Client news   |    November 29th, 2021

INDEPENDENT REGULATION

I have long argued for the need for an Independent Regulator in football.

Fans generally have little say in the ownership of their clubs and how they are run and there have been so many examples in recent years of clubs gambling everything for success and putting their very existence at risk. 

I have spent the last 11 years periodically involving myself in the affairs of the team I support to help to prevent administration and worse. I happen to support a club where the fans will fight tooth and nail to protect their club against unwelcome owners, but many are not so well organised. Often fans have to guess what is going on behind the scenes at their club and it can be frustrating when you know a bit more than your fellow supporters but can’t say anything publicly for a number of reasons – legal and otherwise.

The reality is that the relationship between the Premier League and the EFL is dominated by the interests and wealth of the Premier League. Under the current arrangements there is no independent accountability. With an Independent Regulator comes that accountability to fans, the communities in which they live and Government.

For me, it is vital that the regulator is set a clear brief and most importantly has the power to reform. Just publishing critical reports is not enough and the regulator must have the ability to achieve compliance from clubs with its directives. There must be a structure that backs up those directives with fines, financial compensation, deduction of points, transfer bans and banning orders for non-complying directors. No longer should we as fans watch as our clubs are brought down by irresponsible owners or worse. The regulator has to assume responsibility for the owners and directors’ testwhich has lost credibility with so many fans. Additionally, all clubs should be formally licensed by the Regulator.

The Regulator should have responsibility for the long-term future of the game in this country and if the so called Big Six teams try once again to bring down the domestic game by moving to a European Super League, then the Regulator must act. No slap across the wrist as previously but punitive fines and sanctions. As part of the proposals announced last week by Tracey Crouch, the Government want to see more money permeate down from the Premier League to the lower leagues where most clubs are not viable businesses. In the EFL Championship many clubs spend more on player wages than they generate in income which is unsustainable in anything but the short term. Just look at Derby County FC.

I am not personally in favour of the regulator getting involved in ticket prices as that is a supply and demand issue just like any other product pricing in any business in the UK. What I do think is that fans should not be priced out of watching their favourite team and better to have a fuller stadium of fans paying less than half empty stadiums of fans paying high prices. Pricing needs innovative thinking from clubs rather than regulation.

I don’t believe the regulator should be just one person but rather a multi-disciplinary panel of experts in their field. This is our national game which is of interest to millions so Government should meet the cost of the panel in my view.

Make no mistake the governing bodies for football in this country are resistant to change and always have been so they will want to self-regulate as much as they can, but the Government must make this independent regulation become a reality sooner rather than later.

Image – Getty

Peter Varney - Chairman, Integral Sports Management

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