18th May 2021: Lord Faulkner of Worcester:

Today I spoke in the Queen’s Speech debate about football regulation,

My Lords, I will speak briefly about a DCMS issue that I hope will lead to legislation in the current Session but was not in the Queen’s Speech: the outcome arising from the Government’s decision to establish a fan-based review of football, chaired by Tracey Crouch MP. Noble Lords will remember that this was prompted by the furious reaction of supporters to the monstrous plan by the six wealthiest clubs—the majority of them foreign-owned—to break away from the FA Premier League to form the European Super League.

That episode demonstrated the inability of the English game to reform itself. It has been given plenty of opportunities to do so over the past 30 years, with numerous reviews of the governance of the Football Association, and inquiries into racism, hooliganism and so much more, but little has happened. The power balance within the game is flawed, and there is chronic financial disparity and deep-seated unsustainability, with clubs driven out of business and much-loved community assets destroyed, as greedy owners have been allowed to profit from the sale of stadiums, with supporters ignored or treated with contempt.

The European Super League was the latest attempt to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a small number of owners regardless of the disastrous effect on the remaining clubs, but there have been others, such as Project Big Picture and the proposed expansion of the UEFA Champions League. In the face of all this, the organisation which is supposed to be the governing body of English football, the FA, has appeared weak and divided, its credibility shot to pieces. Vested interests have prevented football speaking with a united voice.

I mentioned the succession of reviews that have attempted to solve these issues. I declare an interest as I served as vice-chairman of the Football Task Force 22 years ago. We attempted to tackle the issues which alienated supporters, such as hyperinflating ticket prices and exorbitant prices for merchandise, as clubs declared themselves businesses and made fortunes for their shareholder chairmen by floating on the stock market. The Football Task Force published two reports which were broadly accepted, on racism and disabled access, but the third and final commercial report, which addressed issues ranging from replica shirts and ticket pricing to the involvement of PLCs in the game, and aimed to deliver a fair deal for supporters, was strongly opposed by the Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League. In that final report, the majority of us made it clear that if football could not reform itself, the Government should legislate and introduce statutory regulation.

Therefore, I welcome the inclusion, in the terms of reference of Tracey Crouch’s review, an assessment of the need for an independent football regulator charged with implementing regulation and compliance, backed by legislation. I am sure that one of the documents that she will study will be Manifesto for Change, published six months ago by a distinguished group that includes the former chairman of the FA, David Bernstein, former Sports Minister Helen Grant MP, who is promoting a Private Member’s Bill in the Commons to establish a Toggle showing location ofColumn 540regulator, Andy Burnham, the noble Lord, Lord King of Lothbury, and Gary Neville. I conclude with a flavour of what they say:

“Clubs take excessive financial risks to achieve promotion, particularly incurring huge salary commitments. Relegation leaves clubs with parachute payments that temporarily meet unsustainable wages. Competing clubs consequently have to match such wages, creating an inflationary spiral … Stadiums have been sold off for commercial exploitation, fit and proper person tests are carried out in a weak and inconsistent fashion, fans, the lifeblood of the game, feel let down and neglected.”

This has not changed.

A link to the complete debate here