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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.

Following the review, in November 2021, a final report made ten strategic recommendations for the future of football clubs (PDF). The main one was for the establishment, through legislation, of an Independent Regulator for English Football (IREF). The IREF would, among other things, oversee the financial regulation of the game, and establish new owners’ and directors’ tests for clubs. The report also said women’s football should be treated with parity and have its own dedicated review.

In its April 2022 response to the Fan-led Review’s report (PDF), the Government accepted or supported all ten of the Review’s strategic recommendations. 

Football governance white paper (February 2023)

A football governance white paper was published on 23 February 2023. Stuart Andrew, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport gave a statement to the Commons on the same date. He explained that the white paper would:

  1. introduce an independent regulator to make sure that clubs were financially resilient.
  2. strengthen the owners’ and directors’ test to protect clubs and their fans from “careless owners”.
  3. give fans a greater say in the running of their clubs.
  4. enable the regulator to block clubs from joining breakaway leagues, such as a European super league.
  5. give the regulator “fall-back powers over financial redistribution”.

Tracey Crouch said the white paper reflected the “vast majority” of the Fan-led Review’s recommendations.

In its September 2023 response to the white paper, the Government said it was “minded” for the new regulator to be independent of any existing body, but that all options remained under review. It also said the regulator would focus on four areas: financial resources, suitable owners, fan interests and approved competitions.

King’s Speech (November 2023)

The King’s Speech of 7 November 2023 said a Bill would be introduced to “safeguard the future of football clubs for the benefit of communities and fans”. The Background Briefing Notes to the Speech state that the Bill would establish an independent regulator for the top 5 tiers of the English game (PDF). 

Review of women’s football (2022-23)

A review of women’s football in England was announced in September 2022 to examine:

  • the potential audience reach and growth of the game.
  • the financial health of the game.
  • the structures within women’s football.

Karen Carney, the former England international, was appointed Chair of the Review. A call for evidence closed on 1 November 2022.

The findings of the review were published in July 2023. Ten recommendations were made including:

  • the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship to become fully professional environments.
  • the Football Association (FA) to urgently address the lack of diversity across the women’s game.
  • the FA, Premier League (PL), English Football League (EFL) and broadcasters to create a new dedicated broadcast slot for women’s football.
  • the FA, PL and Football Foundation to work together to make sure women and girls were benefitting from funding across the football pyramid.

In its December 2023 response, the Government said the review had “raised the bar and been instrumental in setting out a clear-eyed plan to lift minimum standards and deliver bold, sustainable growth at the grassroots and elite levels”. As multiple stakeholders were responsible for taking the review’s recommendations forward, the Government would establish an implementation group to monitor progress. The first meeting is expected to take place in March 2024.


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