A number of high-profile football media figures and ex-players including Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Lineker are leading calls for the swift introduction of an independent body to regulate the sport in England.
On Monday, Neville presented an open letter and parliamentary petition stressing the need for “swift and direct intervention” to combat the threat of a European Super League after the recent debacle that saw the Premier League’s so-called ‘Big Six’ clubs all sign up as founder ESL members before quickly withdrawing from the proposals after a fierce fan-led backlash.
The letter - signed by 22 people in total including the likes of Jamie Carragher and Micah Richards - calls for the appointment of an independent football regulator and expresses support for Government legislation to “block any Premier League clubs attempting to abandon the country’s football pyramid”, warning that the threat of a breakaway Super League will remain “constant” without action.
It continues: “This regulatory body would have a duty to represent the interests of supporters, protect against bad practices, adjudicate as the overarching body on matters involving the FA, Premier League and EFL and, generally, seek to prioritise the wider good of the game, rather than allow clubs to act solely in their own self-interests.
“We, the undersigned, have a voice in the media. We want your voices to join with ours. Your voices are more important. Say ‘No’ to a European Super League. Say ‘Yes’, to changing the game for the better.”
Last week, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said that the ESL debacle meant there had to be an open attitude towards regulatory change in English football, but added that he did not think an independent regulator was the answer.
“I would defend the Premier League’s record in regulating its clubs and conducting its business over the last 30 years and indeed, put forward the last 18 months, when football has had to come together to keep itself together during the pandemic, keep the show on the road, keep fans entertained and see off various threats along the way,” Masters said.
“Hopefully now we can come together around the new television proposals, which can underscore the solidarity within the game.”
Following the ESL fiasco, a Government-initiated fan-led review of football governance is due to be conducted this year, chaired by former sports minister Tracey Crouch.
“We welcome the fan-led Government review of the game and hope it leads to lasting change on an array of important concerns; including co-ordinated strategies to deal with racism, supporters’ representation within clubs, LGBTQ issues, ticket costs and the distribution of income,” said Neville and Co.
“All of those aims can be realised if we take decisive action now.”