Premier League clubs should pay a stamp duty-style tax on every transfer fee to help support the English football pyramid, the government’s fan-led review has said, in one of 47 recommendations to safeguard the future of the game.
The highly anticipated report, led by the Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, was commissioned this year in response to ongoing crises of governance. Its proposals, according to Crouch, set out “a long-term sustainable position for English football”. The government will make a statement on the report in parliament on Thursday, with the possibility of legislation being announced next spring in the Queen’s speech.
Confirmed in the review is the recommendation that an independent regulator should oversee the English game. Able to grant licences to compete in league football, the regulator would have oversight of a club’s finances and decide whether owners and directors were fit to hold their role, including the application of a new integrity test.
Rules around owners’ responsibilities and financial commitments would be beefed up under the report’s recommendations, coming into line with practices more commonly applied to banks or media companies. The transfer levy, meanwhile, could see a tax of as much as 10% put on Premier League deals, with the money redistributed. The review calculated that in the past five years a 10% levy would have raised about £160m a year.
Other proposals include:
• A golden share, held by supporters, that could veto certain key changes in a football club – from changing the name to selling the ground.
• Shadow boards made up of fans who must be consulted by clubs on key decisions.
• Limits on the amount of money owners can put into a club, to prevent unsustainable practices and stop the distortion of competition, set according to the size of a club’s existing finances.
• A reappraisal of parachute payments to be determined between the Premier League and Football League – and, if there is no solution, by the regulator.
• Compulsory relegation and promotion clauses in players’ contracts.
• Compulsory equality, diversity and inclusion plans for every club, building on the success of the Football Association’s leadership diversity code and the Premier League EDI standard.
• A review into the future of the women’s game.
• Trials to allow the consumption of alcohol while watching a match.
“I genuinely think that what we’ve set out in the report is good for the game,” Crouch said. “It will set out a long-term sustainable position for English football.
“I think it will encourage growth and investment and I think it will drive improvements across the game that have been required for many years, decades in fact.”
It is understood the government supports the key recommendation of a regulator, but Crouch warned this change would not be enough. “I think it’s really important to say that this is a whole package of reforms,” she said. “An independent regulator is one thing but if you don’t have proper prudential regulation, good corporate governance, supporter engagement and a golden share it’s basically just a bunch of people issuing a licence.”
The review was widely welcomed across football. “This is potentially a huge step forward for football governance,” said Kevin Miles, the chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Association. “The government committed to a fan-led review which has listened to the voice of fans. It’s now up to the government to deliver upon the recommendations.”
Rick Parry, the EFL chairman, said the review was a “really thorough piece of work” which had “comprehensively recognised the financial challenges” within the game. “We believe that reform in football should be about making clubs sustainable,” he said. “We support both redistribution and regulation within the game”.
The Premier League said it welcomed the review and commended Crouch and her expert panel for their work. “We recognise the vital importance of fans and the need to restore and retain their trust in football’s governance,” a statement said. “We also acknowledge the call for some form of independent regulation to protect English football’s essential strengths.
“The Premier League, alongside English football as a whole, is a global success. We have an outstanding track record on and off the pitch, including the positive impact on youth development, communities and the wider game, of which we are proud. It is important to everyone that any reforms do not damage our game, its competitive balance or the levels of current investment.”
The Football Association said it recognised the review’s importance and would work with the government over the recommendations.