“This is a sport that hasn’t sorted itself out.” – The Independent Regulator for English Football and Financial Sustainability

International Sports Convention, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, 21st March 2024

The Independent Regulator for English Football and Financial Sustainability

Liam Scully, Chief Executive Lincoln City Football Club

Dr. Christina Philippou, Principal Lecturer University of Portsmouth

Niall Couper, CEO FairGame UK

Liam Scully started by welcoming the Government’s plans for an Independent Regulator for football, although had some reservations about the proposed scope of that regulator.

Christina Philippou produced a series of presentation slides with details of the finances of football clubs. She said that one in four Premier League clubs and 55% of the clubs in the top five English leagues are technically insolvent.

She said that eventually clubs will go into administration which not only impacts everyone involved with those clubs, but also their local communities too. “This is what needs to be fixed.”

Niall Couper said that reform of football finances is absolutely vital. “Nine tenths of the Government’s Bill is good,” but crucially “does not do well in the area of financial distribution.”

Couper outlined how the Premier League currently redistributes money to the football pyramid, with 50% of that money going to Championship clubs, but: “The clubs that go bust are lower down the pyramid.” He continued: “This bill doesn’t build the strength needed at the bottom end of the pyramid.”

Scully was keen to point out that the argument is not with the Premier League, and that he is a ‘huge fan’ of the Premier League.

“Its financial success is vital to the whole ecosystem. For us to be successful it is an absolute requirement for the Premier League to be successful.”

Addressing a contribution from the audience that the poor financial position of many football clubs is not a revenue problem, but in fact a cost problem, Scully cited the fundamental issue that smaller clubs like his at Lincoln City have to face: competing against clubs who have far greater resources, like Ipswich and Sunderland.

“You have to trade in what the market place looks like.”

Outlining the rising costs of the playing squad, he stated: “The clubs that make profits and operate sustainably are the clubs that are relegated.”

Couper agreed that there is pressure on every owner to increase spending on players’ wages. “We need to change that, flip it round. The distribution model should reward clubs that are well run.”

Couper stressed the need for an Independent Regulator, once again referencing the poor financial status of many clubs: “This is a sport that hasn’t sorted itself out.”