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Premier League fights back at Government’s suggestion that football needs a state-backed regulator

Premier League have hit back at the Government’s plans to implement a state-backed regulator to oversee English football and have instead vowed to bring in their own measures to give fans more of a say.

The debate over whether the game in England needs an independent regulator has been argued for years, with the likes of Gary Neville pushing for it – but others, like Crystal Palace owner Steve Parish – vehemently against it.

The Government have now endorsed 10 key strategic recommendations from MP Tracey Crouch following a fan-led review of football governance launched in April 2021, one of which is to bring in a regulator – but it has sparked a strong reply from the Premier League.

In a statement, they said: ‘[We] recognise and accept the case for reform and for a strengthened regulatory system across football. We welcome the clarity from the Government about their position, and are committed to working with them during this next phase of consultation, although we will continue to maintain that it is not necessary for there to be a state regulator.

‘Since the publication of the Fan-Led Review, the Premier League and our clubs have been working at pace to understand the full impact of the Review’s recommendations and design and implement policies in response to its objectives; including through reviewing our Owners’ and Directors’ Test.

‘We agree that fans are of vital importance to the game and their voices should be better listened to across the League. We will be introducing a number of measures to improve this area and plan to make a detailed announcement before the start of the 2022/23 season.’

As it stands, a new independent regulator will be brought in to apply an enhanced owners and directors test, including the ‘integrity test’ for all owners and executives to improve corporate governance and protect clubs and their fans from unscrupulous owners.

The test would apply before the purchase of a club and also on an ongoing basis.

Crucially, the regulator will be backed by new legislation, giving it the power to licence and sanction clubs.

Speaking back in November 2021, Sky Sports pundit and Manchester United legend Neville spoke out in favour of an independent regulator in English football.

‘Sunderland, for instance, are now in League One,’ he began, speaking on Monday Night Football. ‘Manchester City have been in League One, they have seen what it is like down there.

‘They should, at this moment in time, clubs like City and those that have been in those positions, look at it and think: “Yes, I think we can come up with a better deal for football with more sustainability and stop Bury happening again.”

‘We can have real time monitoring, we can make sure control is replaced, we can be more diverse inclusive, we can have more regulations, make sure the game is fairer and we can make sure the FA are a little bit more powerful.

‘Who is to say that this independent regulator doesn’t empower the FA over the next few years to give them the proper powers that are needed to govern the game properly?

‘The FA don’t govern the game in this country, let’s be clear. We say it’s the governing body, it’s not.

‘The game is run by Roman Abramovich, the Glazer family and Daniel Levy. But the six are struggling with the 14 at times and the 14 are struggling with the six, if they were being really honest.

‘There is a division even in the Premier League. You have got to remember six Premier League clubs were scheming behind the other 14 members’ backs for months, trying to build their own league, where, basically, they weren’t going to allow the other 14 in.’

Palace owner Parish, though, is against the plans, despite being among the 14 clubs Neville mentions.

‘Unfortunately, I think these solutions are in grave danger of huge, unintended consequences that could make the game a lot worse in the long run,’ Parish said.

‘We are the envy of the world, make no mistake. We emerged from the COVID crisis, the English game, as the most healthy game in the world, without a doubt.

‘Everybody looks on us, across Europe particularly, somewhat comedically, thinking we are about to create a huge act of self harm.’

The Premier League recognises and accepts the case for reform and for a strengthened regulatory system across football. We welcome the clarity from the Government about their position, and are committed to working with them during this next phase of consultation, although we will continue to maintain that it is not necessary for there to be a statutory-backed regulator.

Since the publication of the Fan-Led Review, the Premier League and our clubs have been working at pace to understand the full impact of the Review’s recommendations and design and implement policies in response to its objectives; including through reviewing our Owners’ and Directors’ Test.

We agree that fans are of vital importance to the game and their voices should be better listened to across the League. We will be introducing a number of measures to improve this area and plan to make a detailed announcement before the start of the 2022/23 season.

We are reassured that the Government acknowledges the success of the Premier League and the importance of delivering change that also protects the League’s position as one of this country’s most successful global exports. It is this that creates the extraordinary football we see every week in grounds around the country and has enabled our ongoing commitment to support football at all levels by reinvesting an unprecedented £1.6 billion outside of the Premier League over the next three seasons.

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