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The Independent Regulator for English Football: Simon Leaf interviewed on LBC News

Posted on 8 November 2023

In the most recent King's Speech, King Charles confirmed that legislation will be enacted to create a new Independent Regulator for English Football (IREF). To discuss the news, and what this will mean for football clubs in England, Simon Leaf was interviewed by John Stratford on LBC News.

Simon explained that the confirmation, "comes as little surprise. While the eventual establishment of the IREF amounts to the most significant and, as some have argued, controversial government intervention into the sports industry in living memory, somewhat surprisingly there is likely to be some relief in the Boardrooms at the top of the game as the legislation that eventually is approved will likely end up being diluted from the original proposals put forward in the 'Fan-Led Review of Football Governance' carried out by Tracey Crouch MP (Tracey Crouch Review) and the Government's own White Paper from earlier this year.

"In particular, it would appear that while the IREF will be given the task of administering a stronger owners' and directors' test, will be the ultimate arbiter between the Premier League and EFL if a new deal cannot be agreed, and will also have powers to prevent clubs joining breakaway leagues, the removal of direct powers to regulate financial fair play and impose sporting sanctions, such as points deductions, could mean that in reality we are left with a regulator that is unable to effectively ensure the financial stability that the game needs. 

"Additionally, the other probable gaping hole here is the women's game –which is likely to be completely ignored and effectively put outside the remit of the regulator.

"It remains to be seen what the long-term impact will be but it is hard to envisage how the new IREF, even with an enhanced owners' and directors' test, will be able to effectively police owners and protect fans when it comes to every day decisions at clubs. Either way, any change to the status quo will need to be handled delicately given that the Premier League is one of the country's most successful exports and reportedly generates over £8billion per year to the UK economy.

"It will now fall on politicians to debate the eventual text of the legislation – but given there is cross-party support for the IREF, and the fact that the Labour party has indicated that it would be in favour of providing stronger powers to the IREF, those at the top of the game will likely now accept the current proposals and see that their recent lobbying has been a job well-done."

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