A new independent regulator for English football will not seek to prevent takeovers or force out owners on the basis of geopolitical issues, the Government has confirmed.
The regulator will have power to implement tougher tests on prospective club buyers to “root out unsuitable owners”, the official response to last year’s Fan Led Review of Football Governance by Tracey Crouch MP said.
But it should not “disproportionately deter investors” and the scope of any “integrity test” will stop short of intervening in foreign policy, it added.
The ongoing sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and last year’s long-delayed takeover of Newcastle United by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund have both strayed into geopolitical territory.
“While it is important for the regulator to undertake enhanced due diligence, there is a danger that the regulator could be drawn into issues that are geopolitical,” said the report.
“We do not believe the regulator should get involved in issues of the government’s foreign policy.”
The Government confirmed earlier on Monday that it will create a football regulator as part of plans to endorse all 10 recommendations in Crouch’s review.
It will be backed by statutory powers to be detailed in a white paper this summer but it remains unclear when the regulator will be introduced, with some fearing it may not be until 2024.
Fans’ groups said an independent regulator long overdue and urged the Government to accelerate its plans.
The Premier League said it accepted the case for tougher regulation but reiterated its opposition to a statutory-backed regulator.
The regulator will be primarily concerned with ensuring English football is financially sustainable, with competitiveness a desirable but secondary outcome.
It will issue a licence that allows a club to operate but, in a move designed to head off any future European Super League-style breakaways, is only valid for playing in competitions sanctioned by Fifa, Uefa or the Football Association.
“This would prevent any future risk of clubs breaking away to join anti-competitive leagues against the interests of fans,” the report said.
The regulator will not have the power to enforce relegation, dock points or issue other sporting sanctions that hurt fans as well as owners, instead favouring financial penalties.
It will enforce minimum standards of supporter engagement but not necessarily in the form of a ‘shadow board’, which the Government said may prove disproportionately costly for smaller clubs.
Similarly, fans will be given tools to stop owners unilaterally selling a club’s stadium, moving a team elsewhere or altering their badge and kit colours, but not necessarily in the form of a mooted ‘golden share’ for cost reasons.
A regulator won’t intervene on ticket prices or fan behaviour, such as incidents of racism, which the Government deems to be the domain of the FA.
The Government said it was still hoping for a “football-led” solution to its calls for a reformed system of wealth redistribution in the English game.
But it reserved the right to give the regulator “backstop” powers to enforce a new mechanism if no agreement is reached before a white paper is published this summer.
“The introduction of an independent regulator is long overdue,” said the Football Supporters’ Association.
“Each day drafting white papers is another day when a club might cease to exist. Another day when a dodgy owner might get their hooks into a club. Another day for remote billionaires to try to create European Super League 2.0. The FSA urges the Government to move fast and legislate now.”
The Premier League said it “recognises and accepts the case for reform and for a strengthened regulatory system across football. We welcome the clarity from the Government about their position, and are committed to working with them during this next phase of consultation, although we will continue to maintain that it is not necessary for there to be a statutory-backed regulator.
“Since the publication of the Fan-Led Review, the Premier League and our clubs have been working at pace to understand the full impact of the Review’s recommendations and design and implement policies in response to its objectives; including through reviewing our Owners’ and Directors’ Test.
“We agree that fans are of vital importance to the game and their voices should be better listened to across the League. We will be introducing a number of measures to improve this area and plan to make a detailed announcement before the start of the 2022/23 season.”