Premier League warns of ‘unintended consequences’ as English football regulator takes step closer

Premier League warns of ‘unintended consequences’ as English football regulator takes step closer

The Premier League has warned of potential “unintended consequences” of introducing a new independent regulator for football, which it says could “damage the game” and impact the top-flight's global popularity.

The government will announce the introduction of the regulator in a White Paper on Thursday, in legislative plans which promise to transform the governance of the game across England.

The English Football League has welcomed the news and called for a radical shake up of the way wealth is distributed down the pyramid.

The EFL wants the Premier League to scrap parachute payments and hand over a greater share of its vast broadcast income, although the top flight is reluctant to meet the demands and claims it is distributing £1.6billion over three years to the wider game.

The new regulator will have the power to intervene as “a last resort” if the leagues and their clubs are unable to come to an agreement.

The government insists the preferred outcome is for the game to find a solution without the help of the new regulator, which the Premier League says it is committed to doing.

In a statement, the Premier League described the White Paper as “a significant moment for English football” and insisted it “recognises the case for change”, but pointedly did not welcome the impending legislation and sounded a note of caution.

“The publication of this White Paper is a significant moment for English football,” read the Premier League's statement.

“The Premier League and its clubs will now carefully consider the Government’s plan for England to become the first major nation to make football a government-regulated industry.

“The Premier League recognises the case for change in football governance and continues to implement stronger and more independent regulation. We are strengthening our ownership rules and are already providing £1.6 billion in financial support to the wider game in this current three-year cycle.

“We appreciate the Government’s commitment to protect the Premier League’s continued success. It is vital that regulation does not damage the game fans love to watch in the deepest professional pyramid in the world, or its ability to attract investment and grow interest in our game.

“We will now work constructively with stakeholders to ensure that the proposed Government regulator does not lead to any unintended consequences that could affect the Premier League’s position as the most-watched football league in the world, reduce its competitiveness or put the unrivalled levels of funding we provide at risk.

Tracey Crouch MP has spearheaded the plans (Parliament)
Tracey Crouch MP has spearheaded the plans (Parliament)

“The Premier League has already taken action to address many issues raised in the Fan-Led Review, and will work with Government and Parliamentarians on the next phase of the White Paper. We are committed to delivering a football-led solution to address key issues in the game - including financial distributions, financial controls and the football calendar - together with The FA and the EFL.”

The regulator - which was first proposed in Tracey Crouch MP's fan-led review, published in November 2021 - will implement a new licensing system from the top flight down to the National League, requiring all clubs to demonstrate sound financials and strong governance before being allowed to compete.

It will also guarantee fans a greater say in the running of their clubs and help protect clubs’ cultural heritage by stopping stop owners from changing names, badges and home shirt colours without supporters' consent.

There will be new tests for owners and directors, while the regulator will be able to scrutinise clubs' financials and stop them from joining breakaway competitions like a European Super League.

Bury and Macclesfield Town are among those to have gone out of business due to financial mismanagement in recent years and prime minister Rishi Sunak warned that without new legislation “clubs both big and small” are at risk.

These bold new plans will put fans back at the heart of football.

“Since its inception over 165 years ago, English football has been bringing people together, providing a source of pride for communities and inspiration to millions of fans across the country,” the prime minister said. “Yet despite the success of the sport both at home and abroad, we know that there are real challenges which threaten the stability of clubs both big and small.

“These bold new plans will put fans back at the heart of football, protect the rich heritage and traditions of our much-loved clubs and safeguard the beautiful game for future generations.”

In separate legislation to be announced alongside the White Paper, the Government will launch a review of the existing visa system for elite footballers in England, which it says will “examine how the game can continue to attract the best global talent while maintaining strong support for young domestic players to develop from the grassroots level”.

There were fears the regulator would be scrapped during the short-lived premiership of Liz Truss, but Sunak has pushed ahead with the plans and culture secretary Michelle Donelan wants the regulator in place for the 2024-25 season.