Premier League And National League Come Together At The House Of Lords

By Sam Elliott

The National League last night joined the Premier League at the House of Lords to celebrate our partnership ahead of the second reading of the Football Governance Bill today.

Chairman Jack Pearce, General Manager Mark Ives and long-serving board member Steve Thompson, the Managing Director of Dagenham & Redbridge, addressed guests alongside Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters.

Mr Masters stated throughout that he backed three-up, three-down - bringing the system into line with the EFL but raised concerns about the prospect of it being achieved amid the changes set to sweep the game.

Topics discussed in front of around 50 guests including Ebbsfleet United CEO Damian J Irvine ranged from the government’s plan for an Independent Football Regulator for the professional game to the scrapping of FA Cup replays and the need for an extra promotion place into League Two.

The Premier League has already raised concerns about the new plans, which it says could "weaken the competitiveness and appeal of English football". The announcement comes following the Tracey Crouch review, triggered by an attempt to form a European Super League three years ago.

With well-respected broadcaster Manish Bhasin on hosting duties, questions were put to the panel in front of representatives of a number of member National League clubs ahead of the Bill, ushering in a new era for the game.

Mark Ives was keen to make clear the competition’s stance as he laid bare the positives and negatives regarding the arrival of a regulator. He told the audience in London: “We didn’t wake up one morning and think ‘we want a regulator’.

“However, we accept it is here and we have to embrace that. That doesn’t mean we agree with everything that is proposed, there are parts we are comfortable with and parts we are not. It is those parts which we are asking to be looked at.

“Naturally, we are concerned about the costs. The expectation of how much it is going to cost clubs at a National League level is a huge concern, it may be a small amount of money, but it is a lot to our clubs.

“We are worried about mission-creep within the Bill and the additional bureaucracy. There is a lot of duplication of work, such as the licensing system. There is an expectation for clubs to do two lots of licensing. This was all started by the Fan-Led Review and my concern is the expectations are not what they were expecting.

“So things dear to our heart such as, three-up, three-down with the EFL, protection of players and 3G pitches were all raised within the Fan Led Review but are outside the scope of the regulator. I understand but we talk about financial sustainability - and all of these issues have an impact on financial sustainability of the clubs.

“If we carry on with the Bill the way it is, it is going to put all of that burden on our clubs instead of actually having an advocacy-first approach. Let the leagues take control of it. My desire is for the leagues to do their piece first and if we fail to do our piece then regulate us.

“People are talking about the need for a regulator because of the mess the game is in. My view is that the game is not in a mess. All the competitions – the Premier League, the EFL, the National League, the FA – they are obviously all doing something right.

“So allow the people to deal with it appropriately and if we are not doing it in the right way, then let the regulator step in. Otherwise you will put too much bureaucracy, too much burden on the clubs and it will be damaging to them.“

He went on to say: “We urge MPs and Peers for certainty on the Bill. It is written loosely, which allows for mission creep. Think about the impact on our member clubs and don’t put more burden on them.”

Dagenham’s Steve Thompson outlined his concern and touched more upon the on-going quest to have three clubs promoted to the EFL.

“We are worried that the Bill will be so onerous,” he said at the House of Lords last night. “Some National League clubs work on two or three people and some volunteers, and it worries me that a lot of our clubs, small clubs, are not going to be able to survive with the regulation and reporting required.

“I am also worried about the constraint on the Owners’ and Directors’ Test. There is not a queue of people wanting to buy National League clubs – if the Bill makes it too onerous then people won’t invest in our clubs, and we need people to invest in our clubs.

“I don’t understand why the EFL are blocking the three-up and three-down model in the National League. It should be the format that runs all the way through and that is what has been talked about for several years. This is one of the most important things for National League clubs, yet it sits outside the regulator’s remit.

“It does really worry me that some of our small clubs will not survive with the regulation and the reporting that is required.”

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