- By Dan Roan
- BBC sports editor
The Premier League and English Football League must be “forced” to agree to share more revenue with clubs at the bottom of the football pyramid, or risk having a deal forced on them, MPs say.
A report by the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Select Committee says that if no funding plan can be reached soon, the government should push for the setting up of an independent football regulator (IREF) “to impose a deal “.
It also concluded that the sport should be held accountable for how it tackles discrimination by the new regulator, saying it was “doubtful” it would deliver standards on its own.
The committee called for equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) measures to be included in a new code for football management and for the regulator to have powers to review clubs’ action plans .
MPs want “a higher, strategic redistribution from all leagues to the grassroots” to “safeguard the long-term stability of the game”.
“Unless the football authorities get their act together as soon as possible in agreeing a fairer share of the revenue, we risk more clubs going out of business, with the devastating impact this could have on local communities, ” said chair Dame Caroline Dinenage MP.
“It’s in the best interest of everyone involved to get this sorted out quickly.”
How did we get here?
The committee took evidence from football authorities in February when talks between the Premier League and EFL about a new funding arrangement were investigated.
The plan for a regulator, recommended by a fan-led review, has been confirmed by the government and should be established by 2024.
Ensuring a fair distribution of money filters down from the Premier League is one of its aims, along with stopping clubs going out of business, giving fans greater input and introducing tougher tests to owners and directors.
Putting both leagues’ broadcast revenues into a shared pot is a proposal being considered, although parachute payments to clubs relegated from the Premier League have been a sticking point for the two organization.
The regulator will have ‘backstop’ powers to impose a new financial deal if agreement cannot be reached, effectively forcing the Premier League to share more money with the pyramid.
Parachute payments are solidarity payments made to help designated parties adjust to lower incomes. The Premier League believes they are helping clubs to be competitive when promoted, and pointed to the fact that there were eight clubs in the league last season who were promoted without a parachute fee.
The payments have been criticized for creating ‘yo-yo’ clubs and disparity in finances between Championship sides.
The Premier League said it was already giving away 15% of its revenue, and in 2020 also agreed a £250m rescue package to help ease the financial challenge facing EFL clubs as a result of the pandemic of Covid-19.
This month, Sports Minister Stuart Andrew MP said he was “hopeful that discussions between the Premier League and the EFL will find a solution to this urgent issue”, and “hope that resolution will be found soon immediately”.
He added: “I encourage both sides to reach a deal as soon as possible. It is in the interest of the game to avoid the risk of further financial uncertainty.”
The government said legislation for the new regulator would be one of the first bills to progress after the King’s Speech in the autumn.
However, it said in its football governance white paper published in February that it did not believe EDI matters should be within the regulator’s immediate purview, despite a fan-led review recommending they should be. within the remit of the regulator.
The CMS committee says it is “doubtful” football will develop suitable collective standards by itself, given the “limited progress” it has observed.
Its report, which recommended the government set up the regulator in shadow form by the end of the year, said: “We are concerned that the government has ignored recommendations to include action plans of EDI for clubs and administration of these plans within the remit of IREF.
“We believe that the IREF will be well placed to receive and publish standardized data on compliance with the EDI requirements in football, as well as monitoring and enforcing compliance with the standards of equality through plans of EDI action.”
Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett welcomed the committee’s recommendation and added: “Football has dragged its heels for too long when making the change needed to make it a more welcoming sport.
“There is still a lack of diversity in boardrooms, coaching and refereeing, while players and fans suffer discrimination from the professional game to the grassroots. There has been progress, but a lack of collaboration and little solid results over the past decade mean it’s time to speed up the process.”
Both the Premier League and EFL declined to comment.
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