Football Governance: Fan-Led Review

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:34 am on 26 January 2023.

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Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central 9:34, 26 January 2023

Whether she plans to implement the recommendations of the Fan-Led Review of Football Governance.

Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

When we published our response to the recommendations made by the independent Fan-Led Review of Football Governance, we were clear that football needs reform to ensure the game’s long-term sustainability and to safeguard clubs, and I have met the authorities to push for action now. We will publish a White Paper setting out our detailed position within the next couple of weeks. That will set out the direction of travel for significant reform within football.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

I do not know whether I need to declare an interest as a supporter of Barnsley football club, but I put that on the record anyway. Further to the point made just a moment ago, we are still waiting for progress between the Premier League and the English Football League on increased funding to the pyramid, which could, hopefully, avoid another Bury football club or Derby County scenario. The Minister and the Secretary of State have mentioned the White Paper, but given that it may be 18 months before any new regulator is operational, can the Secretary of State say what she will do in the interim to break the deadlock and ensure that football clubs are financially sustainable for the longer term?

Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

While we will publish the White Paper in two weeks’ time, it is clear that football does not need to wait for the Government to act. Both the Minister for Sport and I have had several meetings trying to push that along. I urge football to act now because it is in its interests, too, to safeguard clubs and to protect the interests of fans.

Photo of Damian Collins Damian Collins Chair, Draft Online Safety Bill (Joint Committee), Chair, Draft Online Safety Bill (Joint Committee)

I welcome the news that the Government’s White Paper will be published shortly. Does the Secretary of State agree that most football clubs that get into financial difficulties are already trading outside of the rules of the competitions they play in? If those rules were properly enforced, these problems would not occur, and that is why we need the regulator to ensure that transparency exists.

Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

As always, my hon. Friend talks a great deal of sense, and I completely agree with him. That is why this Government will be acting and standing up in the interests of clubs and fans to ensure that the regulator is in place to do just that, but of course the rules of the game could be enforced now.

Photo of Lucy Powell Lucy Powell Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Everton football club is reportedly up for sale, with its stadium half-built. With others up for sale, this looks set to be a record year for premier league clubs changing hands. Many others face financial problems and ownership uncertainties, all since the Fan-Led Review was published. Yet fans will have no say and new owners are not subject to robust independent checks. We still do not have the deal on financial distribution in the pyramid. Will the Secretary of State take responsibility for the clubs that go under or get themselves into trouble before the independent statutory regulator is finally implemented?

Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

This Government have proven time and again that we are on the side of the fans. We committed to the review in our manifesto. We stepped in during covid to protect clubs with a £600-million sport survival package. We stepped in again to prevent the super league —a competition that no fans wanted. Whenever fans have needed us, we have been in their corner. This will be a huge shake-up of football, and I will not apologise for taking the time to get it right. We will come forward with the White Paper in the next two weeks.