Governing the beautiful game

the future of football in civil society

Aaryaman Banerji, February 2023

This Civitas publication looks at the prospect of regulation within English men’s football, something that has a large impact on football fans and the local community. Aaryaman Banerji is a sports researcher at Civitas looking at how we regulate ‘the beautiful game’.

Against the backdrop of football’s growing institutional graveyard, with centuries-old clubs now condemned to administration or insolvency, Banerji explores the standing of English football and proposals for a new regulator proposed by the Fan-Led Review led by former sports minister, Tracey Crouch. The proposed independent football regulator would oversee several key areas of governance, including financial sustainability and a new test for club owners and directors.

Several Premier League clubs, however, raised concerns about the report’s findings, particular around the establishment of an independent regulator. This report, therefore, makes an independent evaluation of the proposals from the Fan Led Review. Whilst viewing the establishment of a regulator as necessary, it also seeks to review some of the difficult challenges facing the long-term future of men’s football.

In a climate where football is becoming increasingly monetised and commercialised to the point of financial peril, as well as wielding greater geopolitical influence, this report looks to analyse how football clubs in England can remain vital local community assets, as has historically been the case, whilst having to adapt to a more global ecosystem.

Banerji looks at the extent to which the current governance structures in English football align with UK Sport’s Principles of Good Governance and how to bring English football closer to a traditional model of good governance. The governance of English football is increasingly fractured with Banerji arguing that any new regulator should be a temporary fix, not an additional power broker in the game. He argues that the Football Association could reclaim its traditional role governing English football.