Gary Neville says time for Premier League to step aside and let independent regulator run football

Former Manchester United and England stalwart Gary Neville has welcomed plans for an independent regulator of football and said it is time for the Premier League to step aside in the running of the game.

The former player, turned TV pundit, has long campaigned for the introduction of an independent regulator in English football.

And today he praised Tracey Crouch MP, who has completed an exhaustive review of the English game, and concluded a new regulator with extensive powers is required, to defend against reckless owners, safeguard the future of clubs and ensure a fairer distribution of wealth.

Gary Neville has campaigned for the reform football governance in England for a long time

‘Joel Glazer, Roman Abramovich, Stan Kroenke, Sheikh Mansour, John W Henry, Daniel Levy, should not be in charge of English football, said Neville, speaking at a press conference , alongside former FA chairman David Bernstein, ex-FA executive director David Davies,

‘Does anybody in this country think those six people should have the biggest influence on the running of English football? Absolutely not.

‘They are massive players in the game. They are at the heart of the quality we see every single week bit the Premier League can’t even control the Premier League clubs at this moment.

‘The six have got real frustrations with the 14, the 14 have got real frustrations with the six. They are stuck internally.

Clubs that receive parachute payments are twice as likely to be promoted to the top flight

Clubs that receive parachute payments are twice as likely to be promoted to the top flight

‘The Premier League clubs have schemed against each other and behind each others’ backs behind the executive’s back on Project Big Picture and the European Super League, so they have proven in abundance they are incapable of managing the wide interests of football.’ 

The former England international is part of a distinguished group, alongside Bernstein and Davies, that has pushed proposals for reform, under the banner, ‘Saving Our Beautiful Game – A Manifesto for Change’.

Former FA chairman David Bernstein has delivered a grim assessment of how football is run

Former FA chairman David Bernstein has delivered a grim assessment of how football is run

Neville and his partners put the case to around 50 Parliamentarians via a Zoom a year ago this week.

They also gave evidence to Tracey Crouch’s review of football, and most of the objectives they set out in their manifesto have been included in some form in her report, which was published last night.

In addition Neville and his mother also gave emotive evidence about the demise of their hometown club, Bury, which went out of business and out of the Football League in 2019. 

Neville predicted other clubs would go the same way if action is not taken now.

‘I was sat on League Two calls [as an owner of Salford City] where there were clubs asking for financial rescue packages for 10 months and they were not forthcoming and it made me incredibly angry. The EFL have tried for a two or three year period now to get a fairer deal from the Premier League and it has not been able to get one.

‘The clubs have recognised the Premier League is not forthcoming in a fairer distribution of money.

Neville has sat on League Two calls as the owner of Salford City and heard club's desperation

Neville has sat on League Two calls as the owner of Salford City and heard club’s desperation

‘The Premier League has proven over the last two years it cannot be responsible for the management of English football.

‘English football is so important to tens of millions of people up and down the country and it cannot be in the hands of those six owners or those other 14 owners who change every three or four years.’

But Neville stressed that the future of football did not only depend on more money flowing down the pyramid, it will also require tough new financial controls at every level of the game to ensure clubs are properly run. And a regulator will be best placed to implement those rules, and ensure better governance in clubs.

Bury went out of business in 2019 after overspending to gain promotion to League One

Bury went out of business in 2019 after overspending to gain promotion to League One

Neville and his mum gave evidence the Crouch Review about the demise of Bury, their hometown club

Neville and his mum gave evidence the Crouch Review about the demise of Bury, their hometown club

The Government has wasted no time in confirming its intention to create a new regulator for football, after the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries tweeted her support after just 12 hours of the Crouch report being published.

Ms Dorries took to social media this morning to endorse the key recommendation in a review of the English game, which was to put in place a regulator.

‘The review… lays bare that incentives in the game all too often lead to reckless financial decision making,’ she tweeted.

‘While the Government will take time to respond to the review’s recommendations in full, today we are endorsing in principle the review’s primary recommendation.

‘This review makes clear that we’re at a turning point for football in this country. Football clubs are the hearts of their local communities, and this Government will ensure they are properly run and fans are protected.’

The financial gap between the clubs at the top of the Premier League and the rest is now huge

The financial gap between the clubs at the top of the Premier League and the rest is now huge 

The cost of screening Premier League football at home and abroad has rocketed since 1992

The cost of screening Premier League football at home and abroad has rocketed since 1992

HOW WILL A REGULATOR WORK?

What is being proposed?

The central recommendation of the Crouch Report is to create an Independent Regulator for Football.

It would curb the actions of reckless owners, save clubs from going bust and create a fairer financial distribution.

In addition, fans would be given a greater say in how their clubs are run through the use of a shadow supporters’ board and a golden share, given to supporters’ trust to veto controversial moves such as moving stadium or changing club colours.

What happens now?

The Government has indicated it will support the creation of a new regulator, but the precise details will have to be agreed by ministers.

The creation of a regulator will require an Act of Parliament. Tracey Crouch, who led the review, hopes a bill will be drawn up and presented in the Queen’s Speech in the spring of 2022.

This would allow the legislation to be passed in time for the beginning of the 2022-23 season.

However, between now and the spring, it is likely that the Premier League, EFL and FA will lobby hard to mitigate some of the proposed measures.

Will clubs have to obey a regulator?

Yes, once the regulator is created the clubs will have to follow the rules set down in law.

This may include giving a regulator access to accounts, allowing intervention where clubs are being placed at risk, accepting more onerous owners’ and directors’ tests, giving fans a clearly defined role in running clubs, abolition of parachute payments and increasing the flow of money from the Premier League to the rest of football.

Some of the more radical proposals include imposing a 10 per cent levy on transfers undertaken by Premier League clubs with overseas and other top flight teams, and allowing a regulator to block investment by an owner where it may destabilise a league.

When will it happen?

If the terms of the Crouch Report are followed, a new regulator will be in force ahead of the 2023-24 season.

However, it is hoped that recruitment will start before any Bill receives Royal Assent, that is before next spring, and the regulator will have an influence on the running of football earlier.

The review of football was prompted by the demise of Bury FC, which went out of business in 2019.

Ministers were also appalled by the creation of a European Super League in April, which would have split English football, if it had not quickly died a death.

In addition, they were infuriated by the inability of the Premier League and EFL to strike a deal quickly in order to help lower league teams stricken by the coronavirus pandemic.

The precise scope of the new regulator will be determined by Government.

It would be created through an Act of Parliament and within that its powers would be defined. It is likely that as the legislation is drawn up there will be a fierce lobbying war to water down certain aspects of any Bill.

Once in place, a regulator would be able to enforce the rules. It will hold the clubs’ licenses to play in professional leagues.

In a statement, the Premier League said: ‘We recognise the vital importance of fans and the need to restore and retain their trust in football’s governance.

EFL chairman Rick Parry has acknowledged an independent regulator is needed in football

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters will have to speak to clubs about where the top tier goes now

Rick Parry, chairman of the EFL ( left) has acknowledged an independent regulator is needed in football, but Premier League chief executive Richard Masters will have to speak to clubs about where the top tier goes now

‘We also acknowledge the call for some form of independent regulation to protect English football’s essential strengths and the Premier League has already undertaken our own governance and strategic reviews. These will continue to progress together with the ongoing work of the Fan Led Review.’

Meanwhile, the chairman of the EFL, Rick Parry, said: ‘Having been consistent in our view that professional football requires a fundamental financial reset in order to deliver sustainability across the pyramid, we are happy that this is a key recommendation in the Fan Led Review of Football Governance published today.’

With respect to an independent regulator, Parry said ‘the EFL will continue to engage in a constructive debate about the breadth and scope of regulation required’.

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