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Labour promises to deliver regulator if Government fails to do so

This week Labour has said it will prioritise delivering a new independent regulator for football if the Government fails to do so before the next election.

With time running out in the current Parliament, the Government has still not moved forward with legislation that would deliver the promised independent football regulator that would transform football governance in England and Wales.

Lucy Powell MP, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons (Manchester Central, Labour): told the Commons: “Despite the King’s Speech being only a few months ago, the Government seems to be running scared of its own legislative programme.

“So where have all their flagship Bills gone?”

Labour’s promises to deliver the reform came the same week that football’s current regime of self-regulation had again failed to deliver a fair financial settlement between the Premier League and EFL.

Yesterday, the EFL criticised the Premier League for “repeated failure to put forward any new funding offer for EFL Clubs that would have significant benefits for the entire football pyramid.”

With clubs across the EFL in crisis, Powell said the Government had to deliver reform.

“Much needed and long-heralded legislation to regulate English football is still nowhere to be seen,” Powell said.

“Just this week the Premier League shelved a new financial settlement for the football pyramid and the English Football League are responding today. Fans in Bury, Macclesfield, Derby, Reading, Scunthorpe and, may I add, Portsmouth, want their precious clubs saved.

“If the Conservatives want to make this an election issue in these places then I say bring it on because let’s be really clear here – if they don’t want to regulate football governance then we will.”

In response Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Portsmouth North, Conservative) said: “We will shortly bring through the Bill on football governance.

“It is a programme of work that we initiated – the review that was done with help from many clubs around the country has led to this and of course, when we bring legislation to the house, it needs to have the confidence of the English Football League and having attended many events with them myself that is very clear and I know that is understood.”

Cross-party support

While Labour urged the Government to act, MPs from across the Chamber joined that call with James Sunderland (Bracknell, Conservative) highlighting Reading’s plight.

“The Leader of the House might have seen in the news this week that Reading Football Club intends to sell its state-of-the-art Bearwood training ground, in what I hope will not be a precursor to administration,” said Sunderland.

““Football fans across Berkshire and beyond are in despair at the state of some of the clubs in our beautiful game. Although the Football Governance Bill cannot come soon enough, will my Right Hon Friend please use all the levers at her disposal to ensure that it has sufficient teeth and powers to prevent owners who are not fit and proper from taking control of clubs, and to ensure that those who slip through the net are properly held to account?”

Mordaunt said that legislation must be “effective” and “the amount of input that it has had from so many fans of the game across the country is unprecedented.”

“The game would be nothing without its fans, and clubs are treasured community assets. We must take care of everyone in the football pyramid. When the Bill comes to the House, we will ensure that it does exactly that,” added Mordaunt.

What does the FSA think?

When it comes to football regulation the word “imminent” has probably been said hundreds of times by ministers and civil servants in recent years – and an incoming football regulator (aka IREF) is more imminent than ever. A commitment to legislation featured in November’s King’s Speech and, since April 2021 and the European Super League fiasco, MPs from all parties have furiously agreed with each other that action must be taken.

So why the delay? Because the Government wanted to give football the opportunity to put its own house in order. Football (or rather the Premier League) has had three years to do that and it has failed.

The Government must get IREF over the goalline which would make it the latest – and arguably the biggest – FSA campaign success to file alongside safe standing, an away price cap, the defeat of a European Super League, and more.

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