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Football Governance Bill introduced in Parliament today

19 March 2024

Club News

Football Governance Bill introduced in Parliament today

19 March 2024

A historic piece of legislation that aims to reform the governance of men's elite football in England will be introduced in Parliament today…

The Football Governance Bill comes at a critical juncture for English football, following the attempted breakaway European Super League, and a series of high-profile cases of clubs being financially mismanaged or collapsing entirely.

A new ‘Independent Football Regulator’ (IFR) will be formed as a standalone body - independent of both Government and the football authorities.

The body will be equipped with robust powers revolving around three core objectives: to improve financial sustainability of clubs, ensure financial resilience across the leagues, and to safeguard the heritage of English football.

Under the Football Governance Bill, new owners and directors will face stronger tests to stop clubs falling into the wrong hands and face the possibility of being removed and struck off from owning football clubs if they are found to be unsuitable.

The Bill also includes new backstop powers around financial distributions between the Premier League and the English Football League (EFL). These powers mean that if the leagues fail to agree on a new deal on financial distributions, then the backstop can be triggered to ensure a settlement is reached.

CEO Alex Tunbridge stated. “As a Club we welcome and support the Football Governance Bill and hope it can bring sustainability throughout the football pyramid. Our thanks go to local MP Daniel Zeichner who has helped support our lobbying of it over the past few years.”

For the first time, clubs from the National League (Step One in the football pyramid) all the way to the Premier League will be licensed to compete in men’s elite football competitions in England. The proposed licensing regime will be proportionate to any problems, size and circumstances and involve a system of provisional and full licences, to give clubs time to transition.

It follows a number of issues in recent years including financial mismanagement, breakaway plans for the European Super League, and changes to club names, badges and colours against the wishes of fans.

EFL Chair Rick Parry said, “The EFL welcomes today’s arrival of the Football Governance Bill to Parliament in what we hope will be an important milestone to help us secure the long-term financial sustainability of England’s football pyramid.

“If delivered on the right terms, this landmark legislation can help fix the game’s broken financial model by offering the independent input ultimately needed to help ensure that all Clubs can survive and thrive in a fair and competitive environment.

“The establishment of the Independent Football Regulator will be at the heart of this reform, and we are encouraged that the Regulator will be given backstop powers to deliver financial redistributions should the game be unable to agree a deal itself.

“In recent years, we have been working with Government and across Parliament on a cross-party basis. It is clear there is an appreciation of just how important professional Clubs are to their communities and why they must be protected.

"We are pleased that the Government has stated its commitment to the State of the Game Review which will provide the basis for the Independent Regulator’s work in making the game financially sustainable.

“The League looks forward to contributing to that Review while simultaneously working with EFL Clubs, Parliamentarians, and officials to ensure that the Football Governance Bill is fit for purpose and can deliver the best regulatory regime to safeguard our game for generations.

“Finally, on behalf of the EFL I would like to thank MPs, Peers, fans and all those who have helped get the Bill to Parliament and we will continue to work collaboratively in the months ahead.”

The Football Governance Bill is the result of the Government’s fan-led review of football governance, which Cambridge United Director, Godric Smith was on the panel of.

Triggered after the attempted breakaway European Super League competition, the review sought to examine the industry in detail following the failure of at least 60 professional football clubs since the advent of the Premier League in 1992.

The key recommendation from the review chaired by Tracey Crouch MP was the introduction of an independent regulator of elite men's football in England.

In parallel with the Bill’s introduction, the Government has today confirmed plans to stand up a shadow regulator that will be operational as the IFR is formally set up.

Decisions will be taken on the location of the IFR, the Chair of the regulator and other board members in the weeks and months ahead as the bill makes its passage through Parliament.

This follows the appointment of the interim chief operating officer Martyn Henderson OBE in January, who will work with a team on the frameworks, policies and guidance required for the formation of the regulator.

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