By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England - The British government's review of English football has recommended the creation of an independent regulator to deal with the game's finances, club ownership and corporate governance.
The move would weaken the powers of the Premier League and other leagues and the Football Association to govern the game themselves and introduce a series of new regulations.
Tracey Crouch, a lawmaker in Britain's parliament, conducted what she called a "fan-led review" with experts looking into problems in the game following fan protests over lower league clubs going into administration and controversial plans from the top clubs like the proposed breakaway European Super League.
"The main recommendation is for a new Independent Regulator for English Football (IREF) established by an Act of Parliament, which will be focused upon specialist business regulation adapted to the football industry," Crouch said in the foreword to her report.
"This would operate a licensing system for professional men’s football. The licensing conditions should focus upon measures to ensure financial sustainability via financial regulation ... and improving decision making at clubs through items such as a new corporate governance code for professional football clubs, improved diversity and better supporter engagement," she added.
The report also calls for a "golden share" for fans which would require supporter consent on certain issues.
FIFA's rules for all Football Associations state that they must be free of any government or political interference but the report says any conflict with those rules could be avoided by the regulator's board being appointed by a panel of experts rather than directly by government.
The report also looks into ways of redistributing money from the game's elite level to lower divisions and grassroots football.
Julian Knight, head of parliament's sports watchdog body, the Department of Culture Media and Sports Select Committee, said swift government action was now needed.
"The Secretary of State must look to introduce a football regulator in the next Queen’s speech. Today must mark the start of building a stronger, fairer and more sustainable national game," Knight said.
The Premier League was more cautious in its response.
"We recognise the vital importance of fans and the need to restore and retain their trust in football’s governance," it said in a statement.
"We also acknowledge the call for some form of independent regulation to protect English football’s essential strengths," the league added.
"It is important to everyone that any reforms do not damage our game, its competitive balance or the levels of current investment."
A Football Association spokesperson said the organisation recognised the importance of the review.
"Many positive changes have already been made, some of which are directly as a result of the review. We will digest the report in full and will continue to liaise with the Government on potential solutions to the topics and recommendations that have been made."
(Reporting by Simon Evans, Editing by Ed Osmond)