Football leaders fight 'like cats in a sack', MP claims

Leadership in football is an ’embarrassment’ with Premier League and EFL ‘fighting like cats in a sack’, it is claimed – as Gary Neville urges Parliament to step in and create an independent regulator to oversee the national game as a ‘last resort’

  • The ‘Saving the Beautiful Game’ campaign group met with MPs and peers
  • Members Gary Neville, David Bernstein and Lord Mervyn King spoke to 40 Parliamentarians and asked them to consider an independent football regulator
  • The campaign wants to reorganise football to see a fairer distribution of wealth
  • MPs have been critical of football for failing to agree a package for crisis clubs 

Gary Neville has told MPs that asking Parliament to intervene in how football is run in England is a ‘last resort’, but the appointment of an independent regulator for the national game is now the only solution.

Neville, met with 40 MPs and peers, as part of the ‘Saving the Beautiful Game’ campaign, which is demanding the reorganisation of football so that there is a fairer distribution of the sport’s wealth, ensuring the sustainability of clubs throughout the leagues.

The Former Manchester United defender and now Sky pundit was joined by other high-profile campaign members, former FA chairman David Bernstein and the ex-Governor of the Bank of England Lord Mervyn King.

Gary Neville has addressed 40 MPs and peers for the ‘Saving the Beautiful Game’ campaign

The campaign claims football cannot be left to govern itself and needs independent regulation

Lord King told the meeting, which was held over Zoom, that football was not a failing industry but “its governance was now an embarrassment”.

And MP Julian Knight, who grilled football leaders at a Department for Culture Media and Sport Select Committee meeting last week, told the group, the case for a regulator was growing every day after “the unedifying spectacle of the Premier League and EFL fighting like cats in a sack”.

The campaign, which sets out a ‘Manifesto for Change’ was launched a month ago. The high-powered leaders of the group have already met with Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden and had conversations with the Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston.

They believe that the COVID-19 crisis, in which the EFL and Premier League have so far failed to agree on a package for lower league clubs faced with financial ruin demonstrates the inability of football to government itself.

Lord Mervyn King, a member of the campaign, called football governance an ’embarrassment’

The campaign group believes independent governance would prevent clubs like Bury failing

They also point to Project Big Picture, which offered lower league clubs a bailout in return for supporting a restructure of English football that was widely seen as a power grab by the country’s most powerful teams, led by Liverpool and Manchester United.

Outspoken remarks about the governance of football have become increasingly common in recent weeks.

Richard Masters, chief executive of the Premier League, and Rick Parry the chairman of the EFL, were given a rough ride in front of the DCMS committee on November 10. 

The committee chairman, Knight, then wrote to the pair accusing them of ‘squabbling’ over the arrangements to support lower league teams, of which ten are expected to need emergency loans to meet their payroll this month.

Rick Parry, chairman of the EFL ( left) and the Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters (right) appeared before MPs on the DCMS Select Committee on November 10

At the hearing earlier this month, Masters told MPs:  ‘We have been asked to step up and I believe we are doing that.’

The Premier League has offered £50m to support Leagues One and Two – £30m in loans and £20m in grants. But lower league clubs have pushed back and asked for the sum to be provided in grants only.

Discussions are ongoing about a £200m loan facility for Championship clubs.

The top-flight clubs rejected the proposals in Project Big Picture in October and the Premier League has since since launched a review on structure and governance, which will report in March.

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