The government has said it backs the 10 strategic recommendations laid out in MP Tracey Crouch’s Fan-Led Review of football governance, including the establishment of an independent regulator that will have the power to sanction clubs in English football that break financial and other rules.
Unsurprisingly, the Premier League and its shareholder clubs, six of which, including Arsenal, were involved in the failed European Super League project that sparked the review, have maintained that the regulator “is not necessary.”
What does this actually mean?
In simple terms, following case after case of negligent ownership, the government has decided that a new independent organisation should oversee what’s what with English football and, vitally, have the power to hand out punishments when rules, including financial ones, are broken.
Amongst other things, it will be charged with applying a new “enhanced” owners’ and directors’ test – replacing the ones currently used by the Premier League, EFL and FA.
The government has also pledged to ensure that fans have a greater say in club matters.
It remains to be seen what mechanisms might be introduced but recommendations include ‘shadow boards’ with a veto right, via a ‘golden share’, on heritage issues like changing names, kits, stadia and crests.
What has the government said?
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston: “It’s just over a year since the failed European Super League bid but it is clear that radical change is needed to protect the future of our national game. We will work at pace to establish a strong, independent regulator. However the football authorities can take action now to tackle issues currently facing the game such as the issue of fair distribution of finances throughout the football pyramid and giving fans a greater say in the running of their clubs.”
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries: “We are now committed to fundamental reform, putting football on a more sustainable financial path, strengthening corporate governance of clubs and increasing the influence fans have in the running of the national game.”
What happens next?
Change isn’t imminent but the wheels are clearly in motion. The next milestone will come in the summer when a White paper with more details on the regulator’s power is published.
Of course, this being politics as much as football, there’s a suggestion the government will try and push things through before the next general election in 2024.
In the meantime, before the changes are forced upon them, the sports minister has encouraged football to take a pro-active approach by starting to improve things like fan representation.
What’s been the reaction from Arsenal?
There’s no word from the club at this point.
The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust said: “The AST welcomes this announcement. Many of the proposals put to the review by the AST, such as; golden shares for fans, independent non-executive Board directors, proper fan engagement, shadow Boards and independent regulation are included in these plans and we will now work with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as it brings forward its White paper. We will also continue to make the case that the best way for fans to have a say in how their clubs are run is for them to be represented as supporter shareholders.”
Click here to read the full oral statement given by Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston on the government’s response to the Fan Led Review of Football governance