The government will seek to implement all 10 of the key recommendations of the fan-led review into English football, setting up the possibility of a sea change in the governance of the national sport.
Five months after a landmark report led by Conservative MP Tracey Crouch called for the creation of an independent regulator for the game, alongside greater powers for supporters and an improved “owners and director’s test” for those seeking to control local clubs, sports minister Nigel Huddleston will tell parliament on Monday that the government endorses the ideas. A white paper bringing forward legislation will be published in the summer.
Among the recommendations that are now to be brought forward include the creation of “shadow boards” consisting of club supporters that would allow fans to have a greater input into decision making in their clubs. Supporters groups would also get a “golden share” in their club, providing a veto on a number of key decisions, including whether to sell the club’s stadium, as well as heritage issues, such as the team’s crest or colors. There will also be a pledge to introduce stronger mechanisms to guarantee equality and diversity in football boardrooms.
The key step, however, is a decision to fully endorse the idea of an independent regulator. The government has previously supported the idea in principle but there has been sustained lobbying from the Football Association and the Premier League, both of which want to keep governance effectively at home. While Crouch wrote in her review that she believed the FA could one day take on the role of regulator, she said the governing body of the game in England would have to undergo substantial reform itself first. The government appears to have come to agree with this view.
The independent regulator’s primary role will be to maintain financial stability within the English game. It will have oversight of club finances and will have information-gathering, investigation and enforcement powers. Rules recently announced by Uefa, which would limit clubs in European competition to spending no more than 70% of revenues on player costs, are likely to be implemented across the English game.
Furthermore the regulator will take on the responsibility of assessing owners’ suitability to run clubs. A new test for all club owners will be applied not only when an individual buys a club but thereafter. It will, according to government sources, also include an “integrity test” that could extend to investigating owners’ business links, as well as their prior actions. There is also a proposal for greater due diligence on the source of an owner’s money at the point of buying a club.
Many of the new measures are already standard in other industries so Monday’s announcement will come with a degree of implied criticism for English football’s leadership. The government has commissioned its own research into club finances that is expected to show unsustainable business practices are widespread within the club game. One key decision that could improve stability within football, however, is the redistribution of wealth across the English pyramid, which is expected to be left to clubs themselves to decide.
The news comes 48 hours after the government launched a full-scale review of women’s football in England. Another idea recommended by Crouch, it will take on the primary task of looking at ways to increase parity with the men’s game, and further sustain growth in the professional and grassroots women’s game.
The culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, said: “Football is nothing without its fans and for too long the football authorities have collectively been unable to tackle some of the biggest issues in the game.
“The government has taken decisive action to conduct the fan-led review and today we have endorsed every one of its 10 strategic recommendations and the approach set out by Tracey Crouch.
“We are now committed to fundamental reform, putting football on a more sustainable financial path, strengthening corporate governance of clubs and increasing the influence fans have in the running of the national game.”