25 April 2022

Government has ‘parked the bus’ on English football reforms – Julian Knight

25 April 2022

The Government has been accused of “parking the bus” rather than going on the attack when it comes to reforming English football.

Julian Knight, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, welcomed the Government’s endorsement of the fan-led review’s strategic recommendations, including the creation of an independent regulator with statutory powers.

However, he criticised the lack of a firm timetable for legislation, with the Government due to issue a more detailed response in a white paper to be published this summer.

The brief formation of a European Super League exposed how football regulation is a joke, according to DCMS committee chair Julian Knight (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Archive)

“The commitment to introduce an independent regulator is a welcome step, but the Government must now get on with setting it up for the sake of the health of our national game,” he said.

“Developments such as the proposal of the preposterous European Super League and the struggles for survival faced by clubs in our communities, have exposed football governance in this country for the joke that it is.

“With no firm timescale to tackle the deep-rooted problems afflicting the game and no move to establish the regulator in shadow form ahead of legislation, it feels like the Government has parked the bus, when they should be going flat out on the attack to deliver in the best interests of fans.”

The Fair Game group, which campaigns for independent regulation in football and to reward clubs which are financially sustainable, also warned there could be “no more delay or dithering” on implementing the recommendations of the fan-led review, which were published last November.

For too long the challenges in our national game have been booted down the road by the football authorities and successive governments putting our clubs on the edge of ruin.

Fair Game chief executive Niall Couper said: “What we need now is a firm timetable for change.

“There can be no more delay or dithering. If reform is allowed to be kicked into the long grass, it will represent the death knell to the hard-working clubs at the centre of our towns and communities.

“The financial situation at most clubs is perilous. For too long the challenges in our national game have been booted down the road by the football authorities and successive governments putting our clubs on the edge of ruin.

“Let’s end the culture of gambling that has seen clubs spend more than they earn, a culture that sidelines the views of fans, pays no more than lip service to equality standards, and is devoid of any financial scrutiny.

“Legislation has the power to change football and protect our community clubs for the generations to come.”

The review was commissioned a year ago, brought forward by the Government in the wake of the Super League scandal. The Government endorses the recommendations of the review on the creation of a regulator to ensure financial sustainability, minimum standards for fan engagement and mechanisms to protect club heritage.

Fans protested against the European Super League (Zac Goodwin/PA) (PA Archive)

The Government also endorses the review’s call for fairer distribution of Premier League broadcast revenue to the rest of the pyramid, but still wants football’s authorities to come up with a solution rather than imposing one if possible.

The Premier League and EFL have shown no sign of reaching agreement and the Government is open to the idea of giving the regulator backstop powers to enforce a solution.

Couper added: “The football authorities must now grow up and create a financial system that rewards hard-working community clubs and stops giving money to failed Premier League clubs through parachute payments.

“We need a sustainability index. A system which grades clubs according to how they score on four criteria – financial sustainability, good governance, equality standards and fan and community engagement. The higher they score the more money they get.”

Couper said it was “disappointing” that the Government’s initial release did not mention the levy on international transfers talked about in the review as one method to raise extra revenue for the pyramid.

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