Labour Vows to Set Up UK Football Regulator; Eyes Transfer Levy

The Labour Party pledged to set up a new football regulator and said it may regulate ticket sales and review proposals to impose a transfer levy on Premier League football clubs if it wins next month’s general election.

Bloomberg
First Published18 Jun 2024, 12:31 AM IST
Labour Vows to Set Up UK Football Regulator; Eyes Transfer Levy
Labour Vows to Set Up UK Football Regulator; Eyes Transfer Levy

(Bloomberg) -- The Labour Party pledged to set up a new football regulator and said it may regulate ticket sales and review proposals to impose a transfer levy on Premier League football clubs if it wins next month’s general election.

The party intends to bring forward a Football Governance Bill establishing checks and balances on how soccer clubs are managed, in a bid to ensure their financial stability and protect fans, Labour leader Keir Starmer told reporters at the home ground of Bristol Rovers in southwest England on Monday.

While the key aim of the bill would be to prevent the formation of super-league style breakaways by leading clubs, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for digital, culture, media, and sport, Thangam Debbonaire, told Bloomberg the opposition party is also considering regulating ticket prices to ensure they’re not too expensive. Proposals to introduce a levy on player transfers by top clubs, with the proceeds redistributed to grassroots football, are also being looked at, she said.

Labour’s proposals are important because the party enjoys a wide polling lead with less than three weeks to go until the July 4 general election, meaning Starmer is likely to be Britain’s next prime minister. The governing Conservatives introduced a bill into Parliament in March to establish a football regulator, but its passage was halted when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak surprised much of Westminster last month by calling an early election. 

Labour’s version of the bill will “go back to first principles,” Debbonaire told reporters in Bristol. “In giving supporters a greater say in how their clubs are run and by strengthening owners’ and directors’ tests we will make England the best place in the world to be a football fan.”

“I’m going to look at everything because obviously ticket sales are a good part of income,” Debbonaire said when asked about regulating ticket sales. “But there’s a whole range of ways that clubs have to generate income. A club like this — it’s not the wealthiest club in the world and it wants to be able to invest in infrastructure. It wants to be able to make sure that facilities are good for the future. That does take money so I’m going to look at absolutely everything that might help increase the financial sustainability.” 

While the Tories had already promised a review of football governance in their 2019 election manifesto, the need for enhanced regulation was brought into focus in the spring of 2021 when six English clubs — Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur joined with clubs from continental Europe in announcing the establishment of a new European Super League. They all withdrew within days following a public outcry and government threats to block it.

“On my watch, there will be no super league-style breakaways from English football,” Starmer — himself an Arsenal fan — said in a statement. “We are lucky to have historic football clubs at the heart of communities across our country. But too often, clubs and fans are being let down by the wild west within the football pyramid. That’s why we will legislate for the long-awaited independent football regulator.”

Tory Member of Parliament Tracey Crouch chaired a review of football governance, proposing in late 2021 that a regulator be established. While her report included proposals for a transfer levy — which it said could raise £160 million ($203 million) a year for redistribution to lower-league clubs — the idea was not included in the government’s bill. 

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First Published:18 Jun 2024, 12:31 AM IST
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