Premier League clubs’ owners and directors spoke out against government-backed proposals for a football regulator and a transfer tax on Friday.
The review has made 47 recommendations, including an independent regulator for football as well as a 10 per cent tax on Premier League transfers, but all 20 clubs are united in their opposition to both of these key areas.
The Premier League’s position is that it is open in principle to an independent regulator as long as it operates within existing football structures.
Talk of a transfer tax is particularly controversial because some of the proceeds would go to Championship owners who are richer than their Premier League counterparts.
“Would anybody suggest Tesco pay a 10 per cent surcharge on their staff wages or stock and the money goes to Lidl or all the corner shops so they can compete better with Tesco?” one Premier League owner said.
“The Premier League is an enormous worldwide success. Why change it and risk destroying it?”
Premier League owners and executives such as Christian Purslow, Steve Parrish, Karren Brady and Angus Kinnear have since come out in opposition.
The Premier League is currently paying £1.2bn to EFL clubs from 2019-22, £647m (52 per cent) of which is in parachute payments.
Fan-led review: Key recommendations
- The UK government should create a new independent regulator
- The independent regulator should oversee financial regulation in football
- The independent regulator should establish a new ‘fit and proper persons’ test to replace the existing system which would also include an ‘integrity’ test on potential owners and ‘real time’ financial checks
- Fans should be consulted on all key off-field decisions through a ‘shadow board’
- Equality, diversity and inclusion plans should be mandatory for all clubs
- Key items of club heritage should be protected by a ‘golden share’ for fans
- A new corporate governance code should be set up
- Women’s football should be treated equally and given its own review
- Stakeholders should work to increase protection of welfare of players leaving the game
- There should be more support from the Premier League to the pyramid through a solidarity transfer levy
Clubs feel that recommending a regulator was always the direction of travel once the review was set up.
A compromise deal has been discussed whereby a regulator would operate within FA structures instead of being “independent” and indirectly government-appointed.
‘The game deserves nothing less’
The Our Beautiful Game campaign group, which has the backing of Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville and former FA chairman David Bernstein, released a statement in support of the initial recommendation for an independent regulator.
It read: “The football authorities have had multiple opportunities over decades to introduce significant reforms of their own. They failed.
“We note particularly that the football authorities, even while the enquiry was going on, were unable to speak with one unified voice. No wonder so many professional clubs, and indeed last week the EFL itself, have been won round to support the need for an independent regulator.
“We agree with the report when it concludes that neither the government nor parliament should run football.
“Indeed the Crouch Report makes clear that issues such as the running of competitions like the FA Cup, or of the England men’s and women’s teams at all levels, or VAR, or the delivery of grassroots strategy are not matters for an independent regulator.
“But governance reforms and reviewing ways of distributing and increasing funding from the top of the game to the wider football community most certainly should be. So too should the introduction of a new and comprehensive licensing system for the professional game, and driving progress towards diversity and inclusion for all who want to be involved.
“Today is an important moment in the long history of our national sport.
“The burden of maintaining the momentum for an independent regulator for English football now falls clearly on parliament, and on the government itself. Legislation will be needed to turn the recommendations from today’s report into reality.
“The game deserves nothing less.”
Neville: Regulator must maintain PL standard
Speaking to Sky Sports News last week, Neville and Bernstein both agreed that an independent regulator’s No 1 priority should be to “maintain the exceptional standard of the Premier League”.
“Reading that report made me feel warm about the opportunity that exists for football to come together and let’s not forget that at this moment in time the Premier League has lost control of its own members,” Neville said.
“The 14 have got a problem with the six, the six have got a problem with the 14. Project Big Picture and the European Super League divided the Premier League clubs as did the introduction of the Saudi[-backed] ownership [at Newcastle] and the divide over the fit and proper owners’ test.
“An independent regulator shouldn’t be something that’s feared by the Premier League. In fact, the independent regulator’s No 1 priority should be to maintain the exceptional standard of the Premier League.
“However, what we do want to see is a fairer game, some stronger financial regulation through the pyramid, a better distribution model whilst maintaining the excellent league that we have.”
Bernstein added: “There’s huge support for this from fans, the wider public, and parliamentarians across the various parties.
“Parliament’s having a difficult time at the moment with credibility and whatever, and I think this is a wonderful opportunity for parliament to show it can work in a mature way, a unified way and do something together which is a win-win. It’s a win for the government, it’s a win for parliament and it’s a win for all the parties. I think it will show democracy in a very good form and go down extremely well with the public.”