MPs have lent further support to the campaign for an independent regulator of football claiming that the self interest of Premier League club owners cannot be allowed to shape the future of the national game.
Hardly a week goes by these days when the Premier League and English Football League don’t find themselves in the sights of politicians.
MPs are angry at the failure of the governing bodies to agree a bail out for clubs in danger of going bust, more than eight months after the coronavirus pandemic swept Britain, and they don’t miss an opportunity to remind them.
The latest platform for Parliamentarians to deliver a kicking was a debate entitled the ‘Future of Football Governance’, which was called by Clive Efford, Labour MP for Eltham and a passionate supporter of Tottenham Hotspur.
MPs are furious that football has failed to agree a package to support lower league clubs
This time it was the Premier League clubs’ owners who were the target.
‘’The short termism and self interest club owners have shown over the years excludes them from making decisions on behalf of the wider football family,’ Efford told the debate.
‘They believe they know best for the rest of us but they are unable to see the bigger picture. They see the Premier League, but we see football and the football family.’
Efford added: ‘The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the governance of the game and there is no going back to business as usual.’
Efford is also a member of the Department for Culture Media and Sport select committee, which gave Richard Masters, the Premier League chief executive, and Rick Parry, the chairman of the EFL, a torrid 90 minutes on November 10.
The issue of a bail out for EFL sides has been a long-running saga, with the football bodies insisting the government should help out, but ministers steadfast in their resolve that there is enough money in the national game to sort out the problem.
At least 1o EFL clubs are believed to need an emergency loan to meet their payroll this month
The Premier League has offered a £50m package to League One and Two clubs
In the end-to-end contest, football has accused the government of being generous to other sectors, particularly in a £1.5 billion support package for the arts, and allowing theatres to open while stadiums stayed shut.
But ministers have claimed that the total government funding for football clubs, when one considers various business-support schemes, adds up to £1.5 billion, and they consistently point out £1.2 billion was spent by Premier League teams in the summer transfer window..
The upshot is there is still no agreed support plan for EFL teams, at least ten of which are expected to require an emergency loan this month to meet their payroll.
Clive Efford MP, a passionate Tottenham Hotspur fan , called the Parliamentary debate
The Premier League has offered £50m in grants and loans to League One and Two, but the EFL has asked for the sum to be offered in grants only.
A £200m loan facility for Championship clubs remains under discussion.
Efford said there is a growing pile of evidence that shows change is needed.
The Taylor Review into the collapse of Bury FC, Project Big Picture, the current Premier League review into governance and the government’s own fan-led review, which is yet to begin.
However, he said that Premier League shareholders should not have the only say, since 49 clubs have participated in the top tier and the 20 currently in situ are there by ‘an accident of history’.
Rick Parry, chairman of the EFL ( left) and the Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters (right) appeared before MPs on the DCMS Select Committeeon November 10
In addition, he said the need for reform would allow football to better tackle issues of diversity, inclusion of people with disabilities, the funding and development of women’s football, as well as safeguarding the survival of clubs, like Bury.
Currently, football governance is shared between the Premier League, EFL and Football Association, but critics say that the inability to bail out stricken clubs and the constant pressure from the most powerful sides to seize more influence, power and wealth confirms football can no longer govern itself.
Many saw Project Big Picture as a power grab by the Premier League’s biggest clubs.
Former Manchester United defender and now Sky pundit Gary Neville met Parliamentarians on Wednesday to make that point in support of the Saving the Beautiful Game campaign, which is also demanding independent regulator for football.
The government has committed to a fan-led review of governance in football, which may cast further light on this issue, but MPs are frustrated that there is no timetable to make this happen.
Kevin Miles of the Football Supporters’ Association wants a regulator for the game
Alison McGovern, Labour’s shadow sports minister, said the only way forward now is to press ahead with the review.
‘If we think this is going to be sorted out from within football we would be engaging in a collective fantasy,’ she said. ‘It is not going to happen.’
She said Parliament had failed to deal with the governance of football for a decade. And she added: ‘It is incumbent upon us to just get on with it.’
The Football Supporters’ Association is a big fan of the review. Chief Executive Kevin Miles told Sportsmail it is an issue ‘of concern to football fans’.
He added: ‘There is a manifesto commitment and we urge them to start this review as soon as possible.’
The Premier League’s own review of governance will report in March.