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Independent football regulator given green light in King's Speech

King Charles has noted the need for an independent body to safeguard the future of football in England

In his inaugural King's Speech, King Charles unveiled a blueprint for the introduction of a groundbreaking independent regulator for English football.

The Football Governance Bill, as it is known, is set to "safeguard the future of football clubs for the benefit of communities and fans" according to King Charles.

This announcement follows the decision made last February to appoint an independent regulator after a fan-led review.

New independent regulator set to bolster current owners' test

The bill aims to significantly bolster the current owners' and directors' test to protect the game and prevent English clubs from joining any other breakaway leagues. This move comes in the wake of the failed 2021 Super League announcement.

Moreover, the bill will also require owners and directors to seek approval for any potential relocation of home stadiums, further strengthening the protection of the domestic game.

The bill also focuses on preventing clubs from falling into administration and collapsing due to poor and insufficient funding from owners. This issue was highlighted by the unfortunate demise of Bury FC in 2019 due to financial instability.

The potential of a new owners' and directors' test could also affect several Premier League owners. Human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, have urged the league to address issues arising from the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s acquisition of Newcastle United in 2021.

'Long term sustainability' of the footballing pyramid key to new bill

The fan-led review, approved by the government last February, granted an independent regulator the authority to oversee English football. The goal is to 'ensure the long-term sustainability of the English football pyramid'.

The white paper detailing this plan emphasized the need for a licensing system for all clubs in the Premier League, Championship, League One, League Two, and National League. This measure is designed to prevent any future club collapses.

While the exact timeline for the introduction of the independent regulator remains uncertain, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak intends to launch it before the next election, which must take place before January 2025.

Niall Couper, Chief Executive of football sustainability volunteer group Fair Game, said:

“Today’s announcement is a historic moment for football and represents a real chance to end the cycle of overspending and mismanagement that has plagued our national game and threatened the very existence of our clubs."

“Reckless spending, disconnect between clubs and their communities, and lip service to equality standards must be consigned to the rubbish bin of history. This transformation can only be achieved if the regulator has the teeth and resources to deliver.”

The introduction of an independent regulator for English football marks a significant step towards safeguarding the future of the sport. By strengthening the owners' and directors' test, addressing club administration and funding issues, and ensuring long-term sustainability, the Football Governance Bill promises to protect the interests of communities, fans, and the sport itself.

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