24 November 2021

Tracey Crouch: Independent regulator would have tested Newcastle takeover more

24 November 2021

Tracey Crouch believes the Newcastle takeover would have been “stress-tested more” by the independent regulator proposed in the fan-led review.

Crouch chaired the review panel which has published 47 recommendations designed to make English football more sustainable.

Central to the proposals is the creation of an Independent Regulator for English Football (IREF) via an Act of Parliament, which would have financial oversight of the sport at the professional level and license clubs in the top five tiers of the game.

One of its roles will be to take over the administration of the owners’ and directors’ tests from the Premier League, EFL and Football Association, with a view to ensuring owners are “suitable custodians of vital community assets”.

The Premier League’s decision to wave through the Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle despite concerns over the country’s human rights record and the consortium’s apparent connections to the Saudi state was hugely controversial.

Asked about whether the takeover could have succeeded under the new system proposed by the review, Crouch said: “I certainly can’t tell you whether or not this integrity test would have stopped the Newcastle takeover. I don’t know the details of it.

“But I would say that it would certainly have stress-tested it more and it would have been more transparent in that testing.”

The review recommends that the outcome of every such test be published.

The Premier League can make this change tomorrow. It doesn't have to be (imposed upon them), but it can be.

Another surprising inclusion was a “stamp duty” on Premier League clubs signing players from overseas or from another top-flight side.

Crouch said the IREF would have the power to impose the levy should clubs be resistant, but added: “The Premier League can make this change tomorrow.

“It doesn’t have to be (imposed upon them), but it can be.

“I think there is a recognition among some clubs in the Premier League that, despite everything, all the trials and tribulations around COVID and everything else, we still had a really, really healthy transfer window.

“I think many do recognise that they have a responsibility to redistribute some of that wealth.

“In the past, under the current regulatory system, there is a lack of confidence in that redistribution, because there are not necessarily the restrictions in place around ensuring that there are good owners (lower down the pyramid) that are running their businesses properly and so on.

“So actually, there’s a reason why the report is structured as it is – you set out all the system that gives it good governance and good regulation, and then you get to the point of redistribution.”

Tracey Crouch is the chair of the fan-led review panel (Handout from DCMS/PA) (PA Media)

The report calls for the introduction of a shadow regulator at the earliest opportunity, and Crouch is hopeful all the necessary legislation will be in place for it to be fully operational by the start of the 2023-24 season.

Another report recommendation is a ‘golden share’ power of veto to supporters’ trusts over club heritage matters.

One instance where the veto could be used was an attempt by a club to enter a competition not sanctioned by the FA, FIFA and UEFA.

Crouch said she was confident there could be no repeat of a Super League with the new regulations in place.

Asked if that may have the affect of accelerating a renewed effort to break away, Crouch added: “I like to think the English clubs have learned their lesson but you can never quite tell.”

The Government commissioned the fan-led review in the wake of the Super League’s formation in April.

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