UK government steps in to regulate big money football

April 25 – After months of heated debate about how to reform the national sport, an independent regulator is being set up with the aim of having oversight of the English game’s finances and club ownership.

The regulator will have statutory powers to licence and sanction clubs and block suspicious takeovers following a fan-led review last year.

“Football is nothing without its fans and for too long the football authorities have collectively been unable to tackle some of the biggest issues in the game,” said UK culture secretary Nadine Dorries.

“The government took decisive action to conduct the fan-led review and today we have endorsed every one of its 10 strategic recommendations.”

One of the new watchdog’s main tasks will be to apply a new enhanced owners’ and directors’ test. This replaces the current one administered by the Premier League, English Football League and the Football Association.

“It will include a new ‘integrity test’ for all owners and executives, and enhanced due diligence – including sources of funding – upon an acquisition,” the DCMS said.

This follows Roman Abramovich’s ongoing sale of Chelsea amid government sanctions and a Saudi Arabian-backed takeover of Newcastle United in October 2021 that caused a fan backlash and was criticised by Amnesty International.

Among the other recommendations is the creation of “shadow boards” at clubs consisting of supporters having a greater input into decision making, and greater diversity in boardrooms.

The need for a regulator was summed up by Julian Knight, who chairs the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

“Developments such as the proposal of the preposterous European Super League and the struggles for survival faced by clubs in our communities have exposed football governance in this country for the joke that it is,” he said.

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