The UK government has approved the introduction of an independent regulator for English football, which would also include an ‘integrity test’ for individuals looking to buy clubs.
After the idea was recommended in November by a fan-led review, the introduction would see a regulator apply an enhanced owners’ and directors’ test that will replace those used by the Premier League, EFL and FA.
A statement from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) read: “The regulator will also be given the power to exercise financial oversight of clubs, including information gathering, investigation and enforcement powers.
“The review recommended looking at financial distribution, including solidarity payments. It is the government’s view that this should be solved by the football authorities in the first instance.”
Moreso, an independent regulator would be backed by primary legislation to provide it with the ability to licence and sanction clubs as part of its remit to tackle governance issues in the sport.
The Premier League, however, has expressed disapproval for the introduction, stating that it is ‘not necessary’, whilst also revealing that it has been reviewing the Owners’ and Directors’ Test recently and will set out plans before next season to ‘ensure that fans are listened to’.
An independent study commissioned by the government is being published that looks into the widespread culture of clubs operating ‘unsustainable financial practices’. This includes an overreliance on owner funding which can leave clubs ‘dangerously exposed’ if owners decide to stop cash injections.
Furthermore, the integrity test will look to ensure that skilled, experienced Owners and Executives are in place to run these community assets.
“English football is the envy of the world, but with success, comes challenges,” explained an FA spokesperson. “While many clubs are at the centre of their community and are prospering, some have spent beyond their means in order to chase success.
“New independent regulation is needed and we will continue to work with the Government to ensure that we are protecting the future of clubs whilst also supporting the global appeal of English football.”
The government is also going to consider the safety and economic case for piloting the sale and consumption of alcohol in sight of the pitch at matches in the men’s lower leagues, as per the recommendation within the fan-led review.
The news follows the government’s actions towards prioritising fans and ‘backing the game from the bottom of the pyramid upwards’.