For three decades now, Premier League clubs have enjoyed an enormous amount of power to effectively govern English football, backed by the EPL’s fat cats.
But that domination could be set to end in 2023, with prime minister Rishi Sunak expected to announce that an independent regulator will be introduced to oversee the sport in England.
It could spark revolution in English football – and Premier League bigwigs won’t like that one bit.
The introduction of a regulator is set to be announced in a governmental White Paper, which has been written on the back of a range of recommendations that came from the independent fan-led review led by the former sports minister, Tracey Crouch, in 2021.
But what changes would the introduction of an independent regulator herald?
It’s thought that the independent football regulator will have ultimate power over English football, meaning that for the first time Premier League officials and clubs will have somebody to answer to.
The regulator would also oversee the finances of English football, and as well as keeping a close eye on Financial Fair Play – or whatever iteration UEFA introduces next, they may also decide on a fairer distribution of TV rights monies and other finance through the football pyramid.
That’s why the Premier League are up in arms about Sunak’s announcement – they thought they’d gotten away with it when short-lived former prime minister Liz Truss appeared to backpedal on giving a football regulator the green light back in September.
Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear compared the introduction of a regulator to Maoism, and wrote:
“Football is a private sector business and has flourished that way. Enforcing upon football a philosophy akin to Maoist collective agriculturalism will not make the English game fairer, it will kill the competition which is its very lifeblood.”
You suspect that others within the Premier League are privately furious that their previously untouchable power will be shaken up by the introduction of a higher authority.
What Powers will the Football Regulator Have?
By confirming the need for an independent football regulator, the government will conclude that neither the Premier League nor the FA have the ability, or interest in, self governance.
And so the regulator will be called upon to oversee the behaviour of all clubs in the pyramid, with a brief similar to that of the Financial Conduct Authority, who have the power to meter out sanctions on those that cross the line.
That will prevent pathological ‘over spenders’ from continually breaching fair play rules without compromise, and it will – in an ideal world – prevent storied old clubs like Bury from going bust.
One of the reasons Premier League clubs, and the ‘big six’ in particular, are against a regulator is that they will have to hand over more money generated through media rights to lower league outfits. This will be voluntary at first, with the regulator assuming power to forcibly introduce fairer terms if a mutual deal cannot be reached.
This will be especially true if parachute payments are, as expected, abolished under new rules, and so EFL members will be lobbying for a greater share of TV money in a bid to iron out the current imbalance in football finances.
A regulator may just bring about a change in football club ownership, with supporters promised a greater input if the recommendations of the fan-led review are enacted.
Those include the introduction of a ‘golden share’, which would give a fan representative the chance to vote on major decisions – such as the building of a new stadium, or whether a club should or shouldn’t join a breakaway competition like the European Super League.
Can the Football Regulator Block Club Takeovers?
Although a football regulator would likely have an input into the processes of the fit and proper person’s test that prospective club owners must pass, they wouldn’t be able to block a takeover on moral grounds.
So, whether you agree with it or not, the regulator is unlikely to be able to stop Saudi investment in English football where the individuals in question meet the necessary requirements.
They could toughen the rules on who qualifies to be a football club owner/director, and request more due diligence from those without prior experience in running a club at a similar level. Whether that would prevent ‘bad’ owners like those that nearly drove Derby County into the ground remains to be seen.
You can be sure, however, that football’s new governor will be keeping a close eye on club’s that have been acquired via state sponsorship, such as Manchester City and Newcastle United. In a bid to keep the Premier League ‘competitive’, as will be their main goal, they will have the power to act against those that break spending rules.