Top-flight football in England is at a turning point, with a strong, independent regulator needed to secure the future of the national game, Britain’s top sports minister said on Thursday.
Nadine Dorries, UK’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told lawmakers in Britain’s House of Commons as she commented on the first-ever fan-led review into football governance.
The review, launched in April, has seen a comprehensive examination of the English football system. Its aim has been to explore ways of improving the governance, ownership and financial sustainability of clubs in the football pyramid, building on the strengths and benefits of the game.
Dorries said the final report is a thorough and detailed examination of the challenges faced by English football.
“The Review demonstrates that there are fundamental issues with our national sport and that this merits radical reform,” said Dorries.
“Fans across the country want and deserve that reform. We have seen in the past how football has been unable to reform itself and to deliver changes that stop the likes of Bury FC or Macclesfield Town FC from going out of business, or which stop clubs breaking away to set up the closed shop of a European Super League. We are at a turning point for football in this country.”
“It is a demonstration of the financial problems being caused by incentives within the game and reckless decision making by some clubs and owners, both of which are unsustainable and threaten the future of the game,” she added.
To address challenges outlined in the review, the report put forward strategic recommendations.
This includes ensuring the long-term sustainability of football, with the government creating a new independent regulator for English Football.
The regulator should be tasked, to ensure the financial sustainability of the professional game, by overseeing financial regulation in football.
There should also be new tests for new owners of football clubs as well as directors tests to ensure only good custodians and qualified directors can run the football clubs.
It also wants to see supporters properly consulted by their clubs in taking key decisions by means of a shadow board.
Women’s football should be treated with parity and given its own dedicated review as an urgent matter, the review added, saying the welfare of players exiting the game needs to be better protected, particularly at a young age.
The top-flight Premier League, home to some of the world’s greatest clubs, should guarantee its support to a pyramid system and make additional, proportionate contributions to further support football at lower levels.
Dorries said the government will work on a substantive response to the fan-led review, to be presented next spring.
“The government will now work at pace to determine the most effective way to deliver an independent regulator and any powers that might be needed.”
Responding in a radio interview to the review, Christian Purslow, CEO of Aston Villa FC said the Premier League has really always been the source of funding for the rest of football and “the danger here is killing the golden goose, if we over-regulate a highly successful financial and commercial operation”.
“I think we have to be very careful as we contemplate reform that it does not ultimately damage the game. We already have a hugely successful English football Premier League – the most successful in the world,” said Purslow.