A representative survey of English football supporters has found that an overwhelming majority would support the creation of an independent regulator, owing to concerns such as the Premier League’s financial power and the Football Association’s credibility.
The survey, which found that 79% of supporters would back independent regulation and 86% are concerned about the financial viability of clubs and leagues, was conducted for a group led by the former FA chairman David Bernstein, which is urging the government to establish a regulator by law.
Gary Neville, a member of the eight-person group, said that in his many different roles as player, coach, pundit and owner of Salford City, he has seen that football’s organisations act for themselves, so he has “called for government intervention into football for many, many years. I don’t believe football can reform itself”.
Neville said that although he had been opposed to the proposals from Liverpool and Manchester United in “Project Big Picture” for more voting power to be held by the top six clubs, he supported some of its other ideas, particularly for greater distribution of Premier League money to the Football League.
“I don’t want the Glazer family, John W Henry or Roman Abramovich or Daniel Levy running football in this country,” Neville said. “However there is great merit in some of the proposals; 72 League clubs would almost become instantly sustainable if Big Picture went through. However I suspect because it’s been rejected yesterday, that we will enter now into a world of chaos … and football will have a go at trying to reform itself but would yet again fail.”
Reports within the EFL are that six or eight League Two clubs are close to going bust, he said, and criticised the Premier League’s offer of only £20m in grants to League One and League Two clubs, with more available in loans, when the top flight clubs have just spent £1.24bn in the transfer window. Neville praised the EFL chairman, Rick Parry, for working with Liverpool and United to secure the offer of 25% redistribution of future Premier League TV deals, saying Parry did “an incredible job on behalf of his members”.
Bernstein acknowledged that in his time as chairman until 2013, although he had made some governance reforms: “We did a bit but it wasn’t enough.”
Helen Grant, a Conservative MP and former sports minister, said she would meet the current sports minister, Nigel Huddlestone, next week to discuss the report, and that there is cross-party support among many MPs for the idea of creating an independent regulator.
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