UK: Proposed football regulator ‘will need lawyers’

The UK Law Society Gazette rep[orts

new independent regulator to ensure the long-term sustainability of football, recommended by a fan-led review, will need lawyers with ‘expertise in regulation, enforcement and casework’.

The review calls for the establishment of an independent regulator for English football (IREF), which ‘should have a statutory objective of ensuring a sustainable and competitive future for English football’.

Conservative MP and former sports minister Tracey Crouch, who led the review, said IREF ‘will be focused upon specialist business regulation adapted to the football industry’. The new regulator will ‘operate a licensing system for professional men’s football’.

Any new regulator ‘must have significant investigatory and enforcement powers’, the review recommends, adding: ‘Without this threat, problems will get worse, not better. However, investigations and sanctions are not the only compliance mechanisms.’

Leeds footballers

Leeds United players protest against the formation of a European Super League, later aborted, before a match against Liverpool earlier this year

Source: Shutterstock

The proposed regulatory regime will give IREF the power to demand ‘proportionate information from clubs to assess compliance’. The review states: ‘Information must be provided in a timely way and be accurate, with legal mechanisms for IREF to obtain information even if a club is reluctant or not cooperative.’

IREF will also have the power to issue sanctions – up to forcing owners to pass control of decisions about a club to an IREF-appointed administrator ‘at the most extreme end’ – which will ‘require specialist expertise’.

‘As is the case with other regulators, an independent panel of experts should be appointed to decide on contested cases, both on whether a breach has occurred and the level of any sanction. This would call on experts from the finance, legal, economics and football industries,’ the review recommends.

It adds: ‘IREF will need lawyers as well as staff with expertise in regulation, enforcement and casework. Knowledge and experience of licensing regimes, including granting licences, will be necessary.’