Liz Truss can be ‘saviour of football’ if independent regulator is approved

·4-min read

Incoming Prime Minister Liz Truss can be “the saviour of football” by ensuring legislation is passed to create an independent regulator for the English game, according to a campaign group.

Truss officially becomes Prime Minister on Tuesday and, while solving the country’s energy crisis is the most pressing item in a heaving in-tray, observers from the world of football will be looking for her Government to press ahead with plans which would revolutionise how the game is run.

Last year the Government commissioned Conservative MP and former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch to chair a fan-led review of football governance.

The Government announced earlier this year that it accepted the key recommendation of that review – the creation of an independent regulator for football.

A White Paper was due to be published in the summer setting out proposals for the extent of the new regulator’s remit and powers, but has been delayed by the political upheaval in Westminster.

Fair Game, which believes a regulator can help ensure football is run sustainably, wants Truss to get the plans over the line.

“Liz Truss has the opportunity to write herself into the history books as the saviour of football,” Fair Game chief executive Niall Couper said.

“There is no doubt football is broken.

“At the moment one football club relegated from the Premier League gets £55m in a ‘parachute payment’ that is more than the league gives to all the clubs of League One, League Two, the National League, the National League North, the National League South, the Women’s Super League and the Women’s Championship put together. That is one club getting more than 140 others.

“That has sparked a culture of gambling throughout the pyramid. More than half of the clubs in the Championship spend more money on players’ wages than they get in revenue. And, in 2020, 52 per cent of the clubs in our top four divisions – that is before the pandemic – were technically insolvent. That is clearly unsustainable.

“There are dozens of hard-working clubs that are trying hard to live within their means, but because of the existing culture they are struggling to compete.

“Those clubs struggled through the pandemic and are now, with the cost-of-living crisis, tottering on the edge of extinction.

Nadine Dorries has stood down as Culture Secretary
Nadine Dorries has stood down as Culture Secretary (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“That culture needs to end. The governance of the game needs an overhaul. The financial flow needs a rethink. Yet, the football authorities have failed repeatedly to deliver. The time is up. The responsibility has to go to an independent regulator.

“Since 2019, the Conservative Party have made the right noises in terms of football governance. Now it is up to Liz Truss to complete the job and save our national game.”

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which has overseen the review and the Government response, is set for a new Secretary of State after Nadine Dorries announced she was standing down.

Sources close to the process are expecting the White Paper to be published next month, following the main political party conferences, but are concerned plans for a Premier League transfer levy – proposed by Crouch and her review team – will be dropped, at a time when clubs in the EFL and lower down the pyramid are struggling amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Nigel Huddleston has been Sports Minister since the fan-led review was first commissioned
Nigel Huddleston has been Sports Minister since the fan-led review was first commissioned (David Davies/PA)

PA understands a group of EFL clubs are being canvassed on ways to tackle the crisis, including lunchtime kick-offs and seeking to agree collective energy deals with suppliers.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston – who could also be replaced in Truss’ reshuffle – has said the White Paper would include backstop powers for the regulator to impose a new financial distribution solution on the Premier League and the EFL if they cannot agree a new deal.

Top-flight clubs are understood to still be examining the detail of a plan called the ‘New Deal For Football’, under which it is reported parachute payments would be reduced and merit-based payments would be made to Championship clubs based on league position.