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29th Jun, 2022

Playing the long game: MP says footy review can bring stability

Rob George 4th May, 2022

SPORTS Minister and Worcestershire MP Nigel Huddleston has claimed the Government’s support for a review into football governance will ‘bring about long-term stability’ for the national game.

The Mid Worcestershire MP was at the forefront of the vision for the reform of football which was sparked following high-profile financial chaos at clubs such as Bury and Derby County and the threat posed by last year’s ill-fated European Super League.

The Government proposals build on the case for reform set out in the Independent Review of Football Governance which was led by his predecessor as Sports Minister Tracey Crouch MP.

All 10 strategic recommendations have been endorsed by the Government covering financial regulation, governance, fan engagement, club heritage and ownership including the establishing of a new ‘owners and directors’ test.

It’s hoped the recommendations will tackle what the Government have labelled the two key problems in our national game; the significant risk of financial failure among clubs and the risk of harm to the cultural heritage of English football.

As a result, the Government hopes to cut the incentive for clubs to spend money they don’t have, provide stronger governance and tackle what it says is ineffective existing regulation or desire to change.

Mr Huddleston revealed an independent regulator for football will be set up, despite opposition from the Premier League which continues to believe there is no need for a ‘statutory-backed regulator’.

The main focus of the regulator would be financial to improve the current owners’ and directors’ test in all four leagues and a new ‘integrity test’ to be introduced alongside closer looks at the strength of proposed business plans from prospective owners.

Proper consultation with supporters could form part of any regulator’s remit on owners needing fan consent to change the club badge or stadium.

The Premier League has been warned by the Government it must agree a deal to deliver hundreds of millions of pounds more to the lower leagues or have a figure imposed on them by the regulator.

English football’s top tier has previously warned that calls for 25 per cent of its broadcast revenue to be shared down the leagues would be a ‘disaster’.

In a statement, the Premier League said: “We welcome the clarity from the Government about their position, and are committed to working with them during this next phase of consultation, although we will continue to maintain that it is not necessary for there to be a statutory-backed regulator.

“We agree that fans are of vital importance to the game and their voices should be better listened to across the League. We will be introducing a number of measures to improve this area and plan to make a detailed announcement before the start of the 2022/23 season.”

Mr Huddleston said: “Football is our national sport, held dearly by communities across the country. The Government included a commitment to a Fan Led Review of English Football Governance in our manifesto in 2019 following the collapse of historic clubs such as Bury Football Club.

“We asked Tracey Crouch MP and an independent panel of experts to conduct a review and make recommendations to the Government.

“I am therefore pleased to announce that we are moving further with reform of our national game with the Government’s response to the Independent Fan Led Review of Football Governance.

“We set out a plan for reform of football that will deliver a regulator in law in order to bring about long-term sustainability of our national game for communities and fans,” he added.

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