England manager Gareth Southgate has warned the government that their plans for an independent regulator for football could become the new VAR and will cause confusion among stakeholders. Rishi Sunak’s government will put a football governance bill before parliament in the coming year, effectively confirming plans for an independent regulator for the English game.
The bill was announced as part of last week’s King’s Speech. It comes two years after the landmark publication of the fan-led review of football governance.
Legislation states that an independent regulator will monitor and enforce compliance with football’s financial, corporate governance and club ownership rules, among other powers. However, very little is clear about what the make-up of the regulator or how its powers will differ from those of The Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League.
Southgate has warned that the regulator could become another VAR, likening the confusion over its powers with that of the technology used to assist in the officiating of matches. “It would worry me that we’re trying to find simple solutions to very complex problems,” the Three Lions coach said.
“I’m dubious that we can solve all the issues. For me, it’s another VAR waiting to happen.
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“I know as an organisation The FA have supported the idea of some sort of financial controls but I’m not sure what is expected of the position (regulator) and who is this person and what their experiences are.”
The government’s proposed Football Governance Bill wants the regulator to “have powers to monitor and enforce compliance with requirements in financial regulation, corporate governance; club ownership (owners’ and directors’ tests); fan engagement and club heritage protection; and approved competitions”.
However, it is unclear how the regulator will separate good and bad owners. Southgate pointed out that he had played for clubs whose fans disliked their owners, despite enjoying vast success.
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He continued: “If we interviewed every owner in the league, would we have come to the right conclusion as to whether they were going to be good or bad at that moment in time. I’d say ‘No’, and who actually decides when they are good or bad.
“I was at Aston Villa for years, everybody used to hammer (chairman) Doug Ellis because he didn’t spend enough and yet he left a club that had a great training ground, great developed ground, financially stable, always in the top six, won a couple of trophies.
“Was he a good owner or a bad owner? Different people will have a different view. If I’m honest I don’t really know what the remit is (of the regulator). That’s the bit I haven’t read or haven’t seen or maybe isn’t there.”
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