Tracey Crouch is braced for the Premier League to “push back very, very hard” against her recommendation that English football should be subject to independent regulation.
The Premier League and its clubs appear determined to resist two elements of Crouch’s recently published fan-led review. The Conservative MP and former sports minister’s proposals advocate the establishment of an independent regulator, possessing powers to intervene at badly run clubs, and a levy on top-flight transfer fees, designed to support lower-league teams and the grassroots.
On Tuesday Crouch told the digital, culture, media and sport select committee that she was optimistic the legislative framework required for the independent regulator’s introduction would be included in the next Queen’s speech with a view to its establishment for the start of the 2023-24 season, staffed by up to 50 financial regulatory experts.
Crouch would like to see the immediate creation of a taxpayer-funded shadow regulator which would cost about £5m to set up but could start as early as January.
Crouch was unimpressed by a claim from Aston Villa’s chief executive, Christian Purslow, that her review’s recommendations risked “killing the golden goose”.
“I don’t see it as killing the golden goose – quite the opposite” she said. “What we have at the moment is a system subject to vulnerabilities. If you remove some of those vulnerabilities through better regulation, that actually encourages growth and investment in English football.”
Crouch said there was a lack of consensus among Premier League clubs, but Purslow is far from alone in his opposition to the proposal. Top-tier counterparts to have raised public objections include the Leeds chief executive, Angus Kinnear, who has compared Crouch’s transfer tax recommendation to Maoism.
She described Kinnear’s reaction as “a tad extreme” and hinted he had not comprehended her argument. “All I’m trying to do is to get some money down the football pyramid,” she said. “Some of the criticism from chief executives made it very clear that they hadn’t read the report. It’s not about a government regulator, it is an independent regulator. The remit is about the long-term financial sustainability of football.”
Even so, she accepts winning hearts and minds will not be easy. “My understanding is that the Premier League from their meeting on Friday is going to argue very, very strongly for the independent regulator to not be set up via legislation,” she said. “I think they will push back very, very hard on the statutory aspect of the independent regulator and would rather it was a unit in the Football Association.”
Crouch also expects resistance to the transfer levy. “That’s interesting because it was actually proposed by a Premier League club,” she said. “The transfer levy’s really important.”
Crouch suggested Kinnear, Purslow and company could reduce the government’s enthusiasm for increased independent statutory control by implementing a levy immediately.
“The Premier League could change the rules tomorrow and have it,” she said. “They could introduce a 3%, say, levy in January, it could go to grassroots and player welfare and it’s done. That would, to use a football analogy, effectively put them 1-0 up and park the team bus in front of goal. I’d encourage them to do that. I think I’ve been very reasonable in what I’ve recommended in this football review.”