Charlie Methven

Why football needs a regulator

The government should not support the cartel that dominates Britain’s favourite sport

Plans by the government to introduce a regulator to the football industry – endorsed by all Westminster parties just a year ago – have, to use jargon oddly appropriate in this case, been ‘kicked into the long grass’.

Truss is instinctively against regulating almost anything. When I asked her about the ‘fan-led’ Crouch Report on the campaign trail a few weeks back, she replied, not very cryptically, that she would apply a ‘very high bar’ to any new types of regulation.

So, the news that the legislation has been paused is no great surprise to me.

The Premier League has, in effect, largely become a closed shop of the 20 teams currently residing in it, plus the 4 or 5 subsidised clubs in the Championship who can expect to go back up soon

For what it’s worth, I’m with Truss instinctively and philosophically when it comes to the nanny state. Yet just two years ago, I wrote a letter with Damian Collins MP calling for the establishment of a football regulator (Collins, interestingly, is now a minister in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.)

Why does football need a regulator? Partly because football clubs are social institutions, not just private businesses. When their financial stability is risked in pursuit of short-term success it’s not just the investors who suffer. Football clubs going bust create angst and long-term social damage that goes far beyond their small business status.

The second reason for undoing the proposed pause is perhaps more likely to appeal to Truss herself. As the Thatcher and Major governments needed regulators in privatised industries to ensure fair competition, such is the case in football now, where current practices are protectionist enough to make a Mexican cartel leader wince.

To explain: English professional football is a pyramid of 92 clubs, organised into 4 divisions: Premier League; Championship; League 1; League 2.

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