Independent regulator for football a ‘terrible idea’, claims West Ham owner David Sullivan

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West Ham’s owner David Sullivan has slammed plans to introduce an independent regulator as the government released its white paper on football’s governance.

The white paper will act on several recommendations of MP Tracey Crouch’s fan-led review of the sport’s governance which began after the failed launch of the European Super League in 2021.

The plans, however, which would see the introduction of an independent regulator as well as other key changes to overseeing finances and power of fans in football, have been heavily criticised by Sullivan, the owner of Premier League club West Ham.

He said: “A football regulator is a terrible idea. The government are terrible at running everything. Look at the mess this country is in.

“We pay the highest taxes ever for the worst service from the worst government that I’ve seen in my lifetime. The regulator will have a huge staff that football will have to pay for. It will be a total waste of money.”

“Why does an incompetent government think it will improve things? In every area this government is involved in, it has added staff for a worse service.

“The government are doing this for a PR win. They think it will be good PR to be seen backing the ordinary football fan and smaller clubs.”

The Premier League also released a statement suggesting that any government change must be careful to not damage the league’s reputation.

The statement read: “The Premier League recognises the case for change in football governance and continues to implement stronger and more independent regulation. We are strengthening our ownership rules and are already providing £1.6bn in financial support to the wider game in this current three-year cycle.

“We appreciate the government’s commitment to protect the Premier League’s continued success. It is vital that regulation does not damage the game fans love to watch in the deepest professional pyramid in the world, or its ability to attract investment and grow interest in our game.

“We will now work constructively with stakeholders to ensure that the proposed government regulator does not lead to any unintended consequences that could affect the Premier League’s position as the most-watched football league in the world, reduce its competitiveness or put the unrivalled levels of funding we provide at risk.”

Mark Palios, the co-owner of League Two side Tranmere, also raised concerns about the regulation of funds being given to clubs in the lower leagues.

He said: “The real issue that has been left on the table and in the hands of the powers that be is the question of funds that flow down the pyramid into the lower leagues. If you just pass down more money down the pyramid without financial controls in place, you’ll just be pouring petrol on the fire.”

Other reaction to the white paper has been more positive with key figures outlining the need for intervention to ensure the long-term safety of the footballing pyramid.

The EFL, which represents the three leagues below the Premier League, released a firm statement supporting the plans and hailing it a “landmark moment for the future of our game.”

The statement went further: “The EFL has been clear that the English game needs a fundamental financial reset in order make the game sustainable so that all clubs can continue to serve their supporters and communities long into the future.

“We now await to review the White Paper in its entirety and will consider our position in full. The Fan Led Review White Paper represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity that must be seized to address the systemic issues that football has been unable to sort itself over the last 30 years.”

FA CEO Mark Bullingham also commented on the plans. He said: “We welcome the publication of the White Paper and its commitment to improving the financial sustainability and governance of professional clubs.”

Finally, Government Sports Minister Stuart Andrew threw his support behind the plans. In an interview with GB News, he said: “There clearly are some serious problems and so what we’re doing today is publishing a white paper in which we will bring in an independent regulator that will seek to ensure that clubs are more sustainable.

“That will hopefully then bring forward more stability within the football pyramid because, at the end of the day, we’re concerned about the fans. They’re the ones that invest so much in their clubs and we want to make sure that that success is built on and it’s there for years to come.”

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