What a Labour government means for Everton and Liverpool after Sir Keir Starmer election

-Credit: (Image: PA)
-Credit: (Image: PA)

Sir Keir Starmer has spoken for the first time since becoming the UK’s new Prime Minister.

In his first speech in Downing Street, Sir Keir said the British people had voted 'decisively for change'. He also said the country could 'move forward together' as Labour took office following 14 years of Conservative rule.

But what does a Labour government mean for football in the UK, and to what extent does it impact the changing landscape of the game that had been set out in the Football Governance Bill that was introduced by the Tory government?

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The Bill had broad cross-party support, and was put before MPs back in March, but with the potential for a change in government it ran out of road for it to be passed into UK law, meaning that getting it over the line falls under the remit of the new Labour government.

Following the collapse of Bury FC in 2019, a fan-led review into football governance became party of the Tory manifesto for that year, where recommendations were put forth following a report by Conservative MP Tracey Crouch that the game needed an independent regulator in this country.

Those calls gained wider support following the doomed attempt of six of English football’s biggest clubs; Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur, to breakaway with six teams from across Europe to form a European Super League.

That idea was emphatically rejected by football fans across Europe, and the need for reform around what owners should and shouldn’t be able to do with their clubs took on greater significance.

Across the EFL and non-league football there is a broad support for the Bill and an independent regulator, the idea being to ensure a fairer distribution of wealth over time, as well as to ensure that the right people are able to purchase clubs, and that tradition and the importance of community are kept at the very core of things.

But the Premier League, who said they would not lobby against the Bill, have made moves to that end, with Premier League CEO penning an editorial in the Times back in April in opposition of the introduction of an independent regulator, believing that over-governance will have a detrimental effect on the growth ambitions of English football’s top tier, the most watched and most popular domestic football competition on the planet.

At a time when the Premier League are facing greater regulation, other leagues in Europe are beginning to look at ways that they can close the gap on the Premier League, knowing that the Premier League will have the handbrake put on certain things that could come into play.

Spain’s La Liga has been open in its desire to take a round of competitive games to the United States in order to tap into a growing market, and Masters is fearful that an independent regulator could ward off inward investment into clubs if the potential for growth is not as great due to red tape.

According to a recent report from Deloitte, the Premier League remains the clear market leader among Europe’s big leagues, generating around €7.0bn (£5.9bn) revenue, which is over €3bn (£2.5bn) more than its closest challenger, the Bundesliga €3.8bn (£3.2bn).

Put another way, England’s top flight is over half a billion more than La Liga €3.5bn (£3bn) and Serie A €2.9bn (£2.5bn) combined.

Masters wrote: “The Football Governance Bill, published last month, will establish strict banking-style regulation for more than 100 football clubs, with rules governing liquidity, debt, overall expenditure, ownership and fan relationships.

"It will give the regulator unprecedented power over the sport, including the right to determine how much money is distributed to lower-league teams by Premier League clubs. This is an arrangement that, under a voluntary system, already provides the most generous funding in world football.

“As chief executive of the Premier League, my overriding concern is that the bill would reduce our competitiveness and weaken the incredible appeal of the English game.

“Our competition is the most watched and commercially successful football league in the world. Thanks to that success, Premier League clubs are able to give away £1.6 billion every three years — 16 per cent of our total revenues — to the wider game, helping to make it the envy of the world. This special aspirational structure made it possible for Brighton & Hove Albion to this season become the 21st club during the Premier League era to rise through the EFL and play in European competition.

“There are already suggestions that the bill could be amended by those seeking a more interventionist approach, with even stronger powers for the regulator to determine how the game is run.

“We are asking MPs and peers to protect the game, including the Premier League, which not only helps sustain the football pyramid for the benefit of fans but also contributes £4 billion in annual tax revenues and creates 90,000 jobs across the country. The unintended consequences of regulation generate significant risks.

“It is a risk that regulation will undermine the Premier League’s global success, thereby wounding the goose that provides English football’s golden egg.

“It is a risk to regulate an industry that has worked so hard to lead the world, especially when none of its competitors are subject to the same regulation. Those competitors are relishing the prospect of the Premier League being uniquely constrained. Empires rise and fall — and while I am confident about the league’s immediate future, it would be a mistake to be complacent about our place as the world’s most popular league.”

One of Masters’ concerns in his editorial was that the Bill could be rushed through by the Conservatives in a bid to try and sway some voters through a demonstration of action on a manifesto pledge that carried plenty of weight in many key areas, and across demographics. But with that not happening, and with it now falling to Labour to press ahead with the plans, the Premier League may feel that have a little more time to try and make their case, and potentially have some amendments to the Bill made that may not impinge the ability to grow as they felt the original Bill does.

One thing that does seem non-negotiable is attempts by clubs to try and force a breakaway competition such as the European Super League again in the future.

The Labour manifesto reads: “Access to music, drama and sport has become difficult and expensive because of ticket touting. Labour will put fans back at the heart of events by introducing new consumer protections on ticket resales.

“Labour is committed to making Britain the best place in the world to be a football fan.

“We will reform football governance to protect football clubs across our communities and to give fans a greater say in the way they are run.

“We will introduce a Football Governance Bill, which will establish an independent regulator to ensure financial sustainability of football clubs in England. We will never allow a closed league of select clubs to be siphoned off from the English football pyramid.”

After that it is a little light on the detail, and some other issues such as stance on State ownership haven’t been outlined. Given that Newcastle United’s sale to the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund was ratified in 2021, and creating frosty relations with growing nations in the Middle East might not be conducive to bringing in investment into other parts of the economy in the UK, it is unlikely that a hard stance is taken on that.

The ‘New Deal for Football’ is something that will also take on significance. Premier League clubs will take a vote on it when there is clarity over what the new financial restrictions in English football’s top tier will be.

Back in May, member clubs met to discuss a £900million deal that would see more money flow from the top level into the EFL in the hope that an agreement over the long-running saga could be voted on ahead of the arrival of a new regulator in the game.

However, that vote did not take place, with reports claiming that as many as 10 clubs were considering ditching the plans, and were even reportedly going as far as considering legal action should the government’s soon-to-be football regulator impose a deal upon them. The clubs in question were reported to be Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, West Ham, Aston Villa, Wolves, Nottingham Forest, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth.

Talks turned to focus on the requirement for new financial regulations to be agreed upon that would replace the current profit and sustainability (PSR) rules that have come under scrutiny, with the Premier League looking at leaning more towards a model in line with UEFA’s squad cost ratio, where spend on transfers and wages against revenue as a percentage is what is assessed.

Sources told this publication that no such vote took place because a number of member clubs believe it is important to know what the new financial regulations will look like before agreeing to any new deal, also rejecting the notion that any kind of legal action against potential government intervention was being considered.

A number of the clubs are believed to be concerned at being asked to take a vote when not in possession of the relevant information, although sources stated that there remained a willingness to agree a deal and be ‘good citizens’.

The Football Governance Bill is one thing, but Labour can be impactful in other areas for the game, too. As Labour stated in its manifesto, the Party wants to make Britain ‘the best place in the world to be a football fan’.

A major part of that is almost certain to centre on addressing the cost of attending games, whether that be through ticket prices or the continuing soaring cost of train travel, which has severely impacted the wallets of supporters travelling top watch their teams around the country in recent years.

Bringing down those costs by addressing the state of Britain's railway network and how it is funded, reducing costs for travelling fans, would be a welcome move.

The Bill is coming in with a Labour government, albeit with the caveat of potentially having a few ‘tweaks’ under the new Prime Minister, but taking it on board seriously, aiding the wealth distribution, as well as allowing for the Premier League to grow and flourish against its counterparts, will be a fine balancing act for the new Party in power.