Football regulator could reduce competition, warns think tank

Wednesday 23rd March 2022 07:38 EDT

Calls for an Independent Regulator for Football (IREF) – as set out in Tracey Crouch’s Fan Led Review of Football Governance – are gathering steam. A new paper from the Institute of Economic Affairs warns the move could undermine England’s position as home to the world’s most vibrant and competitive leagues.

The cost of the IREF will be paid for by clubs seeking licences. It would not be unreasonable to suggest the direct and indirect costs to Premier League clubs could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. The situation with Chelsea, where government has strict control of all outgoings and even of ticket sales, shows that far from bringing stability and protecting fans, regulatory interventions could severely hamper clubs and even cause them to go out of business.

A report from the Institute of Economic Affairs urges government to reconsider its support for the Fan Led Review of Football Governance, casting doubt on the need for and benefits of a new state-mandated regulatory system.

Under the proposed regulatory model, clubs will be forced to submit a wealth of financial and other information – including detailed business models and equality, diversity and inclusion plans. All will have to be approved before a licence, which must be renewed each year, is granted. Monitoring and collating this material and investigating clubs for potential breaches will require a substantial number of regulatory staff. The Review team had no experience and showed little understanding of how regulatory bodies operate in practice.

Excessively tight regulation of who can be an owner or director could make it difficult for clubs to replace existing owners, particularly at lower-league levels. This could be a new threat to their survival.

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