The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is introducing a new entity to the country’s soccer world. An “independent regulator” will arrive to improve the sport’s relationship with its fans.
British soccer needs an ombudsman. Although the country has been able to clear its reputation of having violent soccer fans, more can be done. The era of the English Disease – violence among soccer fans spanning decades – is almost gone. However, there are still isolated instances that need to be fixed.
There are also concerns over how the clubs manage themselves. Although there are procedures in place now to enhance integrity and transparency, these, according to fans, don’t go far enough.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has listened and is ready to make changes. It will soon introduce a new independent regulator to British soccer, according to ESPN.
Cleaning Up the Soccer Field
The DCMS recently completed a year-long survey of soccer fans to determine what changes they would like to see. It presented 10 recommendations that soccer lovers collectively asked for last year and which have now received the support of Parliament.
Among them is an integrity test for all club owners and executives. There will also be increased due diligence on the funding sources whenever a team is going to change hands. These steps replace those currently in place independently in the English Football League (EFL), the Football Association and the English Premier League (EPL).
In addition, the new independent regulator will have the authority to oversee the financial operations of clubs and investigate potential criminal activity. It will also have a legal foundation to enforce any penalties for violations it discovers.
Football is nothing without its fans and for too long, the football authorities have collectively been unable to tackle some of the biggest issues in the game. The government took decisive action to conduct the fan-led review,” said DCMS Secretary Nadine Dorries.
Going forward, once the new regime is in place, British soccer fans will have the ability to provide input into club logos, names, and more. This essentially gives all fans a quasi-ownership stake in the operations, which should also clean up the industry.
The DCMS adds that more details are forthcoming and will appear in an upcoming government white paper. The white paper is likely to be presented this summer. But the DCMS didn’t specify when the new regulator might be in place.
Leagues Have Mixed Reactions
UK soccer leagues responded to the announcement, showing varying degrees of support. The EPL welcomes the reform but doesn’t feel that a “statutory-backed regulator” is necessary.
It added in a statement that it is developing its own initiatives to increase fan engagement and give them greater input into operations. The league will provide those details “before the start of the 2022-2023 season.”
The EFL focused on the financial aspect of the reform. It indicated that it supports an independent regulator, provided it can show how to “reset the game’s finances” through improved regulation and distribution. This was a reference to an ongoing disagreement in revenue sharing between the EPL and the EFL.
Although there is no concrete time frame for the arrival of the new regulator, one rumor will disappoint many who support the reforms. There’s a chance that the changes won’t be in place until 2024.
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