Premier League clubs united in opposition to independent regulator and proposed transfer levy

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Premier League clubs united in opposition to independent regulator and proposed transfer levy - REUTERS
Premier League clubs united in opposition to independent regulator and proposed transfer levy - REUTERS

The Premier League clubs resolved on Friday to plan a wholesale push back on the proposals for a legislative-backed independent regulator for the game, and a transfer levy, both of which have come out of the fan-led review into the governance of English football.

At an emergency meeting that was not part of the regular schedule of shareholder gatherings, the clubs sought assurances from chief executive Richard Masters that he also opposed the statutory regulator proposed as one of Tracey Crouch MP’s 47 recommendations.

They raised concerns over what many see as the “unintended consequences” of the proposals which include greater redistribution of their broadcast revenues to the Football League and checks on family members of potential new owners and investors.

The clubs are more likely to back an independent regulator that is not backed by legislation – potentially one that sits within the Football Association.

The clubs did not even issue a statement in the wake of the meeting and have vowed to coordinate their response when comes to speaking on the subject. For the time being they are saying nothing formally. Some of the attempted public interventions in the last week have not been as successful as those involved would have liked.

Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow called the Premier League the “golden goose” and his Leeds United counterpart Angus Kinnear invoked Maoism and the Great Chinese Famine.

Crouch herself will be giving evidence on her fan-led review to the Department for Culture Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday. In that she is expected to explain the deadline in the review for agreement on greater redistributions by the end of the year.

As things stand there is no appetite among the Premier League clubs to give more to the Championship when the latter cannot agree a salary cap with either its members or with the players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association.

Furious Premier League clubs want emergency meeting to outline opposition to independent regulator

Exclusive by Sam Wallace

The 20 Premier League clubs want an emergency meeting this week to outline their stance in opposition to the independent regulator proposed in Tracey Crouch MP’s government-led review, and row back on what many see as chief executive Richard Masters’ acceptance of it.

The clubs’ chief executives and chairs have been involved in intensive back-channel discussion via a WhatsApp group set-up around the time that doubts began to emerge around the now departed Premier League chairman Gary Hoffman - and they are clear that they do not want an independent regulator for football.

Thus far the public opposition to it has been largely on a club-to-club basis with Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow attacking the notion in a radio interview last week. The Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish and West Ham’s vice-chairman Karren Brady have both laid out significant doubts about the proposals in newspaper columns over the weekend. Published last week, the clubs were relatively slow to come up with a strategy to fight the review but Masters’ comments on Friday evening have upped the urgency.

The meeting this week is intended to enable the clubs to formulate a collective position on the review, which makes 47 recommendations, and has found favour with fans’ groups and some high-profile media commentators. The 20 clubs feel much of it is unworkable and are worried that the tentacles of an independent regulator, backed by legislation, will stretch far and wide over the coming years, making decision-making and attracting investment difficult.

The opposition is chiefly coming from mid-table clubs not regularly involved in European football, like West Ham, Crystal Palace and Villa, as well as Brighton and Hove Albion. All of them believed that they were going to take a collective stance against the regulator principle. The Premier League executive said that it had proposed a meeting in its notes to the clubs last week to discuss the review.

Masters’ interview with BBC Sport on Friday, the only one he has given so far on the Crouch review, was met with consternation by many clubs – especially those outside the big six who felt that it conceded too much ground early on. Masters told BBC sport editor Dan Roan that the league was “open to an independent regulator” and that “we want to discuss the detail of that with Government going forward”.

The Premier League’s official position was that it was supportive “in principle” of a regulator but that the detail would have to be worked upon. Masters had previously been told by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries that the regulator would be the key part of the report that government would insist on and the Premier League felt that from that point of view it had to be circumspect in any opposition. Masters said to the BBC “to push back on the concept of an independent regulator at this moment in time would be wrong”.

However, there is a strong sentiment within the clubs outside the elite that many of the proposals could cause major problems – not least in attracting new owners and investors. Parish wrote in The Sunday Times of proposals to investigate family connections of potential investors, “Wow, that's some power – ‘You can't buy something because I don't like your friends’. Sounds more like something from North Korea.”

Brady also described proposals to force the Premier League to increase its redistribution of funds to the rest of football, currently £1.6 billion over the next three years, as being like a government edict from “Russia, China or North Korea”.

The Premier League is understood to have written to Crouch recently telling her that it backed a regulator that sat within the Football Association. Masters also said that the Premier League had worked closely with Crouch’s review as well as the FA and the Football League. “I believe that we can be effective regulators,” he said.

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