Gary Lineker among pundits calling on fans to support petition for independent regulator in English football

Former footballers and journalist sign open letter urging fans to sign parliamentary petition calling for independent regulator in English football and government legislation to block clubs attempting to leave football pyramid

Leeds United v Liverpool - Premier League - Elland Road
Leeds United players wearing 'Football Is For The Fans' shirts during the warm-up prior to kick-off during the Premier League match at Elland Road, Leeds. Picture date: Monday April 19, 2021.
Image: Leeds players wear shirts in protest against the planned European Super League earlier this year

Gary Lineker, Gary Neville, Micah Richards and Rio Ferdinand are among a group who say it is "time to act" to change football for the better.

The call for action came in an open letter signed by a number of former players and journalists, urging supporters to sign a parliamentary petition - which reached 10,000 signatures in the first 30 minutes - calling for an independent regulator in the English game by the end of the year.

The group highlighted last month's European Super League breakaway attempt as evidence of the need for reform of the game's governance.

The foundation of the Super League prompted the UK Government to bring forward a fan-led review, which will be led by former sports minister Tracey Crouch and will assess the need for an independent regulator.

Leeds United v Liverpool - Premier League - Elland Road
Leeds United players wearing 'Football Is For The Fans' shirts during the warm-up prior to kick-off during the Premier League match at Elland Road, Leeds. Picture date: Monday April 19, 2021.
Image: Leeds players wear shirts in protest against the planned European Super League earlier this year

The letter - also signed by Laura Woods, Jamie Redknapp and Henry Winter - also calls for government legislation to block any club attempting to leave the football pyramid.

"As football fans, we were appalled by the attempt to set up a European Super League," the letter read.

"It was a direct threat to the integrity of the game; destroying the concept of sporting merit and open competition.

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"Supporters came together with one voice to oppose the cynical power-grab by a group of wealthy owners. The furious protests were heard and the breakaway fell apart.

"Now we must make sure this never happens again. Without swift and direct intervention, the return of a European Super League will be a constant threat.

"We welcome the fan-led Government review of the game and hope it leads to lasting change on an array of important concerns; including co-ordinated strategies to deal with racism, supporters' representation within clubs, LGBTQ issues, ticket costs and the distribution of income. All of those aims can be realised if we take decisive action now."

In a video on Twitter, Neville said: "There is one big opportunity now in this next few months to influence the outcome of English football and create a fairer game for all.

"A fan-led review has been announced by the government. I urge you, if you hated me as a player, if you dislike me as a pundit, just to listen to me this one time and sign this petition which will bring independent regulation and transparency at the top of the game we all love."

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters admitted there has been a breakdown of trust and relations between the six clubs involved in the proposed Super League and the rest of the division.

PA - European Super League - 'big six' clubs 2:01
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters says relations between the six European Super League 'breakaway' clubs and the rest of the division are strained and will take time to be restored

Masters told Sky Sports News the Premier League will work with the Football Association to "bolster their rule book" in order to prevent any future threat of a breakaway.

Asked for his view on an independent regulator, Masters said last week: "I don't think we should be averse to change in the regulatory environment around football but I don't think that an independent regulator is the answer to the question.

"I would defend the Premier League's role as regulator of its clubs over the last 30 years.

"Clearly we've had some problems over the last 18 months but so has every industry sector.

"I don't think an independent regulator is required, but that's not to say that we won't fully co-operate with Tracey Crouch's review.

"We will be willing participants who will listen and contribute, and hopefully we'll come up with the right formula."

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