Football clubs call for independent regulator to stop them being ‘wiped off the map’

By Bill Heaney

A fan-led review, commissioned in the wake of the European Super League furore last year, recommended a body be set up to help prevent more teams going under.

A raft of football clubs – the number of Scottish clubs have not yet been disclosed although Rangers and Celtic are playing in Europe this week, and Dumbarton are top of Scottish Division 2 – have written to the government urging it to press ahead with plans for an independent regulator, warning that the absence of an overseeing body would lead to clubs being “wiped off the map”.

The letter calling for the regulator, which was the central recommendation of the fan-led review commissioned by the government in the wake of the European Super League scandal last year, was signed by a total of 29 clubs.

That involved a greakaway of Europe’s top teams although they quickly realised that it would be impossible to go it on their own.

More than a third of British clubs have gone under since 2000 and 52% were technically insolvent in 2020, according to the letter, which was addressed to Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Michelle Donelan.

A White Paper setting out the regulator’s scope had initially been due for publication in the summer, but the recent political turmoil has led to delays.

There were even reports Liz Truss had been preparing to abandon the plans for a regulator altogether before she resigned last month.

Rishi Sunak publicly committed himself to implementing all 10 recommendations of the fan-led review during the Conservative leadership contest in the summer, but hasn’t addressed the issue since he took office.

The group clubs from across the football pyramid, including 15 from Leagues One and Two, have called upon his government to make good on that pledge.

Football clubs are at the heart of our communities, with numerous local businesses dependent on them. Inaction now could lead directly to clubs being wiped off the map and local economies and communities being devastated,” the letter stated.

The letter, co-ordinated by football reform campaign group Fair Game, noted Donelan’s speech to the Tory Party conference in September where she recognised the impact of clubs within her constituency.

“You are right, football is incredible, but all those great things you mentioned are at risk,” the letter continued. Football is at a crossroads and the future of the game hangs in the balance.

“We have seen over a third of clubs go into administration since the turn of the century. And in 2020, 52 per cent of clubs were technically insolvent. Since then, the pandemic has left clubs on their knees and the cost of living crisis threatens to deliver a knockout blow.

“To save football, we need the independent regulator. Any further delay is simply not in the wider interests of football – and crucially the communities they serve.

“We await the White Paper on football governance with interest and we implore you to commit to immediate legislation for a regulator in the next King’s Speech.”

Pictures by Jon Leino and Bill Heaney

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