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Football Governance Bill progresses to committee stage

Last month the Government announced it would launch legislation to introduce an Independent Football Regulator – and that legislation continued its progress through Parliament with its second reading today.

The FSA has backed an independent regulator for many years as the Premier League has proven time and again it is incapable of regulating its own clubs – as highlighted most famously by the European Super League debacle.

The regulator will prevent domestic clubs from entering such competitions, embed supporter consultation mechanisms within the game and protect club heritage items such as badges, kit colours and stadium locality. 

There was a broad cross-party consensus on those matters with many MPs making important points around protecting clubs from bad owners.

Culture secretary Lucy Frazer said: “Too many fans have been taken for granted, too many fans have seen their team’s owner change club badges and colours without any fan input, or seen their club sell their stadium and upsticks or try to join closed shop breakaway leagues.

“There have been 64 instances of clubs falling into administration since the Premier League was founded in 1992. Clearly, not all clubs are feeling the benefits of English football’s global success and something has to change.”

Shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire welcomed the Bill and said the Labour Party was “absolutely committed to passing this bill into law and to making it work. It is a once in a generation chance to change the game.”

She also questioned the Government’s decision to define parachute payments as being outside the regulator’s remit – something which many MPs pointed out was a significant gap given the impact they have upon the game.

Clive Betts MP – chair of the Football APPG and a member of the FSA’s APPG for Football Supporters – described the Premier League as having a “veto” over the issue of parachute payments and called for this to be reviewed at the next stage of legislative scrutiny.

“Parachute payments are deliberately excluded from the remit of the regulator. Why has that been done when it is one of the most distortive elements of the current arrangements?” asked Betts.

Crouch reports

The final word goes to ex-sports minister Tracey Crouch MP, who chaired the Fan-led Review and namechecked the FSA’s role in Parliament today in bringing this legislation to fruition. 

“It is always important to remember that the Premier League asked the Government to intervene when six clubs sought to join the European Super League. The Fan-led Review was the outcome of that request from the Premier League – in preparation for this speech I reread their submission to the review,” said Crouch.

“They thought there could be use for an institution with the capacity to intervene should they manifestly have failed to uphold their rules. Their submission also went on to say, and I quote, ‘Such a body could also set the general principles required for standards for governance and transparency, including for financial regulation; could strengthen the independent operation of the Owner and Director Test; support the principles of standards for owners responsibilities as custodians, and protect decision making over key issues for fans.’

“This Bill is exactly all those things shaped brilliantly to reflect the words of the Premier League itself of what a great regulator could look like – and leaving many of us scratching our heads as to why they’ve spent the last few weeks lobbying to stop the Bill progressing.”

Next steps

The legislation will now enter committee stage where a detailed examination of the Football Governance Bill will take place. Amendments to the Bill can take place at this stage and the FSA will publish a list of proposed amendments soon, alongside some simple actions that supporters can take to ask that their MP supports these amendments.

The Bill itself does have a remit on football ownership, finance and supporter engagement – it was never set up to fix VAR, lower ticket prices, or stop TV messing around with fixtures – so we have to be realistic about what can be proposed. 

More on that to come soon – and we’ll need your support.

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