The Independent Regulator for English Football (IREF) is approved – but when is kick-off?

25 April 2022

The Government has endorsed all the strategic recommendations set out in the fan-led review of football – paving the way for the establishment of an independent regulator for English football (IREF).

Triggered by the European Super League scandal (among other controversies), a review chaired by former sports minister Tracey Crouch and published in November 2021 made a significant number of detailed recommendations in relation to measures which could be taken with a view to improving football governance.

One of the major overhauls will be the introduction of a new “enhanced” owners’ and directors’ test to ensure that “only good custodians and qualified directors can run these vital assets”. Owners will face an “integrity test” to assess their ability to ensure the club is financially stable and that they will run the club sustainably and in accordance with the relevant financial rules and regulations.

Whilst all 10 of the overall strategic recommendations have been endorsed, it remains unclear to what extent the specific actions mentioned in the review will be followed. There appears to be no mention by the Government of a tax on player transfers, for example, which was suggested in the review as part of the overall aim to seek “proportionate contributions to further support football”.

Still, it is an unwelcome development for the Premier League, which has previously made clear that it opposes the idea of a statutory independent regulator, particularly due to the potential shortcomings associated with a lack of knowledge within the sport. 

Perhaps the main concern for advocates of IREF, however, is that no timetable has been put in place to implement these measures. Instead, the Government has announced that a white paper will be published at some point this summer detailing next steps. That uncertainty is a worry for all sides, as it will not only delay taking steps to protect the public interest against further controversies in football but also leaves clubs in the dark regarding their preparedness for the new regulations.

IREF is undoubtedly a landmark in the history of football, but its creation is currently subject to Fergie time.

Further information

If you have any questions regarding the above, please contact Alfie Cranmer in our Regulatory team. 


About the author

Alfie is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory team and specialises in advising regulated professionals who are subject to investigations and disciplinary proceedings in the legal, finance and healthcare sectors.


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