Campaigners highlight the need for football to have ‘the right regulator’

By Sports Desk February 23, 2024

Campaigners say it will be “unacceptable” if football’s independent regulator does not have the power to revisit any deal struck between the Premier League and the EFL.

The EFL’s chairman Rick Parry told MPs last month that his organisation was prepared to do a deal with the Premier League but stressed that the “right solution” on financial distribution and cost controls would only be reached through independent analysis by the regulator once it was up and running.

However, EFL clubs are understood to have been told by Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer last week that the regulator will not have a mandate to review any deal that has been signed off, only ‘backstop powers’ to arbitrate if no deal is agreed.

The EFL is still in talks with the Government and declined to comment, but the Fair Game group, which has 13 EFL groups within its membership, insisted the regulator must have the power to intervene.

“The number one stated aim of the regulator is to secure the financial sustainability of the football pyramid,” Fair Game’s director of advocacy Mike Baker said in a statement issued on Friday.

“So it is not about having any regulator, it’s about having the right regulator. The status quo is not acceptable. You only have to look at Everton, Nottingham Forest, Reading and Sheffield Wednesday and right now the very futures of Rochdale and Torquay United hang in the balance.

“The football authorities have failed to deliver a fairer financial flow for all of football. The EFL funds are split 80 per cent to the Championship, 12 per cent to League One and just eight per cent to League Two.

“And for every £1,000 the game receives in broadcast revenue, £882 goes to the Premier League, £6.62 to League One and just 15p to the National League South.

“Yet, the proposed backstop powers currently can only be triggered by the Premier League and the EFL authorities, and if a deal is signed now for six years the regulator will have no powers to correct it.

“That is unacceptable. If the regulator is to achieve its core objectives then it must oversee football’s finances and reward well-run clubs. Anything else and we will have a regulator that lacks the teeth to fix football’s ills.”

The deal under discussion is believed to be worth an additional £900million over six years to EFL clubs, but the EFL has strong misgivings over the cost control measures attached to it.

While clubs in the Championship are expected to be capped at spending no more than 70 per cent of revenue on squad costs, in line with UEFA’s new financial sustainability regulations, those coming down to the second tier will be capped at 85 per cent while they are in receipt of parachute payments.

That would mean those clubs being able to spend a greater percentage of a larger amount than non-parachute rivals. Parry believes that puts non-parachute clubs in the “horrendous” position of having to choose between being competitive and sustainable.

Top-flight clubs are still to agree on how any extra funding for the EFL is paid for, and on a new financial system for the Premier League to ultimately replace its profitability and sustainability rules (PSR).

Premier League clubs are due to gather for shareholder meetings on February 29 and March 11, with the latter understood to be the more likely to prove decisive in moving this issue forward.

PA understands a number of EFL clubs, even those who had been inclined to agree to the deal, are feeling more hostile towards the process following the meeting with Frazer which some described as “a car crash”.

Sources said clubs felt Frazer was applying pressure to agree to the deal, even though the ball remains in the Premier League’s court at this stage.

Accrington owner Andy Holt wrote on X, formerly Twitter, last week: “It feels like a neutered regulator to suit the @premierleague backed by DCMS, which removes the reason for the regulator in the first place.

“DCMS were telling us we need to accept a deal that we haven’t even seen or we might never get one, and crucially if that deal is accepted, the regulator will not be able to relook at it, EVEN IF it doesn’t resolve the structural problems of the pyramid. It feel like grubby deals of old.”

Government sources have said Frazer’s position was misinterpreted and that she was advising clubs to do a deal, as has always been the Government’s position, not necessarily to accept the deal that was on the table.

A publication date for the Football Governance Bill, which has the creation of the regulator at its heart, is still understood to be some weeks away after there had been indications it could be published on Monday next week.

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