On Thursday morning, a 92-page report was published in full over proposals to reform football, with the Government saying it was “intervening now before it is too late to set football back onto a sustainable footing”.
An independent regulator, not part of the football industry, with licensing powers for clubs and the bastion for the directors’ and owners’ test, is central to the proposals. West Ham were the first club to speak out against the plan on its publication. Sullivan told Sky Sports: “It’s a terrible idea. The Government are terrible at running everything.
“The regulator will have a huge staff that football will have to pay for. It will be a total waste of money. The Premier League is the best run, most successful league in the world. Why does an incompetent Government think it will improve things?”
The Premier League had warned last night of the potential “unintended consequences” of introducing an independent regulator, which they said could “damage the game”.
In contrast, Brighton chief executive Paul Barber welcomed the move, saying football had essentially failed to get its own house in order. He told the BBC: “I had hoped football itself could have solved some of the difficulties but we haven’t, so we only have ourselves to blame. But clubs should have nothing to fear, as they should be running themselves in the right way anyway. I would like to think it will be a light touch and football will limit the power of the regulator by doing the right thing.”
The White Paper follows a lengthy review, which included 20,000 fans, into the sport by Tracey Crouch MP, which was published in November 2021.
A regulator will oversee licensing for all clubs down to the National League and ensure they can prove sound financial footing and governance. In addition, the paying public have been put at the heart of the proposed regulations to “ensure that English football is sustainable and resilient, for the benefit of fans and the local communities football clubs serve”.
The aim is to maintain the heritage of individual clubs, and also block any proposed breakaway competitions, such as the much-maligned European Super League.
The White Paper, which was discussed in Parliament on Thursday morning, concluded that football could no longer regulate itself.
It stated: “Football is a mature market that has had its chances to reform but has failed to do so. Unlike other sports, football has been given ample opportunity to reform its self-regulatory system to address problems that have been highlighted repeatedly over the years. The industry does not have the incentives and governance structures to make the behavioural and structural changes needed.”
The Government wants a greater share of football’s wealth distributed to the lower tiers and warned clubs would increasingly be in danger of going bust without external action from outside the sport. “Although the incidence of club liquidation is low at present, the Government expects this failure rate to increase without reform,” it said. “The new system will be designed so that the likelihood of any financial distress is greatly reduced.”
No timeframe has been set on when the regulator will be set up, but the Government is adamant it will be outside the football industry to ensure its independence.