English football to have independent regulator with ‘suitability test’ for owners, says Nadine Dorries

Dorries’ comments follow the recommendations made in the fan-led review chaired by Conservative MP Tracey Crouch

Harry Latham-Coyle
Monday 04 April 2022 13:21 BST
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries laid out the future of English football governance
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries laid out the future of English football governance (PA)

English football will have an independent regulator in place by the next general election in plans set out by Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary.

According to a report in the Financial Times, Dorries, who took over the position of secretary of state for the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) from Oliver Dowden in September, will also introduce a more stringent “suitability test” for owners and directors.

Both measures were suggested by Conservative MP Tracey Crouch in her fan-led review of football governance, which was released in November.

While Crouch said that there was an “urgent” need to consider legislation, the report indicates that Dorries will push this to next year, ahead of a likely 2024 general election.

“Some will express their concern that this is the government kicking the issue of football regulation into the long grass,” Dorries is said to have written in her letter to the Prime Minister.

“I believe that this is the opposite; it is the government committed to unprecedented regulation that protects fans, while preserving the economic value of our national game.”

The “Crouch review” was launched in 2021 soon after the failure of the breakaway European Super League, with the collapse of Bury FC also cited in the announcement of the terms of reference.

It made 47 recommendations for improvement, underpinned by the introduction of an independent regulator, which would have twin primary corporate and financial responsibilities, and was outlined as being licensed by the government, but not run by it - like television regulator Ofcom.

The Football Association (FA) currently governs the domestic game and has been suggested to be against the introduction of an independent regulator, preferring instead that a supervisor is implemented into the body’s structure.

Tracey Crouch chaired the fan-led review of football governance (Handout from DCMS/PA)
Tracey Crouch chaired the fan-led review of football governance (Handout from DCMS/PA) (PA Media)

The Premier League has also suggested they back the FA - Helen MacNamara, chief policy and corporate officer, told the DCMS committee in March that the top English league were “supportive of the FA” and “think there is a natural reason why the FA would be an effective regulator”.

The DCMS has indicated it will press ahead with plans even if it causes conflict with the most powerful English footballing bodies.

“Football is nothing without its fans who are the bedrock of clubs across the country and it’s why we made sure they had a pivotal role in the football governance review, overseen by Tracey Crouch, MP,” read a statement to the Financial Times.

“We are committed to introducing an independent regulator of English football and strengthening the existing owners’ and directors’ tests.

“Protecting club heritage, improving corporate governance and greater financial sustainability throughout the football pyramid will all be at the heart of our response to the fan-led review.”

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