Blocking clubs from joining a breakaway European Super League will be among the powers held by English football’s new independent regulator.
The plan for a regulator, recommended by a fan-led review last year, has been confirmed by the UK government.
Preventing historic clubs going out of business is one of the aims, as well as giving fans greater input and a new owners’ and directors’ test.
The significant move aims to protect English football’s cultural heritage.
The main purposes of the proposed new regulator will be:
Stopping English clubs from joining closed-shop competitions, which are judged to harm the domestic game
Preventing a repeat of financial failings seen at numerous clubs, notably the collapses of Bury and Macclesfield
Introducing a more stringent owners’ and directors’ test to protect clubs and fans
Giving fans power to stop owners changing a club’s name, badge and traditional kit colours
Ensuring a fair distribution of money filters down the English football pyramid from the Premier League
“The English game remains one of the UK’s greatest cultural exports, with clubs and leagues around the world modelling themselves on its success,” the government said before its white paper on football governance – a policy document which outlines the proposed legislation – is released on Thursday.
“That is why the government is today taking the necessary and targeted steps to ensure that continues for generations.”
The Premier League was understood to be wary of a regulatory body when the proposals were announced in April last year.
The league says it is “vital” a regulator does not lead to any “unintended consequences” that could affect its global appeal and success.
What will the regulator cover?
European breakaway leagues
Six English clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – were among a dozen from across the continent that announced plans to form a European Super League in a shock move in April 2021.
It sparked a tumultuous few days in English and European football.
Fans quickly demonstrated their anger at the plan outside English clubs’ stadiums – with similarly vitriolic protests taking place across Europe – forcing the Premier League clubs to back down and apologise.
Despite the U-turn, the debate over the future of top-level European football has continued.
“The regulator will have the power to prevent English clubs from joining new competitions that do not meet a predetermined criteria, in consultation with the FA and fans,” said the government.
“That criteria could include measures to stop clubs participating in closed-shop breakaway competitions which harm the domestic game, such as the European Super League.”
Financial stability and fans’ input
A new licensing system will require every club – from the Premier League to the National League – to prove it has a sustainable business model implemented by responsible custodians as part of an application process.
If clubs are not granted a license by the regulator, they will not be allowed to compete.
Another key power of the regulator will be ensuring fans have a greater say in their club’s strategic decisions.
Moves by owners which may prove controversial – for example, changing the name, badge and traditional kit colours, or moving stadium – will not be allowed to be made before consulting fans.
It will “put fans back at the heart of how football is run”, says the government.
Additional owners’ and directors’ test
The test to determine the suitability of owners and directors of English clubs has long been under scrutiny.
The regulator will introduce an “enhanced” test which will operate alongside the current process implemented by the Premier League, Football League and Football Association.
According to the government, it will lead to “ensuring good custodians of clubs, stronger due diligence on sources of wealth and a requirement for robust financial planning”.
The suitability of Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test has been criticised in the past, most recently following the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover of Newcastle.
Amnesty International urged the league to change the test to address human rights issues, with the Saudi state accused of human rights abuses.
A bid for Manchester United by Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, the chairman of one of Qatar’s biggest banks, has also raised concerns among human rights and LGBTQ+ groups.
Requirements that currently prohibit someone from becoming an owner or director of a Premier League club include criminal convictions, a ban by a sporting or professional body or breaches of key football regulations such as match-fixing.
Fairer distribution of wealth
The regulator will have backstop powers to impose a new financial settlement, which effectively me