English football faces threat from FIFA, UEFA over regulator concerns

English football faces threat from FIFA, UEFA over regulator concerns

The Premier League has warned that English football could face sanctions from FIFA and UEFA if Government does not ensure the new regulator is independent.

The league's chief executive Richard Masters was asked last month by Culture, Media and Sport select committee chair Dame Caroline Dinenage to set out his organisation's concerns about the proposed regulator, which is set to be operational when the Football Governance Bill gains Royal Assent.

His reply to Dinenage's letter was published on Thursday, and stated the league's view that the Government "has written a stronger role than anticipated for itself" into the draft Bill.

"It is important that the IFR (independent football regulator) is, and is seen to be, fully independent of Government," text contained in an appendix to Masters' letter states.

"The Secretary of State must write a Football Governance Statement every three years, as well as have the ability to expand the types of financial conditions that can be imposed on clubs, designate additional Premier League revenue to be eligible for redistribution, and to determine what 'significant influence' means when it comes to ownership.

"This is in addition to a very specific clause that states the IFR must have regard to the trade and policy objectives of the Government when making decisions about the suitability of owners and directors.

"The Government appears to have written a stronger role than anticipated for itself in this regime. This may lead to pressure for a future Secretary of State to further expand the scope and powers of the IFR beyond financial sustainability. If this goes too far, it may even conceivably present issues with FIFA and UEFA, whose statutes ban state interference in competitive football."

The Premier League said it believed there were "further steps" the British Government could take to ensure the regulator's independence.

FIFA can, and has in the past, suspended national associations over undue government interference in those associations' affairs. While suspended, clubs and national teams from that country are unable to compete in FIFA or UEFA events.

Last month the global body issued a joint statement alongside UEFA expressing "concern" after the Spanish government set up a committee to oversee that country's crisis-hit football federation.

Jacco Swart, the managing director of the European Leagues group, also warned last week that a regulator in England could be "self-harming" and impact the Premier League's ability to compete at continental level.

As well as the misgivings over the regulator's independence, the Premier League's letter on Thursday also covered concerns over the existence and nature of the backstop powers the regulator will have to impose a financial settlement between the Premier League and the EFL.

"We have been concerned from the outset that the prospect of a backstop power could significantly impact on incentives and make a deal harder to strike," the letter read.

"For example, in the EFL's evidence to the committee in January 2024, they indicated they would seek to trigger the backstop to request more funding, even if they had already agreed to a new settlement in the meantime.

"Our concern, therefore, is that the existence and design of the backstop powers may lead to perpetual negotiation and uncertainty. We believe that is a bad outcome for all of football."

Talks among Premier League clubs over a new settlement with the EFL have been put on hold until new financial regulations in the top flight have been agreed.

The letter also warns that the pressure on the regulator to ensure no club goes under on its watch will lead to "greater risk aversion than is appropriate for football" and said that the regulator's ability to impose individual and bespoke licensing conditions on clubs was "not proportionate".

It also questions the limited routes of appeal open to clubs to challenge decisions taken by the regulator, and Masters said in the Premier League's view the regulator's scope "should not widen any further".

There have been calls for amendments to the Bill to give competing clubs a say on FA Cup replays, and for the regulator to oversee the Premier League's profitability and sustainability rules (PSR).

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has previously insisted the Premier League would not be damaged by the reforms set out in the Bill as first drafted.

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