Plans to positively reform English football have again been delayed according to the BBC, with the outlet citing the volume of other Government business, and the desire to make sure the white paper is not overshadowed as Downing Street deals with widespread public sector strikes. This follows leaked information last week indicating the long-awaited release of the Government’s white paper was due on Wednesday.
The announcement was set to see the introduction of an independent regulator for English football, 13 months after Tracey Crouch’s Fan-Led review was published. Crouch’s independent report focused on securing the game’s future, concluding with 10 recommendations, the central one being the establishment of a new Independent Regulator of English Football (IREF) by an Act of Parliament.
One year and three months later, the case for the introduction of a new football regulator has never been clearer; yet the state of the English game continues to hang in the balance and fans voices remain unheard. This uncertainty is continuing to have a material impact on clubs up and down the country. For example, the National League side Southend United is currently on the brink of extinction. Unable to pay players and staffs amid seven-figure debts, the club faces the very real prospect of going out of business due to their perilous financial situation.
The National League side, who boast a 116-year history has in recent times endured back-to-back relegations, which have seen the Essex-based club drop from the third tier to outside the EFL, which has further antagonised the serious financial situation. First reported by The Sun, the club are continuing to lose £2 million per year, with Chairman Ron Martin now given until March 1st to find a seven-figure sum or the HMRC winding-up order will be executed – leaving a town which can host over 12,000 for any given game, without a beating heart at the centre.
This is unfortunately a story that continues to repeat itself up and down the English pyramid, year on year. Most recently Bury and Macclesfield two English provincial towns, saw their clubs disappear as a result of gross financial mismanagement. Hence the delay of such a timely piece of legislation is leaving everyone scratching their heads.
It is clear certain Premier League clubs are against Government action, both Karren Brady from West Ham and Steve Parish from Crystal Palace made their opinions clear in respective comment pieces for The Sun and Sunday Times. However, the Premier League must not forget the foundation their status is built upon – the English pyramid ensures a competitive system and in order to protect this, it’s time for an independent regulator.
Across the government and the opposition, support for the introduction of an independent regulator seems to cross party lines and unite those concerned. Politicians for the most part acknowledge that clubs positively respond to the needs of their communities, with Parliament last week publishing a report stating EFL clubs "generate £865m of social value” for local communities. That is why we are calling for the Government to make this the final delay and get on with the business of saving the beautiful game.
Thankfully, the indication at the moment is we could still see the white paper at the earliest byweek beginning February 20th, however, every further delay raises the likely hood of the next Southend United or Macclesfield or Bury.