By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England – Premier League chief executive Richard Masters says his organisation is “open” to the proposal for an independent regulator to take over key governing roles for football.
Masters’ comments on Friday came after two clubs, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, warned that the UK government’s plans to regulate the game risk damaging the success of the English league.
Lawmaker Tracey Crouch published a report on Wednesday which called for parliament to back the creation of a new regulatory body and made a series of recommendations including a ‘transfer tax’ to be paid to lower league clubs.
Crouch’s panel spoke to fan groups and others in the game at various levels and backed the creation of a regulatory body to deal with the game’s finances, club ownership and corporate governance.
The move would weaken the powers of the Premier League and other leagues and the Football Association to govern the game.
“We welcome the review. It’s comprehensive, wide-ranging, bold and radical in parts, and we accept that faith in football governance needs to be restored and the fans need a bigger say,” Masters told the BBC.
“In parts it’s radical, and it requires careful thought. So that’s why we need to think carefully about some of the issues that might arise from a regulator but we’re here supporting the principles of the independent regulator and the review.”
Masters questioned some of the financial regulations proposed in the review but said he was not opposing the idea of a regulator which has been backed by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.
“I think it’s the key part of Tracey’s recommendation and it’s been backed by Government yesterday, so we’ve got to work and adapt to the recommendations going forward and so that’s why we need to be careful,” he said.
However, Masters believes football is capable of regulating itself.
“We liaised constantly with the panel, we tried to show that football authorities can work together, and I believe that we can be effective regulators,” he said.
Masters’ diplomatic approach struck a slightly different tone to two of his clubs.
“Unfortunately, I think these solutions are in grave danger of huge, unintended consequences that could make the game a lot worse in the long run,” Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish told BBC radio.
“We are the envy of the world, make no mistake. We emerged from the COVID crisis, the English game, as the most healthy game in the world, without a doubt. Everybody looks on us… across Europe particularly, somewhat comedically, thinking we are about to create a huge act of self harm,” he added.
Among the recommendations in the report are a ‘golden share’ for club fans, giving them a veto over certain issues, and the creation of ‘shadow boards’ made up of supporters.
“I fear for the government somewhat. All football fans tend to want different things,” said Parish. “There are a lot of sledgehammers to crack nuts in this report.”
The cover of Crouch’s report features a picture of Gigg Lane, home of North West club Bury who in 2019 were expelled from the Football League and went into administration.
But Parish said the fate of that club was very unusual.
“(In) 120 years, a tiny handful of businesses have gone into liquidation and I’m confident there will be another Bury Football Club, something that rises from the ashes.
“Other than that, there are a lot of things (in the report) that will make football worse, more difficult to run and far less attractive to investors.”
Aston Villa CEO Christian Purslow was also critical of the proposal.
“The Premier League has always really been the source of funding for the rest of football and the danger here is, of course, killing the golden goose if we overregulate a highly successful financial and commercial operation.”