Premier League risks being destroyed by greed, claims former PM Brown

EXCLUSIVE: The Premier League risks being destroyed by ‘runaway GREED’ if sweeping reforms are not imposed on English football, warns former Prime Minister Gordon Brown as he backs a transfer tax and independent regulation

  • Premier League owners have come under fire for resisting reforms in top flight 
  • Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown says English football risks being destroyed 
  • He said owners have shown greed that could leave the Premier League in ruins
  • Brown backs government reforms that include a transfer levy and a regulator 

Gordon Brown has warned that the ‘runaway greed’ of Premier League owners will ruin English football if the Government does not adopt the sweeping reforms recommended in a review of the national game.

The former Prime Minister said professional football needs an independent regulator to scrutinise its club owners and prevent teams being ‘destroyed’ by the unscrupulous among them. He also lent his support for a transfer tax in the Premier League and the ownership model that grants fans a ‘golden share’ in their club.

Brown is arguably the highest-profile political figure to intervene in the debate over how football’s governance should be reformed to safeguard its future.

Premier League owners’ greed threatens to derail the top flight by refusing to accept new reforms, according to Gordon Brown

The former Labour leader served as Chancellor of the Exchequer for a decade before his three-year tenure as Prime Minister ended in 2010. A committed supporter of Raith Rovers, his local club in Kirkcaldy, he addressed the domestic game’s ownership issues during his time in office and warned clubs of their mounting debt.

His exclusive column in The Mail on Sunday today highlights his continuing concerns after owners of several Premier League clubs, notably Leeds United and Aston Villa, opposed key tenets of Tracey Crouch’s review of the sport.

These included the proposal for an independent regulator and a 10 per cent transfer levy, with clubs understood to prefer an oversight body that would remain within football’s administrative structure. Richard Masters, the Premier League chief executive, has also suggested that aspects of Crouch’s review were too radical.

‘The Premier League’s implacable opposition to sensible reforms that will, for once, put the aspirations of the fans and grassroots football ahead of the greed of billionaire owners is yet another reason why it is time to seize an unparalleled opportunity to force through change,’ writes Brown.

The former Prime Minister believes the Premier League need an independent regulator to keep English football in check 

‘Runaway greed, made possible by what often seems like a free- for-all in club ownership and poor overall supervision, is in danger of destroying the best football league in the world and all that is good about the game.’

The Government commissioned Crouch, the former sports minister, to chair the fan-led report in response to the flood of opposition to the European Super League proposals last spring. Six Premier League clubs signed up to plans that included no provision for relegation.

Published in November, Crouch’s review laid out 47 recommendations designed to safeguard the football pyramid and prevent the elite from attempting to distance themselves from the lower echelons again. In his column, Brown says he agrees with most of the proposals.

On the proposed levy on Premier League transfers, he explains that even a five per cent tax could generate £80 million for the grassroots game. He says fans should be granted a golden share in clubs, to prevent owners from imposing unwelcome decisions such as changing the team name or leaving a stadium.

He fears ‘the best league in the world’ could be dismantled if new proposals were not agreed 

He also proposes a legislative change of his own, suggesting that the tax on gambling companies is increased from 15 per cent to 20 per cent, with the extra tens of millions generated from betting on football being reinvested in the game outside the Premier League. Crouch, the Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford, welcomed Brown’s intervention and said her review had earned the widespread backing of politicians because mismanagement in elite football stretched back decades.

‘There has been cross-party support for the report’s recommendations and their urgent implementation, in part because there is universal recognition that politicians over the years have been let down by the football authorities who promised to reform themselves but then failed,’ she told The Mail on Sunday.

‘This happened throughout the Blair/Brown era and continued post 2010. The former PM’s support is a welcome recognition that the report recommends positive change that will continue to enable growth at the top of English football while supporting the rest of the pyramid and grassroots football.’

A government review has identified a number of possible new measures, including fan ownership, transfer levies and an independent regulator

Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, said the Government endorsed the independent regulator ‘in principle’ and it is expected to pass into law. Her office is working through the other conclusions in Crouch’s report and is hoping to publish a substantive response in the spring.

The Government is also planning to publish a white paper based on a review of the gambling laws. It will address the betting industry’s relationship with sport but whether it will set out a legislative change as radical as the one Brown has suggested remains to be seen.

For the former Prime Minister, however, only root-and-branch reform will ensure that the game’s grassroots are not perilously cut adrift from the rich elite.

Former sports minister Tracey Crouch has led the review but some clubs have resisted it 

‘Small clubs,’ he writes, ‘must not be neglected or starved. It is time to bring an end to the greed that has been disfiguring football. The profiteer owners have had it their own way for too long and they have ridden their gravy train for as far as they can, milking the fans at every single stop along the way. The proposals in the Crouch review will put the brakes on.’

At the time of the review’s publication, the Premier League said they would study its recommendations and work with stakeholders including the Government, the FA and fans on the issues it addressed. 

In response to this newspaper, they also highlighted their pledge to fund the wider football pyramid to the tune of £1.6 billion over the next three years and the £3.6bn in tax which they and their clubs contributed to the economy in 2019-20.

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