The iron fist of democracy. English football heads towards government-imposed regulator

November 25 – English football has taken a step closer to being regulated by a government-backed but independent overseer whose powers could include taking control of failing clubs from their owners.

A report authored by former UK sports minister Tracey Crouch and with input from various stakeholders including fan groups, proposes the formation of an independent regulator, as well as more rigorous integrity checks around club owners and directors among a host of measures that will make clubs and leagues more transparent and accountable.

The report includes a proposal for a 10% tax (‘solidarity levy’) on Premier League player transfers that would generate about £160 million a year that could then be distributed to lower tier clubs.

Crouch says that the regulator would be installed via parliamentary legislation and could be in place as early as the start of the 2023-24 season.

Other recommendations include a reform of the Premier League parachute payments which gives an unfair advantage to clubs relegated from the top tier, coupled with the introduction of standard promotion and relegation clauses into player contracts to give clubs greater management controls over their finances.

The voice of supporters’ groups has been clearly heard with recommendations for the creation of a ‘shadow board’ for club supporters, as well as giving fans’ groups a ‘golden share’ that would allow them veto over heritage issues including joining new competitions, moving stadium and changing club colours and crests.

It is also proposed that a separate report be commissioned for the women’s game to ensure greater parity with the men’s game.

The most controversial of the recommendations for Premier League clubs will be the transfer levy. Currently a 4% fee is taken off every transfer and distributed between a player pension fund and Premier League and EFL academies. FIFA is also proposing a 6% levy on transfers. The effect ultimately being that a £10 million transfer could end up actually costing the club £12 million once the taxes are taken into consideration.

The review panel that was formed under Crouch came as a response to the failed attempt by six of the Premier League’s biggest clubs to join the Super League breakaway. The panel included Everton chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale, former England manager Roy Hodgson and former England player Clarke Carlisle.

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