Insights Football governance: UK Government introduces new bill in Parliament


The Government has introduced the Football Governance Bill in Parliament, which will establish an Independent Football Regulator (“IFR”) for the first time in English men’s elite football.

The IFR, independent of both Government and football authorities, will be charged with 3 primary objectives: (1) protecting and promoting the financial sustainability of individual clubs; (2) improving the “systemic financial resilience” of English football through the management of “systemic risks and structural issues” such as the distribution of revenue through the so-called ‘pyramid’; and (3) safeguarding the “traditional features of English football that matter most to the fans and local communities of clubs”.

The Bill introduces a licensing system under which all clubs in the top five tiers of men’s English football will be expected to hold a licence in order to operate. Administering this system will be the IFR, armed with a broad range of powers and responsibilities. For example, it will be empowered to require prospective owners and directors of clubs to pass a series of tests to demonstrate their suitability as custodians of clubs. It will also oversee the financial plans of clubs and be able to intervene if there are worrying levels of financial risk, placing bespoke conditions on clubs where necessary. Intervention may also occur in the event of agreement not being reached on the distribution of broadcast revenue, subject to certain thresholds being met. Additionally, it will be empowered to prevent English clubs from joining breakaway competitions such as the European Super League.

The IFR will establish a Football Club Corporate Governance Code and require clubs to report on their compliance with the code. In addition, clubs will be required to have frameworks in place to meet with fans to discuss “key strategic matters at the club, and other issues of interest to supporters (including club heritage)”, and to seek approval if they propose to sell or relocate their home ground.

The Government’s fact sheet for the Bill makes it clear that the IFR’s approach to regulation will be “participative”, working with industry to improve standards. It will also be “proportionate and adaptive” so that requirements are tailored to the unique circumstances any clubs face. In order to assist clubs with the introduction of this new regime, the IFR will publish detailed and practical guidance. It will also publish a ‘State of the Game’ report every three years, providing an update on the financial health of the football industry.

Commenting on the Government’s announcement, Tracey Crouch MP, whose Fan Led Review of Football Governance recommended the introduction of the IFR, said “football fans can begin to breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that the next steps towards protecting the long term sustainability of the pyramid have now been taken. A significant amount of work has gone into this piece of legislation which will establish a truly independent force in football that will place fans and good governance at its heart.”

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