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In April 2021, the Government announced a fan-led review of football governance. This was in response to long-standing concerns about club ownership and financial sustainability in the English game. The review, led by Tracey Crouch MP, was brought forward following abandoned plans for a European Super League.

Fan-led Review Final Report (November 2021)

Following the review, a final report made ten strategic recommendations for the future of football clubs (PDF):

  • to create an Independent Regulator for English Football (IREF) through legislation.
  • financial regulation, to be overseen by the IREF.
  • new owners’ and directors’ tests for clubs, established by the IREF.
  • a new approach to corporate governance to support a long-term sustainable future of the game.
  • improved equality, diversity and inclusion in clubs, with Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plans assessed by the IREF.
  • clubs consulting supporters, when taking key decisions, through a Shadow Board.
  • additional protection for important items of club heritage.
  • fair distributions of money, with the Premier League supporting all levels of the game through additional, proportionate contributions.
  • treating women’s football with parity and its own dedicated review.
  • protecting the welfare of players leaving football, particularly at a young age.

In a Written Ministerial Statement of 25 November 2021, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Nadine Dorries, said the report was “a thorough and detailed examination of the challenges faced by English football”. She endorsed “in principle” the recommendation for an IREF.

The report was welcomed by supporters’ groups as well as the Football Association and the Premier League.

Government response to the report (April 2022)

On 25 April 2022, the Government published its response to the Fan-led Review’s Report (PDF). The response accepted or supported all ten of the Review’s strategic recommendations. Nigel Huddleston, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the DCMS, said there were two key problems in English football:

  • the significant risk of financial failure among clubs.
  • the risk of harm to the cultural heritage of the game.

He said these problems had three “root causes”:

  • the structure and dynamics of the market creating incentives for financial overreach.
  • inadequate corporate governance which enabled unchecked decision-making power.
  • ineffective regulation.

The Government would therefore intervene and establish an IREF “to secure the future of the game”.

The Government’s response has been broadly welcomed, although concerns have been raised about the timescale for legislation.

Queen’s Speech (May 2022) – football white paper in summer 2022

The Queen’s Speech of 10 May 2022 confirmed the Government would publish proposals to establish an IREF. The Background Briefing Notes (PDF) state that a white paper will be published in the summer.


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