English football’s watershed independent regulator to launch next year

The new commission will oversee the sport in England and is set for the beginning of the 2024-25 season

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Tuesday 11 April 2023 14:30 BST
The Premier League will be subject to a new regulator
The Premier League will be subject to a new regulator (Getty Images)

An independent regulator for football could be installed for the start of 2024-25 season, with a shadow regulator potentially in place for the start of next season. The Independent has been told that work has already started on the bill, that would need to be completed before the delayed King’s speech setting out a new programme of legislation in autumn.

The announcement of an independent body by the recent government white paper was a landmark moment in football, as England became the first major country to commit to regulating the sport. That has brought a significant amount of politicking, amid Premier League resistance. Other major football nations are looking on with interest to see how it works in practice, with a potential for a knock-on effect across Europe.

While it is as yet undecided what the regulator would look like or how big it would be, potential models to follow include the Gambling Commission which came out of the 2005 Gambling Act. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport is surveying all of this and is determined to press on with the regulator.

This all comes amid mounting political tension within the game, as Premier League chairman Richard Masters was accused of trying “to kick a new football regulator into the long grass” in a recent parliamentary committee. While Masters insisted the league has “done nothing but engage with the process”, the stance of the elite competition is understood to have aggravated many within government and political circles.

Numerous sources talk of the competition’s “loss of political clout”, with much of that going back to how long it took to deliver Covid funds to the rest of the pyramid. A core connected issue regarding the regulator is an ongoing dispute between the Premier League and EFL over distribution of resources, with a remaining distance between positions, especially around controversial parachute payments when teams are relegated to the Championship.

There is nevertheless a view that the Premier League might concede that it is better to get in place quicker as a prospective Labour government would bring in more robust regulation. This is one reason why the current government also wants to put it in place before the next general election. The Premier League’s approach has meanwhile “raised eyebrows” within the opposition, according to sources.

All of this comes amid a growing debate over state and sovereign wealth fund ownership of clubs. There is an expected push against the landmark issue, especially after Manchester City were charged with multiple alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play rules, the Saudi Arabian influence on Newcastle United questioned amid the LIV Golf case and Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim also seeking to buy Manchester United.

The growing argument is that it could be terminal for the Premier League’s successful core value of competitive balance. An increasing number of clubs are said to have been disappointed that the regulator isn’t dealing with the issue of who owns clubs. Some club boards therefore want the Premier League to take the lead, and plan to raise it at the next shareholders meeting.

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