Government announces ‘fundamental reform’ of men’s football including installing regulator

The Government has set out plans to reform men’s football in England, including establishing an independent regulator of the game.

In December, a fan-led review of men’s football by former Sports Minister MP Tracey Crouch, found the national game required a strong, independent regulator to secure its future.

It claimed “reckless financial decision-making” that was often “prioritised by unsuitable owners and directors in the pursuit of glory” put at risk the future of clubs and their status as community assets.

A proposal for a new Independent Regulator for English Football (IREF), put forward in the review, was fiercely opposed by Premier League executives.

In response to the review, the Department of Culture Media and Sport has set out proposals to establish a Government-backed independent regulator as part of plans to radically reform the governance of the game.

The Government wants to establish a regulator to deliver financial sustainability throughout the game, and give it statutory powers to licence and sanction clubs.

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It is also endorsing the 10 recommendations set out in the review, saying it will “improve financial sustainability and corporate governance across our national game”, plus “placing fans squarely at the heart of decision-making”.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “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.”

Among the recommendations the Government is supporting is ‘a greater role for fans in the day-to-day running of clubs’ by including the option of a ‘shadow board’ in order to give fans a greater voice.

It is backing fan engagement on club heritage issues to ensure fans have a bigger say on changes to their club stadium, logo, name and kit.

A study found clubs are placing pursuit of success over sound financial management, including an overreliance on owner funding – leaving them dangerously exposed if they decide to pull the plug on cash injections.

The FA welcomed the Government’s proposals, saying “stronger financial regulation and cost controls” are needed in the game to ensure that “fans and sustainability always comes first”.

A spokesperson for the FA said: “English football is the envy of the world, but with success, comes challenges. 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 Premier League and English Football League have been contacted by i for comment.

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