The government insists it intends to “proceed at pace” in acting on the Crouch review, but an official response on plans to reform English football will not be forthcoming until the new year.
As voices from across the game responded to the review and its 47 recommendations, some dissenting voices began to be heard. But the sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, told parliament that the government welcomed the review and confirmed it accepted “in principle” the creation of an independent regulator for the game.
“The final report is a thorough and detailed examination of the challenges facing English football and is clear that reform is needed to solve them,” Huddleston said. “The government will fully and formally respond to this independent report in the new year. The primary recommendation of the review, that football requires a strong independent regulator, is a recommendation that I and the government endorse in principle today.”
Later, the minister appeared to go further by suggesting that one of the key powers recommended for the regulator, the ability to monitor the finances of football clubs in real time, would also be adopted by the government. “We could not have an effective regulator without adequate powers and [real-time access] would of course be part of that package,” Huddleston said.
Gary Neville, who is part of a group, Our Beautiful Game, which has been lobbying for a regulator, said he expected a pushback against the idea from the top of the professional game.
“I’ve no doubt (those in) the corridors of power will meet in the coming weeks and try to come up with a plan to bring forward some proposals which mean that they will suggest that we don’t need an independent regulator in the next 12 months,” he said.
“We know what you’re like, you’ve displayed your deficiencies, you’ve proved them over a 30, 40-year period. They do need a referee. They need a mediator. They need someone to bang their heads together and get these very intelligent, passionate people about football to work in unity towards the wider game.”
Perhaps one of the voices Neville had in mind was that of the Aston Villa CEO, Christian Purslow, who performed a media round on Thursdayspeaking out against regulation.
“My concern is whether the start point for this is really conflating the issue of the Burys of this world with the Super League; that perhaps it’s gone a little bit far,” Purslow told the Today Programme.
“The Premier League has always really been the source of funding for the rest of football and the danger here is of course, killing the golden goose if we over-regulate a highly successful financial and commercial operation.”