Man City.

“The volume and character of the charges laid before Man City, which I cannot talk about at all, are heard in a completely different environment,” the chief executive told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in January.

Dinenage, the Conservative MP for Gosport, also said she was “really frustrated by the delay” in the new football regulator being set up. Now, with Parliament shutting down for the six-week general election campaign, the Football Governance Bill is being dropped.

Tory MP Tracey Crouch, who chaired the review of English football that recommended an independent regulator, confirmed the bill would “progress no further”, though there would be a “ready-made” piece of legislation for the next government to use.

“One of my best pals in Parliament is Tracey Crouch, who is obviously utterly terrifying on the basis that she did this amazing piece of work and pulled together brilliant recommendations. Then it has been sitting there, waiting. And meanwhile, we've seen a whole range of issues that have impacted the world of football,” Dinenage said.

She warned that the regulator would not be a “silver bullet”, however.

“Successive government ministers have described this football regulator as somehow like a silver bullet, like there's this cavalry coming over the hill that's going to be the antidote to all the challenges within the football industry. I don't think it will be that.”

Speaking after the election announcement, the MP added: “The work the committee has done on football governance has helped to shape plans for regulation of the sport with broad political support. I’m optimistic that greater protections for clubs at all levels can be delivered after the general election in the interests of fans up and down the country who love our national game.”

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