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Government moved to bring in regulator after football chiefs 'failed', says sports minister

Fans protested across the Premier League against the European Super League
Fans protested across the Premier League against the European Super League

Football chiefs “ran out of time” to solve the sport’s issues, prompting the government to intervene with “big, drastic” moves, says sports minister Nigel Huddleston.

An independent regulator in football will be brought in following a fan-led review into the men’s game.

The Premier League says that is “not necessary”.

The league says it has been working to “design and implement policies” in response to the review’s objectives.

“We’ve run out of time to let football sort this out themselves,” Huddleston told BBC Sport. “We’ve heard that again and again and we’ve been disappointed.

“The Premier League is an incredible success story. We want it to continue to be incredibly successful but we want the rest of the pyramid to be sustainable as well. The Premier League has a role in that.”

What is the government doing?

A fan-led review by former sports minister Tracey Crouch followed a number of high-profile crises in the sport, such as the failed European Super League and the collapse of Bury FC.

The government on Monday said it will endorse the 10 recommendations in the review to “improve financial sustainability and corporate governance across our national game, and place fans squarely at the heart of decision-making”.

In its report the government says one of the key reasons reform is needed is because of the “significant risk of financial failure among clubs” and the “risk of harm” to the “cultural heritage of English football” should clubs go under.

The independent regulator will have power to sanction clubs in English football who break financial and other rules.

A new owners’ test will be introduced and legislation will give fans more say in the running of the game.

The government said it also looked at other issues raised by the review, including the sale of alcohol at grounds. Clubs are not allowed to sell alcohol in sight of the pitch and the government said it would consider pilot schemes in the lower leagues.

A white paper will be published in the summer but the Football Supporters’ Association has urged the government “to move fast and implement the fan-led review recommendations now”.

“We’ve been waiting quite a long time for football to sort out some of these issues. Unfortunately, they have failed so we’ve had to intervene,” added Huddleston. “These are really big, drastic and quite complicated moves but the time is right.

“There is cross-party support for this as well as support from fans across the country.”

The Premier League’s stance on an independent regulator in football has “disappointed” Crouch and she hopes it will reconsider its response.

“I’m not surprised by the Premier League’s response,” Crouch told BBC Sport.

“I’m disappointed because I would have hoped that now, at this stage, they would have recognised that both the review team that took forward the fan-led review and the government have looked very seriously at all of these issues.

“You would have hoped that they would have had a bit more self-awareness of some of the concerns around the conflicts of interests and, therefore, embraced the reforms that have been proposed, even though it does threaten their authority.

“I hope that the Premier League will reconsider their response and actually come forward and help shape what I think is a really exciting future for English football.

“I think the Premier League is amazing in many respects … but it needs to accept that there have been some failings in the regulations and structures they have overseen in the last 20 years and that it is now time for reform.”

‘Your ordinary banana is better protected than our football clubs’

Fair Game, a campaign group which wants to see football reforms, says an independent regulator is needed and that there “shouldn’t be anything to fear” for the game’s administrators.

“These problems have been going on for generations. Clearly, the Premier League, the Football League and the Football Association haven’t been able to address them properly,” said Fair Game chief executive Niall Couper.

“Look at the other industries that have regulators – the banking, education, health and food sectors. At the moment where we are – and it’s a ridiculous thing to say – but your ordinary banana is better protected than our football clubs.

“That’s ridiculous and we shouldn’t be in that sort of situation.”

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