MP Tracey Crouch says Newcastle takeover could have been further tested by independent English football regulator Football News

MP Tracey Crouch believes the Newcastle takeover would have been subjected to a “stress test” by an independent regulator, which has been at the forefront of proposals following a fan-led review in English football.

The Independent Regulator for English Football (IREF), which was created by an Act of Parliament, tops a list of 47 recommendations announced on Wednesday that are designed to make the domestic game more sustainable.

It will have financial oversight of the sport at the professional level and licensing of clubs in the first five levels of the game, and one of its roles will be to take over the management of owners and managers’ exams for tournaments.

The Premier League’s decision to accept the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s takeover of Newcastle, despite widespread concerns about the country’s human rights record, was met with strong opposition from the division’s other clubs.

Crouch believes IREF’s scrutiny of the deal, which she also recommends to be published later, would have made the process more transparent.

“I certainly cannot tell you if this integrity test will stop the Newcastle takeover. I don’t know the details of that,” she said.

Newcastle United president Yasser Al-Rumayyan (left) and Amanda Staveley before the start of the Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur at St James' Stadium.  park
Newcastle is now run by Saad Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (left)

“But I would say he would definitely have tested it more than before and he would have been more transparent about that test.”

While the Premier League, the Premier League and the Football Association welcomed the report and thanked Crouch for her hard work, the Premier League also cautioned that “any reforms do not harm our game, its competitive balance or current investment levels”.

A surprising inclusion in the recommendations is a “stamp duty” on Premier League clubs that have signed players from abroad or from another first-tier team, and that the IREF will have the ability to levy the tax if clubs resist.

“The Premier League can make that change tomorrow,” Crouch said. “It shouldn’t[impose it on them]but it can.

Former Sports Secretary Tracey Crouch fears for the future of football if there is no independent regulation
Former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, Member of Parliament, fears for the future of football if there is no independent regulation

“I think there is a recognition among some clubs in the Premier League that, despite all the trials and tribulations around COVID and everything else, we still have a really good transfer window.

“I think a lot of people realize that they have a responsibility to redistribute some of that wealth.

“In the past, under the current regulatory system, there was a lack of confidence in redistribution, because there weren’t necessarily restrictions around ensuring there were good owners running their businesses properly and so on.

“So there’s actually a reason the report is structured as it is. You’ve outlined all the system that good governance and good organization gives, and then you get to the point of redistribution.”

Rick Barry, Chairman of the EFL Board of Directors in particular, welcomed proposals to reform the “outdated parachute payment system that currently distorts the EFL’s finances” and said, “We will continue to engage in constructive discussion about the breadth and scope of regulation required.”

The report also calls for the introduction of the shadow regulator at the earliest opportunity, and Crouch hopes to have all necessary legislation ready to be fully operational by the start of the 2023-24 season.

Another recommendation would be to grant the Golden Participation a veto of fans’ trust on matters of club heritage, which would enable fans to prevent clubs from entering competitions not sanctioned by the FA – such as the European Premier League.

The government commissioned the fan-led review following the failed bid by six dissident Premier League clubs in April, and Crouch said: “I like to think English clubs have learned their lesson but you can never tell.”

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