Tracey Crouch: Good outcome for fans if blueprint includes independent regulator

Fan-led review chair Tracey Crouch says it will be “a very good outcome for football fans” if a Government White Paper confirms plans for an independent regulator.

Details of the Government’s blueprint for football have been reported by The Sun, including the creation of a regulator which would mediate on financial distribution where necessary, license clubs and vet prospective owners.

The White Paper, which was due to be published next week, is the Government’s response to the recommendations of the fan-led review, which was commissioned in the wake of the European Super League scandal in April 2021.

The foundation of the Super League in April 2021 sparked fan protests and prompted the fan-led review to be instigated
The foundation of the Super League in April 2021 sparked fan protests and prompted the fan-led review to be instigated (Ian West/PA)

Conservative MP and former Sports Minister Crouch led the review team which published its recommendations to reform the English game in November 2021, and was cautiously optimistic about what had been reported on Thursday.

She told the PA news agency: “I haven’t seen the White Paper yet, but if what has been leaked is true, then it looks like the principal recommendation of a regulator underpinned by legislation will be announced and that is a very good outcome for football fans across the pyramid.”

The Sun report suggested the White Paper would empower the regulator with backstop powers to impose a financial distribution settlement on the Premier League, EFL and the Football Association if they cannot agree one between them.

The three organisations are meeting regularly to discuss the so-called ‘New Deal For Football’ which includes talks on how money is distributed from the Premier League to the rest of the pyramid.

EFL chairman Rick Parry is involved in talks over a 'New Deal For Football' which also involve the Premier League and the FA
EFL chairman Rick Parry is involved in talks over a ‘New Deal For Football’ which also involve the Premier League and the FA (Mike Egerton/PA)

The EFL’s chairman Rick Parry has called for a 25 per cent share in all broadcast revenues for his organisation, something the Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters had said would be a “disaster”.

Parry had previously said he was “not hopeful” of reaching a settlement and had called on the Government to give the regulator backstop powers.

There was no mention of a transfer levy in the Sun’s report on the blueprint. Crouch and her review panel had recommended a levy of up to 10 per cent on Premier League transfer deals to further support the pyramid, which it estimated could raise an extra £160million a year.

The Sun reported that the regulator would operate a licensing system designed to ensure clubs were being run sustainably and for the benefit of their supporters and the communities they serve.

It will do this by introducing new tests intended to more thoroughly vet owners, ensure minimum standards for fan engagement around key decisions related to a club’s cultural heritage and crucially require teams only to enter competitions approved by the regulator.

The Sun says the intention of this licensing requirement is to prevent clubs staging any repeat of April 2021, where the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ signed up as founder members of a new European Super League.

The details reported by The Sun received a ‘B-plus’ from Niall Couper, the chief executive of the football reform group Fair Game, which has long campaigned for an independent regulator and says clubs should be rewarded with greater funding for being run sustainably.

Football Supporters’ Association chief executive Kevin Miles, who was part of the fan-led review panel, said: “Today’s reports indicate that many of our ideas are included in the White Paper – stronger tests on potential club owners, more supporter engagement, blocks on breakaway competitions like the European Super League and the establishment of an independent regulator.

“We look forward to seeing the full White Paper upon its release and, once again, we will enthusiastically and constructively engage with the consultation process to ensure that the regulator becomes as effective as possible.”

Downing Street said it hoped the plans, when they are finally published, would set out how the Premier League’s leading status could be protected while ensuring the rights of fans were respected.

“Our ambition remains to drive forward the radical reform needed to ensure football’s sustainability in the long term. The exact detail of the plan is being finalised and we’ll publish that shortly,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“What we are doing with this White Paper is seeking to strike the right balance across the board to ensure that this country continues to have and plays host to the best football teams in the world and also respects the rights of fans and ensures they are at the heart of these plans to tackle the big issues that face the game.”

Labour’s Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell said: “Labour strongly supports football regulation and a meaningful voice for fans. The Government has dithered and delayed taking action.”