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Football's fan-led review: MPs call for strong independent body to oversee clubs' finances and regulate game

A fan-led review, led by former sports minister Tracey Crouch, was established following the collapse of the European Super League in April; MPs reiterate calls for regulatory body that oversees football to be one of the outcomes of the review

City supporters display a banner inside Wembley amid the fallout from the European Super League
Image: Manchester City supporters display a banner inside Wembley amid the fallout from the European Super League

MPs have called for a strong independent body with the power to oversee clubs' financial management to regulate football.

Damian Collins, the former chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, reiterated calls for this to be one of the outcomes of the latest fan-led review into football governance.

Jonathan Gullis, the Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, believes the "glaring issues in English football will not be resolved" if an independent regulator is not created.

The MPs were speaking in a debate of the parliamentary petitions committee on football governance.

The fan-led review, chaired by former sports minister Tracey Crouch, was established amid the controversy that followed the collapsed European Super League project last month.

Damian Collins MP (PA)
Image: Damian Collins was the chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee

Mr Collins, Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, said: "If the fan-led review - the latest football governance review - is to be meaningful in its outcome, it needs to recommend an independent regulatory body that can oversee the financial management of clubs, have the power to intervene when things go wrong, see accounts to ensure clubs are spending within the limits of their rules and not overspending, and ensure that clubs are being run in a sustainable way, so that they are there for the future.

"Football does not have an effective governing body in this country. It is run by a combination of vested interests that do not always agree with each other and at league level it is run by a rule book that is set and voted on by the chairs of the clubs themselves.

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"Historically, they have not been interested in independent scrutiny of what they do."

Mr Gullis warned that "crunch time has arrived" for the game, saying: "It does seem that without an independent regulator, the glaring issues in English football will not be resolved.

Jonathan Gullis MP (Getty)
Image: Jonathan Gullis MP warned it was 'crunch time' for football

"There is no overall leadership, so vested interests continue to prevail. The financial disparity between rich and poor has become obscene, frankly.

"The game is devoid of agreed priorities. The high-ups in football all know what the problems are, but to date there has been no collective will or incentive for the decision-makers to get on with sorting it out."

The committee also discussed a petition proposing a German-style '50+1' model of ownership - whereby members or fans must retain a majority of voting rights - be introduced into English football.

However, Mr Gullis was not as convinced by this proposal, arguing: "The 50+1 model is not realistic for English football. It is hard to see how this kind of ownership structure could be brought in."

The review panel will canvass fans' views on ownership, governance and financial flows within the game.

Manchester United fan protests against Glazer ownership
Image: Manchester United fans protest against the Glazer family's ownership following their side's participation in the ESL project

Another former sports minister, Richard Caborn, has led a submission to the panel from a working group on behalf of the game in Sheffield.

Among the group's proposals are calls for a regulatory body "from within the game" to protect the pyramid, arrange an equitable distribution of broadcast income, reform financial fair play regulations and strengthen the fit-and-proper persons test for prospective owners.

The group's mission statement read: "There is broad agreement inside and outside football that the game needs stronger governance.

"For this to happen, self-interest needs to be put aside. That is essential if the game is to avoid government control.

"We believe it is in football's best interests for the game to control itself."

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