A soccer reform group hopes the new culture secretary, Lucy Frazer, will further strengthen the government’s proposals to regulate the sport that were leaked to the media last week.
Details of the government’s plans to create an independent regulator to make clubs more sustainable and more accountable to their supporters appeared in The Sun last Thursday.
The official White Paper responding to the recommendations of the fan-led soccer review was due to be published on Wednesday, but the PA news agency learned on Tuesday that its publication was delayed by at least two weeks.
Frazer replaced Michelle Donelan as Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as part of a mini-shuffle by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Niall Couper, the chief executive of soccer reform group Fair Game, gave the leaked plans a B-plus, but hopes the delay in publication could have positive consequences.
“Lucy Frazer has the weight of expectations on her shoulders,” Couper said.
“Clubs across the country will be eagerly waiting to see what he can offer.
“There is no question that our national game needs a reset. The pandemic and the cost of living crisis have brought clubs to their knees.
“However, many still routinely spend more than they earn on player salaries. The very future of our clubs is at stake. That gaming culture must end.
“We were hours away from the White Paper finally being published. The newspaper leaks promised a lot. Our hope is that the delay will allow him to strengthen the proposals and focus on providing a fairer financial flow in soccer. A flow that rewards well-managed clubs and puts an end to that endemic game culture in the game”.
Fair Game advocates that funding be determined, at least in part, by a sustainability index, which rewards well-managed clubs based on four key criteria, a detail that was missing from the plans leaked last week.
The Sun report appeared to indicate that the government backed the fan-led review recommendation for backstopping powers to be given to a regulator if soccer authorities cannot agree a new financial sharing deal between themselves.
The fan-led review recommendations were published in November 2021.
The review had been part of the Conservative Party’s manifesto for the 2019 General Election but was commissioned earlier than originally planned in the wake of the Super League scandal in April 2021, with Conservative MP and former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch announced as chair panel.
The White Paper was initially scheduled for publication last summer before political turmoil at the top of the Conservative Party led to lengthy delays.
There was no mention of a transfer tax in the Sun’s report on the plan. Crouch and his review panel recommended a tax of up to 10 per cent on Premier League transfer deals to further support the pyramid, which he estimated could raise an additional £160m a year.
The Sun reported that the regulator would operate a licensing system designed to ensure clubs are run sustainably and for the benefit of their supporters and the communities they serve.
It will do this, The Sun reported, by introducing new tests aimed at further vetting owners, ensuring minimum standards for fan engagement around key decisions related to a club’s cultural heritage and, crucially, , requiring teams to only enter competitions approved by the regulator, effectively preventing the possibility of a future breakaway league.