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Fan-led Review: Cross-party support for Independent Regulator

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston today (25th November 2021) responded in the House of Commons to yesterday’s Fan-led Review of Football Governance report and said the Government would work “at pace [to] deliver the independent regulator and any powers that might be needed.”

The minister was responding to an Urgent Question from Jo Stevens MP, the shadow secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which asked whether the report would receive Government backing.

The House of Commons was united with MPs from the Conservatives and Labour speaking in favour of the Fan-led Review recommendations – their voices were joined by MPs from the Liberal Democrats, DUP and SNP. 

Not a single MP opposed the concept of an independent regulator in football.

As well as thanking the review’s chair, Tracey Crouch MP, Huddleston also paid tribute to the expert panel, which included the Football Supporters’ Association, and the thousands of fans across the country who contributed via live evidence sessions and surveys.

Turning point for football

“The report shows that fundamental change is needed in our national game and fans deserve that. We are at a turning point for football in this country,” said Huddleston.

“The primary recommendation of the review that football requires a strong, independent regulator is a recommendation that I and the Government endorse in principle today. 

“The Government will now work at pace to determine the most effective way to deliver the independent regulator and any powers that might be needed. That is what the fans want and this Government is on the side of fans.”

Speaking on the opposite bench Jo Stevens MP paid particular tribute to “the Football Supporters’ Association and every fan who took part in this review” (see below) and said there was cross-party backing for an independent regulator. 

“We have known for a very, very long time that football is broken,” Stevens said. “This is not a new thing and we on this side of the House have called for years for an independent regulator to fix it.

“We’re therefore delighted that it forms the key recommendation of the report.”

Stevens also called upon the Government to not just accept the “principle” of the recommendations – but to enshrine them in law. The shadow minister asked the Government to ensure supporter involvement on the independent regulator board – calling for the FSA to sit on this body alongside the FA.

(FSA note: Our volunteers committed hundreds of hours to draft the FSA’s evidence submission and steer it through our AGM. Huge thanks go to Dave Pennington and Roger Ellis in particular for that, with additional acknowledgement to Robbie Whittaker and James Young for their efforts.)

Commons debate timeline:

You can watch the entire debate here (starts 10.35.11).

  • Opening remarks from sports minister Nigel Huddleston and Labour’s Jo Stevens MP.
  • Tracey Crouch MP (Conservative) thanked the thousands of fans and 130-plus supporter groups who had contributed – “without them and their input the recommendations would not be as they are in the report,” Crouch said.
  • Damian Collins MP (Conservative) said it was “vital that the independent regulator has the powers to do its job and that must include real time access to clubs’ financial information if we are to prevent more failures.” 
  • Clive Betts MP (Labour) argued that the regulator must have real powers to redistribute money and remove the “cliff edge” in finance between the Premier League and EFL.
  • James Daly MP (Conservative) outlined Bury FC’s history and the “devastating impact on the local economy” calling on stakeholders to work together to help ensure “the community buys Gigg Lane for the people of Bury to allow football to continue in our historic stadium.”
  • Jane Hunt MP (Conservative) said: “Football clubs are at the very heart of local communities” and called upon fans to be put at the centre of the game.
  • Tony Lloyd MP (Labour) called upon the Government to ensure a regulator has proper legal powers and a resource base and, likewise, felt supporters should be similarly backed. “Football is a sport belonging to the community, not simply a commodity to be bought and sold,” said Lloyd.
  • Barry Sheerman MP (Labour) welcomed “a brilliant report” and criticised club-owning “oligarchs who don’t care about our communities.”
  • Iain Duncan Smith MP (Conservative) backed a regulator and said it must have the “ability to stop people bringing money into our sport which actually degrades the sport and comes from very, very dangerous and dodgy circumstances.” The minister’s response acknowledged that football was “unique and special but has shown to be incapable of reforming itself.”
  • Jessica Morden MP (Labour) cited Newport County as a “stellar example” of supporter ownership while Philip Hollobone MP (Conservative) asked for more money to be redistributed into grassroots football clubs.
  • Brendan Clarke-Smith MP (Conservative) talked of the fans and community who saved Worksop in his constituency while Chris Elmore MP (Labour) urged the Government to move fast and said millions of fans across the UK were waiting to hear what timescales will be.
  • David Johnston MP (Conservative) called on Government to make sure their actions protected “small clubs ran on a shoestring” while his colleague Scott Benton MP (Conservative) spoke about the challenges Blackpool fans faced in recent years and called for a stronger owners’ and directors’ test.
  • MPs from across the UK contributed throughout the debate – Rt Hon David Jones MP (Conservative) reminded the Commons that five Welsh clubs played in the professional English pyramid while Jim Shannon MP (DUP) covered his experiences as a Northern Irish Leicester City fan. Jamie Stone (Lib Dems), along with the SNP’s Gavin Newlands MP and Peter Grant MP, also spoke about the situation north of the border. 

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  • Premier Leage Fans Fund


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