FIFA to study independent regulator plans over political interference

‘FIFA to study plans for a UK Government appointed independent regulator’ amid concerns the proposals could breach rules over political interference in football

  • FIFA are expected to study Government plans for an independent regulator
  • The government-appointed body could breach rules on political interference
  • It was Stuart Andrew who revealed plans for the white-paper review last week 

FIFA are expected to study Government plans for an independent regulator amid concerns its introduction could breach their rules which bar political interference.

Stuart Andrew, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Sport, revealed the Government’s White Paper for English football’s independent regulator last week.

Proposals followed a recommendation from Tracey Crouch’s fan-led review into football governance.

The Government say the regulator will primarily focus on the financial sustainability of individual clubs, the overall stability of the football pyramid and protecting the heritage of football clubs that matter most to fans.

According to The Times, FIFA lawyers are set to study the proposals to determine whether a regulator could breach their rules.

FIFA are expected to study Government plans for an independent regulator amid concerns its introduction could breach their rules which bar political interference

Stuart Andrew, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Sport – pictured in Qatar during the World Cup – revealed the White Paper plans to the House on Thursday

FIFA’s member associations are required to comply with ‘principles of good governance’ under Article 15, which include organisations being ‘independent and avoid any form of political interference.

The world governing body could investigate should it believe the Football Association’s autonomy has been impacted by the regulator.

However, the report states that FIFA would only act once a law has been introduced, which could be in 2025.

Several national associations have been suspended by FIFA in recent years following instances of Government interference in the running of their FAs.

The Government insisted intervention was required to reform issues within the sport, amid concerns over poor governance and self-regulation, as well as the risk of breakaway competitions, following the collapse of the European Super League.

The fan-led review had also highlighted the loss of historic clubs like Bury as another reason for a regulator to be introduced.

Under the plans the regulator would be able to block clubs from ‘joining new competitions that do not meet a predetermined criteria, in consultation with the FA and fans’.

The regulator would also require clubs to comply with the Football Association on its new rules for club heritage, which will give fans a veto over changes to the badge and home shirt colours.

New tests would be introduced for prospective owners and directors of football clubs, while a regulator could intervene to impose a new financial settlement between the Premier League and the Football League.

The Government has said it will begin the process of engagement and further consultation with selected stakeholders on the key reforms set out in its white paper.

Tracey Crouch welcomed the White Paper after her fan-led review into football governance

The Government says the regulator will give fans a greater voices in football’s decision-making

It was Andrew who revealed the White Paper plans on Thursday afternoon and urged the Premier League to come to an agreement with the English Football League regarding financial distribution swiftly.

Sportsmail reported on Wednesday that the Premier League were apprehensive, with major concerns that the forthcoming legislation will impact future overseas investment into the division. 

Andrew revealed: ‘In every meeting I have been in, I have been urging the Premier League and EFL to come to a deal and get the distribution of payments sorted out as quickly as possible.

‘But until we have the regulator in place, it’s only at that point the powers will then be available for a deal to be struck. Please, I urge those involved in those negotiations to get on with it and get on with it quickly.’

Revealing the details of the White Paper, Andrew began in a statement: ‘In this country, football is more than just a sport. 

‘It’s part of our history, our heritage and our national way of life, bringing communities up and down the country together week in week out. 

‘We invented the beautiful game, and the Premier League and EFL are true global success stories, exported and watched in 188 countries across the world, streaming into 880million homes. 

‘Despite this global success, in recent years it has become clear that there are systemic issues at the heart of our national game. Since the Premier League was created in 1992, there have been 64 incidents of clubs collapsing into administration.’

The expected intention of the regulator is to stop clubs like Derby going into administration

Andrew went on to highlight the ‘devastating’ losses of Bury and Macclesfield, who were both expelled from English football as a result of ‘financial mismanagement’.

He continued: ‘Despite the success of English football, finances are in a perilous state. The combined net debt of clubs in the Premier League and Championship is now around £6billion. 

‘Championship clubs spend an unsustainable 125 per cent of their revenue on player wages alone. And some clubs face annual losses greater than their turnover.

‘All too often we hear of flagrant financial misconduct, unsustainable risk taking and poor governance, driving clubs to the brink.

‘And owners aren’t just gambling with fans’ beloved clubs. They are threatening the sustainability of the entire football pyramid.’

Outlining the purpose of the independent regulator, Andrew explained the roles and responsibilities they would have across England’s top five tiers.

Firstly, clubs will have to provide the regulator with ‘sound business models’ and have them approved before being allowed to compete.

The regulator will also strengthen checks before sanctioning the arrival of owners and directors at football clubs, greatly scrutinising their suitability as well as the source of their funds.

Keen to stamp out any attempt to resurrect the European Super League, which the Government feels threatened the sanctity and spirit of pyramid football, the regulator will also have the power to outright block clubs from joining any breakaway competition.

Moreover, the Government claimed that £300m of funding will be injected into grassroots football by 2025.

Finally, directors will have to seek regulator approval before making significant changes to the club, with regards to stadium, branding and kit colours in particular. It is hoped that this will heighten fan voice and prevent major decisions without consultation with supporters. 

However, the likes of West Ham’s principal owner David Sullivan blasted the independent regulator proposal, accusing the Government of ‘ruining everything’.

But West Ham co-owner David Sullivan criticised the regulator plan, labelling it a ‘terrible idea’

He told Sky Sports: ‘A football regulator is a terrible idea. The government are terrible at running everything.

‘Look at the mess this country is in. We pay the highest taxes ever for the worst service from the worst government that I’ve seen in my lifetime.’

‘The regulator will have a huge staff that football will have to pay for. It will be a total waste of money. I bet it grows in size and cost every year.

‘The Premier League is the best run and most successful league in the world. It gives more to the lower leagues, the PFA and grass roots than any other league in the world. It’s a fantastic export.’

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