The Future of English Football: Independent Regulation


Six weeks ago, the UK government published its White Paper which confirmed plans to introduce a new independent regulator to the men's game. We outline what we think will be the likely pros and cons of the government's proposal, plus how we can assist with upcoming new red tape.

Pros of an independent regulator:

  • Financial security for clubs – with the financial failings of Bury, Macclesfield Town, and Derby County in recent years, there has been increasing pressure for government intervention. One of the main aims of the new independent regulator is to avoid these situations from repeating themselves. Club owners and directors will be subject to stringent tests "ensuring good custodians of clubs". Another key recommendation in the White Paper is to ensure a fair distribution of money is sent down the English football pyramid from the Premier League. It is no surprise the EFL welcomed the plans, calling the proposals “a landmark moment for the future of our game”.
  • Fan protection – Clubs will also be required to obtain approval from the independent regulator for any sale and change of stadium. Fans will also be given a say when owners attempt to change the club's name, badge, and/or colours.
  • No Super League – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, were all forced to back out of a proposed European Super League in April 2021 following widespread condemnation. The independent regulator will have the authority to block English clubs from joining new competitions such as the Super League.

Cons of an independent regulator: 

  • Anti-competitive – The Premier League is understood to be concerned about the government's proposals as they fear regulation could turn away future investors and buyers. The league has gained a reputation as the best league in the world with world-class players in every team and, as a result, benefits from the most lucrative sponsorship and broadcast deals. With independent regulation, investors may turn to other leagues in Europe, consequently weakening the quality of the Premier League and lessening its commercial draw.

How can we help?  

Irrespective of the pros and cons, one thing we can be certain of is that clubs will need guidance to navigate their way through the new laws and reviews implemented by such an independent regulator. Our lawyers at Howard Kennedy have expertise when it comes to advising sports organisations to adhere to new regulations and dealing with investigations from regulatory bodies.

We will be well-placed to assist clubs in preparing for and dealing with the more stringent regulations the independent regulator will introduce.  

If you are seeking specific advice in relation to this or more general sports law advice, please contact Alexander Wood or James Millet.

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