The Government will set out its plans to reform men's football in England.

They will deliver on their commitment to fans to ensure a sustainable future for the national game.

Two days after the news that an in-depth review of women's football in UK will be launched this summer, an announcement was made.

Key points summarised

  • Central to the plans will be the establishment of a strong, independent regulator established with statutory backing to deliver financial sustainability throughout the national game
  • Strengthened owners and directors test, including an ‘integrity test’ to improve corporate governance and protect clubs and their fans from unscrupulous owners
  • Government commits to giving fans a voice in the running of their clubs with white paper to be published in the summer
  • Plans follow fan-led review of football governance, led by Tracey Crouch MP

The 10 key strategic recommendations set out in the fan-led review of football governance will be endorsed by the Government, which will place fans at the heart of decision-making.

The primary legislation will give the independent regulator the statutory powers to license and sanction clubs as part of its remit to tackle the most pressing issues throughout the football pyramid.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson

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The Government are to introduce independent football regulator to oversee ownership of English clubs following a fan-led review of football governance last year

An independent study commissioned by the Government will show the widespread culture of clubs operating unsustainable financial practices, placing the pursuit of success over sound financial management. If owners decide to pull the plug on cash injections, clubs can be exposed because of an overreliance on owner funding.

The Government will also confirm its support for the following recommendations:

  • A greater role for fans in the day to day running of clubs: the Government will now look at mechanisms including the option of a 'shadow board' in order to give fans a greater voice in the running of their clubs with further detail to be set out in the summer.
  • Fan engagement on club heritage issues should receive greater regulatory oversight: the Government will set out plans to ensure fans have a bigger say on changes to their club stadia, logo, name and kit via a 'golden share', in order to protect clubs and the central role they play as vital community assets.
  • Stronger action to improve equality and diversity in club boardrooms throughout the football pyramid: the Government will set out further details on how this will be addressed and how that will be linked to the role of the regulator.

The weak finances and balance sheets of the industry would be unacceptable in any other field if the clubs in the Premier League and Championship had spent more on wages.

Financial oversight of clubs, including information gathering, investigation and enforcement powers, will be given to the regulator. Financial distribution, including solidarity payments, was recommended by the review. The Government believes that this should be solved by the football authorities. The white paper will include further details on the Government's preferred option.

The new independent regulator will be tasked with applying an enhanced Owners and Directors Test ahead of an acquisition of a club but also on an ongoing basis. Enhanced due diligence will include sources of funding and a newintegrity test for all owners and executives. This will make sure that skilled, experienced owners and executives are in place to run these vital community assets. The current tests administered by the English Football League and the Premier League will be replaced.

The fan-led review of football governance will be launched by the Government in April 2021. It was launched following a series of crises, starting with the collapse of Bury FC in 2019.

The review was based on engagement with supporters, fan groups, women's football representatives, football authorities, club owners, players representatives, and underrepresented interest groups. The final report, supported by an expert panel from the world of football, was submitted to the Government in November 2021, with 47 recommendations put forward in total.

It concluded that football requires a strong, independent regulator to secure the future of our national game, and found a significant part of the reason for the perilous state of football was due to reckless financial decision-making often being prioritised by unsuitable owners and directors in the pursuit of glory.

An indicative timetable for legislation is expected to be published in a white paper this summer.

It is clear that radical change is needed to protect the future of our national game after the failed European Super League bid.

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An independent regulator is at the forefront of proposals following a fan-led review into English football, MP Tracey Crouch said in November 2021

We will work at a rapid pace to establish a strong, independent regulator. The issue of fair distribution of finances throughout the football pyramid and giving fans a greater say in the running of their clubs can be tackled now by the football authorities.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that football brings friends, families, and communities together, which is why we are taking forward the fan-led plans to secure the future of our national game.

Whether you cheer on at home or away, this government will ensure fans are at the center of the game.

Nadine Dorries said that football is nothing without its fans and for too long the football authorities have collectively been unable to tackle some of the biggest issues in the game.

The Government took decisive action to conduct the fan-led review and today we have endorsed every one of its 10 strategic recommendations.

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.

"Some clubs have spent beyond their means" - FA welcomes 'new independent regulation'

English football is the envy of the world, but with success comes challenges. Some clubs have spent beyond their means in order to chase success, as they are at the centre of their community and prospering.

The English game needs stronger financial regulation and cost controls to make sure fans and sustainable are always first. We will continue to work with the Government to ensure that we are protecting the future of clubs whilst also supporting the global appeal of English football.

Crouch: An enormous step forward, but delays could be 'catastrophic'

The endorsement of the fan-led review she chaired by the Government is an enormous step forward for major reform in football, but it is worrying for clubs and fans.

I am grateful to the Government for publishing its response to the fan-led review of football governance, I said in a statement issued to the PA news agency.

I am very pleased that it has accepted or supported all of the strategic recommendations of the review, including committing to legislation for a statutory independent regulator which will regulate financial resilience as well as ownership of clubs.

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Former Sports minister Tracey Crouch says that the sale of Chelsea could signal a turning point in fan involvement of club ownership and has called for more action in terms of governance and regulation

This is an enormous step forward in providing much-needed reform for football. I am very pleased that the review of women's football and the review of the outdated legislation relating to football supporters and the sale of alcohol is going to be done.

While fans will be reassured by the commitment to an independent regulator and its powers, they will remain nervous that this commitment will be delayed or watered down by the vested and conflicted interests in the game which have resisted the much-needed reform for so long.

Fans fully recognize the complexity of the recommended reforms, but the time frame for implementation due to a white paper at some point in the summer is worrying.

Delays could be catastrophic for clubs, communities, and fans seeking a more secure and certain regulatory environment.

There has been no progress on discussions between the football authorities on the redistribution of finances, and I share the view of government that this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgent importance.

Safe standing, sale and consumption of alcohol also to be reviewed

The Government will work with relevant football bodies and the police to consider the safety and economic case for piloting the sale and consumption of alcohol in sight of the pitch at matches in the men's lower league, as per the recommendation within the fan-led review.

The government has placed fans at the heart of the sport and supported the game from the bottom of the pyramid. It launched a programme to pilot the roll out of licensed safe standing during the remainder of the season in 2021.

In January, the Government launched an 'early adopters' programme to pilot the roll out of licensed 'safe standing' during the remainder of the 2021/22 season
Image: In January, the Government launched an 'early adopters' programme to pilot the rollout of licensed 'safe standing' during the remainder of the 2021/22 season

According to interim evidence published last week by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, licensed safe standing is having a positive impact on spectator safety and is improving the matchday experience for fans as a result of the pilot.

At the conclusion of the pilot programme, a final report will be given to the Ministers to assure the safety of fans and supporters. This will help to inform their decisions about the roll-out of licensed standing for clubs in the Championship and the Premier League that have met strict conditions.

The grassroots game is at the center of the Government's plans to level up access to sport for all. The first group of recipients were announced in March 2022. The first group of recipients were part of a package to build or upgrade up to 8,000 grassroots football and multi-sport pitches across the UK.