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Football Labour urged to push through football regulator for ‘quick win’ after election

PUSHING through an independent football regulator can be a “quick win” for the new Labour government, a reform group said today.

The Football Governance Bill had not made sufficient progress to be passed into law before the general election was called in May, but both Fair Game and the Football Supporters Association (FSA) have urged Labour to swiftly get the regulator over the line after the party’s landslide victory.

The regulator’s central purpose is to ensure clubs are financially sustainable and accountable to their fans through a licensing system. The Bill also gave the regulator backstop powers to impose a financial settlement between the Premier League and the EFL, which they have so far been unable to agree themselves.

Niall Couper, the chief executive of Fair Game, congratulated Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on the party’s victory and added: “The in-tray for Starmer is massive and no doubt he will be keen to push forward with a large number of legislative changes. And we hope a reworked Football Governance Bill is amongst them.

“Change is urgently needed and it could be a quick win.”

The FSA, which along with Fair Game has been instrumental in lobbying for a regulator, said: “In its manifesto Labour said it was committed to making Britain the best place in the world to be a football fan and that it would deliver the independent regulator that the game needs.

“We urge the new government to move quickly on that — the previous Football Governance Bill had cross-party support and it’s low-hanging fruit for an incoming sports minister.

“We look forward to working with MPs across the political spectrum to make the Bill as strong as possible and get it across the line once and for all.”

Fair Game chief Couper said the previous Bill was “flawed in many ways” but that his organisation had identified the issues required to make it “fit for purpose.”

“Financial flow was not addressed, the owners’ and directors’ test needed strengthening, support for clubs to implement the change was overlooked, and an early commitment to equality standards had been shelved,” he said.

“But that should not represent a hurdle. Fair Game and our legal partners have looked at the Bill line by line, and have identified the necessary tweaks needed to make the Bill fit for purpose.

“We have an oven-ready version that the new government can deliver.

“We will be seeking to work with Keir Starmer and the new culture secretary and sports minister to help deliver those changes and create a fairer future for football.”

Shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire lost her Bristol Central seat to the Greens overnight, so it is not yet clear who Starmer will appoint to that position in the Cabinet.

Stephanie Peacock, who had been the shadow sports minister, was re-elected in her Barnsley South seat.

While the EFL has been broadly supportive of the new regulator, the Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters expressed concerns with the Bill.

He said the government had “written a stronger role than anticipated for itself” in the Bill, highlighting in particular a section which said the regulator should have regard for the trade and policy objectives of the government when making decisions related to club ownership.

He said this “may conceivably present issues with Fifa and Uefa,” which forbid political interference in the work of national federations.

He also said handing backstop powers to the regulator would make it harder to strike a deal with the EFL.

“The existence and design of the backstop powers may lead to perpetual negotiation and uncertainty,” he said in May.

“We believe that is a bad outcome for all of football.”

The change in government comes at a time when governance within the Premier League faces a significant challenge from its champion club, Manchester City.

City sued the league over its associated party transaction rules, which seek to ensure commercial deals are done for fair market value, and are also challenging the voting system, with the club’s legal submission describing it as the “tyranny of the majority.”

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