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Parliamentary committee urges UK government to fast-track football regulator

The Culture, Media, and Sport (CMS) Committee has issued a call to the United Kingdom government to establish an independent regulator for football in ‘shadow for’ by the end of 2023.

Full implementation of the regulator would be slated for the following year, according to The Athletic.

This call comes in response to the government’s assertion that the need for independent regulation in English football is undeniable.

Composed of eleven Members of Parliament, the CMS Committee, responsible for holding the Department of State for Culture, Media and Sport accountable, concurs with the government’s stance while stressing the urgency of the matter. 

In their report published on Tuesday, the committee recommended a quick establishment of the shadow regulator to facilitate preliminary engagement and preparatory work rather than waiting for legislation to pass.

The impending King’s Speech, scheduled for November 7, is viewed as a pivotal opportunity for the government to introduce legislation endowing the independent regulator with statutory powers. 

This is especially significant as it could be the last opportunity before the next general election in January 2025.

In addition to expediting regulatory measures, the CMS Committee implored football authorities to continue their ongoing reforms with enhanced regulation in mind, particularly to safeguard clubs currently facing financial peril. 

Reading, Scunthorpe United and Southend United are examples of clubs grappling with severe financial challenges.

The longstanding wealth disparity in English football has gained increased attention, especially during the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

Cash-rich Premier League clubs weathered the pandemic with relative ease, while lower-tier clubs reliant on matchday income plunged further into financial turmoil.

The English Football League (EFL) has proposed a solution. It involves combining the club game’s total broadcast income and sharing 25% with clubs below the Premier League – a significant increase from the current 16%. 

However, the contentious issue of ‘parachute payments’ remains a sticking point. 

The EFL advocates scrapping them, arguing that they distort competition and encourage overspending among non-recipients. The Premier League disagrees.

They offered an approximately £130m increase in ‘solidarity’ money to the EFL annually, although this falls short of the desired 25%. 

Disagreements also persist regarding cost-control measures resembling UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, with the treatment of relegated clubs and their parachute payments being a central concern.

Despite these hurdles, both leagues will engage in discussions this week with hopes of resolving the matter. 

The CMS Committee urged all football authorities, including the Premier League, EFL and FA, to expedite an agreement on revenue sharing, emphasising the importance of strategic income redistribution from all leagues to grassroots football. 

Failure to make progress on revenue sharing could prompt the government to fast-track the establishment of an independent regulator with the authority to mandate a solution.

Additionally, the committee advocated for higher fan engagement standards for clubs and a more pronounced focus on equality, diversity and inclusion within the footballing landscape.

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