The prospect of a 'banking-style' overseer has the EPL concerned about its future

AP , Thursday 2 May 2024

The English Premier League fears a new “banking-style” regulator could damage the competitiveness of the world's most popular league.

Manchester City s Jack Grealish celebrates with the trophy after winning the 2022 English Premier League title at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, Sunday, May 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson, File)


League chief executive Richard Masters has also raised concerns that proposed government measures will impact the league's value and deter investment into a competition that earns billions of pounds through the sale of broadcast rights across the globe.

The U.K. government plans to establish an independent football regulator who will be charged with ensuring the financial sustainability of clubs and leagues in England. It is proposed each club will require a licence to operate, with strengthened tests over who can own a team, and enhanced financial regulation.

“We worry above all that the model set out in the bill may affect the carefully constructed competitive balance that is at the heart of our existing competition, and therefore the appeal and value of the Premier League to fans and investors alike,” Masters wrote to the chair of the government's select committee on sport.

Masters said the league preferred a “light-touch” regulator with powers to step in when required.

He said government proposals would mean “largely adopting an approach from banking regulation” and the “imposition of bespoke financial constraints.”

The league, he said, wanted to avoid “unintended consequences” that were “foreseeable.”

The Football Governance Bill would give an independent regulator powers to safeguard the future of clubs and stop teams from joining breakaway competitions like the failed bid in 2021 to launch a European Super League.

That license will require all clubs to meet certain mandatory conditions, such as basic requirements on fan engagement, corporate governance and financial reporting.

The government has said the regulator would have the power to oversee financial plans of clubs to ensure they can meet cash flows even in the event of a “financial shock,” and “step in where it has concerns.”

“This will prevent clubs facing cliff-edge situations,” it has said.

The regulator would also have powers to “test and remove” owners and directors “should they be found to be unsuitable.”

But in February, Sports Secretary Lucy Frazer said the government did not propose to block state-backed investment such as the Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle in 2021.

“What we want (is) to ensure clubs are financially sustainable, not who owns them. So it is not going to be in this bill whether a foreign state, for instance, should own a club,” Frazer said at the business of football conference. “What we’re interested in as a government is that the people who run the clubs run them well and that they survive. That is what the bill is all about.”

Masters said in his letter that clubs want to be consulted “first, not last” in any licensing system and have a clarification of principles around ownership tests.

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