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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Sunak: new football body will “put fan’s voice front and centre”

Britain’s first Asian Prime Minister has announced the creation of a new body which he claims will rebalance English football.

The move has been welcomed by lower league clubs such as Rotherham United and Blackpool Town as well as football supporters groups among others. But the Premier League has voiced concerns over the potential harm to the “competitiveness” of English football.

The step by Rishi Sunak follows several instances of clubs in the lower leagues going bust in recent times  due to financial difficulties, most notably Bury F.C. and Macclesfield  It also aims at appeasing football fans who it is claimed are not being heard with Sunak hailing it as “a historic step for football fans.”

The creation of a regulator is also in response to the Premier League’s failure to deliver on its £900 million support system for the game, which has left some lower league clubs struggling financially.

The Premier League said it would study the bill but was “concerned about any unintended consequences of legislation that could weaken the competitiveness and appeal of English football”.

Football Association chairman David Bernstein, has voiced concerns that plans for a regulator have already been watered down.

Tracey Crouch MP whose Fan Led Review paved the way for a regulator, said football supporters could now “breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that the next steps towards protecting the long term sustainability of the pyramid have now been taken.”

Among the powers given to the new body the Regulator could fine clubs up to 10 per cent of their total revenue for non-compliance.

The regulator will also be given the power to decide on financial distribution between the Premier League and the EFL, which comprises of the second, third and fourth tier of English football.

Sunak with England Football captain Harry Kane and manager Gareth Southgate

According to the Deloitte Football Money League, the top 14 English sides all enjoyed turnovers in excess of 198 million euros in 2022-23.

The Football Governance Bill was formally launched by culture secretary Lucy Frazer at Leyton Orient Football Club in East London.

Some lower league clubs have reacted positively to the news, with Rotherham United saying, “It is our strong belief here that this Bill will play a significant role in reshaping the football financial landscape and fix the currently broken model through the involvement of an independent regulator.”

Since the Premier League came into being in 1992, there have been 61 cases of clubs entering administration.

The Prime Minister admonished what he called “unscrupulous owners” who get away with financial mismanagement, citing the examples of Bury and Macclesfield.

He added, “This Bill is a historic moment for football fans – it will make sure their voices are front and centre, prevent a breakaway league, protect the financial sustainability of clubs, and protect the heritage of our clubs big and small.”

Fair Game, a lobby group of EFL clubs which campaigns for governance reform, voiced concerns over the Regulator’s perceived lack of power.

“In the last couple of weeks, we have met ministers, and repeatedly we have failed to get assurances that the regulator will have the power to intervene,” said Fair Game’s director of advocacy Mike Baker.

However in a statement posted on X (formerly twitter), Kevin Miles the chief executive of the Football Supporters Association (FSA) welcomed the move saying it was something supporter groups had “argued in favour of for many many years”.

The statement also cited the European Super League proposal from three years ago, where six of the wealthiest English football clubs attempted a breakaway to form a new continental League to the chagrin of many fans. This it said “highlighted the need for a regulator.”

The full statement from the Football Supporters Association can be read here

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