‘Dithering’ government putting football clubs at risk, claims Keir Starmer

While The Independent has been told that there is unlikely to be change to the document for a rearranged publication at the end of the month, the replacement of Michelle Donelan with Lucy Frazer as minister responsible for sport amid a wider reconfiguration of the department at least leaves open the possibility it could be redone from scratch.

“I think the independent regulator is pretty urgent because some of these clubs could well go under while the government is dithering,” Starmer told The Independent.

“Football has had ample opportunity to self-regulate. Labour strongly supports football regulation and a meaningful voice for fans, but the government has dithered and delayed on taking action.

“Clubs are at the heart of communities and it’s clear that the game urgently needs new laws to stop any more clubs going bust, or being used as a cash cow for the wealthy.

“Historic clubs like Derby County, Oldham Athletic, and Bury have all suffered. Fans want reform. The government just needs to get on with it.

“Football in this country is very strong – but it’s not fair. And, as a football fan, I want fairness. That’s at the heart of the discussion about where we go next. It’s why we are pushing so hard for an independent regulator.

“The [Tracey] Crouch review came out 14 months ago now, there’s never been an issue as to whether there’s political support, and you’ve had Rishi Sunak promising something by Christmas, that didn’t happen, you’ve got dithering and delay. I think we just need a bit of grip here. This government’s got a real problem with grip now. It’s 13 years in, in my view it’s a failed project, they’re clapped out, they’re out of ideas on pretty well everything politically and even dithering on something which actually is achievable and deliverable.”

Tracey Crouch’s fan-led review of football governance came out 14 months ago but the white paper on the issue has been delayed

Labour would meanwhile seek to greatly increase playing surfaces and facilities.

“If you’ve got football or sport and you’ve got facilities that are available at a price people can afford, that is something that can be a focus,” Starmer said in relation to the community role of football.

“It’s got to be affordable, it’s got to be available. And simple things. In the winter, you need floodlights. I’ve seen across the country really good pitches, no lighting means October onwards until about March, young people can’t play on those pitches because they’re dark.”


When discussing the wider political importance of football, Starmer meanwhile made a point of stating how Johnson should not receive praise for the Super League failure. It was The Independent that first reported that Johnson met with Manchester United’s former executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward in the days before the ill-fated project was launched.

“Once he worked out that he was against it rather than for it, I mean, as with Johnson it’s a bit like everything else, he wrote one paper for it and one against and then changed his mind. I don’t think he should take credit for what happened there, but it was a very good thing that got thwarted.”

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