The chief executive of the English Premier League has rejected calls to create an independent regulator to supervise football, as the sport grapples with the fallout from the collapsed breakaway Super League.
Following the uproar provoked by the rebel competition last month, the UK government initiated a sweeping review of the sport to try to make it more sustainable following the economic hit many clubs have suffered as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Coronavirus restrictions have wiped out almost two seasons’ worth of ticket revenue for clubs and were one of the main reasons for last month’s attempted breakaway by 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs — including six Premier League sides. The move collapsed following a fierce backlash from fans, prompting calls for an overhaul of the way the sport is run.
Speaking to journalists on Thursday, the Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters said it would be wrong to be “averse to change” — but made clear he opposed an independent regulator for the sport in England.
“I don’t think that an independent regulator is the answer to the question,” said Masters. “I would defend the Premier League’s role as regulator of its clubs over the last 30 years.
“If you look at the way that football operates itself, clearly we’ve had some problems over the last 18 months — but so has every industry sector.”
The Super League threatened civil war in football. Such was the uproar that all six English teams that signed up — Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City — quickly abandoned the contentious plan.
Despite the vast sums of money flowing through the sport, particularly in the Premier League which generates billions of pounds in broadcasting revenues, clubs often struggle to break even.
The government review, announced last month by culture secretary Oliver Dowden, will assess whether to create “a single, independent football regulator to oversee the sport’s regulations and compliance”. Tracey Crouch, the Conservative MP and former sports minister, is leading the review.
“I don’t think an independent regulator is required but that’s not to say that we won’t fully co-operate with Tracey Crouch’s review,” added Masters.
Masters’ comments come after the Premier League agreed to government demands this week to provide an additional £100m to teams in Leagues One and Two, two lower rungs of England’s professional league competitions. In return, the government allowed the league to roll over its existing £5bn broadcast deals with Sky, BT, Amazon and the BBC without the need to hold an open auction.
However, the English Football League, which runs the Championship and Leagues One and Two, warned that it was a “missed opportunity” to address the “financial imbalance” between the top league and the rest.
The EFL said it was essential for the government’s review or the Premier League, which is undertaking its own governance review, to address financial inequality because it had encouraged “untenable financial speculation and irrational behaviour” as Championship clubs spend to win promotion to the top flight.