Neville and Bernstein lead call for independent football regulator in England

October 16 – A group including former FA chairman David Bernstein, former England defender Gary Neville (pictured), former FA executive David Davies and Manchester mayor Andy Burnham have called for government to intervene in the game and set up an independent regulator.

Their manifesto, titled ‘Saving Our Beautiful Game’, comes at the end of another week of governance and political turmoil within the English professional game following the failure of the Manchester United and Liverpool-led ‘Project Big Picture’ that would have handed power to the big six Premier League clubs in return for a £250 million covid-bailout of English Football League clubs.

Although failing to get past the Premier League at its first meeting on the proposal, it nevertheless exposed a deep and growing rift in the English professional game and emphasised the increasingly precarious existence of clubs in the EFL’s professional tier who have become financially threatened by the Covid pandemic.

It is the latest development of a fractious week in which controversial plans to restructure English football – led by Liverpool and Manchester United – emerged on Sunday, only to be condemned by the Premier League itself and then quickly rejected at meeting of all 20 top flight clubs on Wednesday.

The ‘Save our Beautiful Game’ manifesto says “football has shown itself incapable of self-reform” and that only an independent regulator will deal with “core issues” including financial disparity and unsustainability, a balanced power structure, and the shortage of BAME coaches and managers at the top level, a general lack of diversity.

“The principle is that we don’t trust that football can govern itself and create the fairest deal for all, whether that’s the Premier League, EFL clubs, non-League clubs or the fans,” Neville, a part-owner of League Two side Salford City, told Sky Sports:

“It has been proven over this past six months that football has struggled to bring everyone together, and proven to be incapable over a 25-30 year period of transforming the money in the game into something that works for everybody.

Bernstein, who reluctantly had to step away from the FA chair due to age limit rules, told the BBC: “It’s all very well suddenly talking about strategic plans a day after something else has fallen through. It doesn’t ring really true to me. I don’t believe that football across the board is going to be able to come together sufficiently to do this. Football may come kicking and screaming into this, it may well have to be forced on football.”

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