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Sports minister: “Radical” football reform is coming

Sports minister Stuart Andrew today presented to Parliament what he called “the most radical overhaul of football governance since the rules were first invented back in 1863.” The proposals cover key issues around ownership, breakaway competitions, grassroots funding and supporter engagement.

The sports minister told Parliament a new independent regulator would make sure clubs are financially resilient. He received cross-party support from fellow Conservative MPs as well as those from Labour, Liberal Democrats, the SNP and DUP.

“Clubs will have to show they have sound financial business models and good corporate governance,” said Andrew. “Secondly, we will strengthen the owner and director test to protect clubs and their fans from careless owners.

“Thirdly, we will give fans a greater say in the running of their clubs, this will include stopping owners from changing vital club heritage like names, badges and home shirt colours without consulting fans first. Likewise clubs will have to seek regulatory approval for any sale of the stadium and fan engagement will be a crucial part of that process.

“Fourthly, we will give the regulator the power to block widely condemned closed shop leagues like the European Super League.

“Finally, we will give the regulator fallback powers over financial redistribution – supporting the pyramid is crucial. When the financial health of the pyramid is at risk the regulator will have the power to intervene,” said the sports minister.

Sports minister Stuart Andrew © Alamy

He told Parliament the plans would protect the long term success of our national game and restore fans’ position at the heart of how football is run.

The sports minister also rejected the argument that this would impose “burdensome” restrictions on clubs. He told MPs the football industry had failed to act despite repeated calls for reform.

“We have been forced to step in to protect our national game”, said Andrew.

Labour response

Jeff Smith MP, Labour’s shadow sports minister, made clear Labour’s broad support for the proposals and urged the Government to put forward a Bill and move towards legislation.

“Football clubs are at the heart of our communities and football has long been in need of reform. Too often decisions about our clubs have been made without reference to the fans, without whom football would be nothing,” said Smith.

“Historic clubs have collapsed because of the reckless actions of owners and the longer we wait for change the more clubs are at risk. Southend United face a winding up hearing next week.”

“It’s not clear how much more we’re going to learn from a consultation on a White Paper, which wasn’t already explored by the fan-led review, and had wide ranging fan and stakeholder input supported by an expert advisory panel.”

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