The UK Government says it is embarking on “the most radical overhaul of football governance since the rules were first invented” and published a White Paper last month outlining proposals to create a regulator for football.
The proposed legislation came off the back of a fan-led review of the game that was chaired by former sports minister Crouch, the MP for Chatham and Aylesford.
And she told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that she had been left frustrated by her interactions with the Premier League, who she said had been the least cooperative of the major footballing bodies.
“I found it quite surprising how difficult it has been to have conversations around something that is designed to support the long-term financial sustainability of the nation’s greatest sport,” Crouch told the committee.
“I have found it difficult that throughout the process of the fan-led review, we’re being told one thing, by one part of the game, to then discover that the public commentary is completely opposite.
“So it has been disappointing in terms of its progress, which is a shame because ultimately today the people that suffer is the game itself and the fans.”
When asked if she thought the “Premier League’s approach to this report has been to kick it into the long grass”, Crouch replied: “Yeah, I feel that is one of the tactics that is being deployed.
“It has been a whole series of hurdles that people are having to constantly jump over.”
The Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, who gave evidence shortly after Crouch, said he “did not recognise that at all”.
“It suggests that we’ve done nothing, I would say we’ve done nothing else than engage with this process,” Masters said.
“It has dominated every single shareholders’ meeting that we’ve had.”
However, when asked several times whether he would “welcome” the regulator into the game for the second time in the session, Masters said: “I don’t like yes or no answers because there’s always a nuance in between.
“We totally accept the regulator is happening, we want to make it work. So on that basis I think the answer is obviously getting to a ‘yes’.”
Masters sat next to Rick Parry, the EFL chairman with whom he is currently in a stand-off. The Premier League and the EFL – which encompasses the Championship, League 1 and League 2 – have yet to agree on a new deal over how much money should filter down from the top flight to the rest of the pyramid.
“We’ve had multiple meetings over the summer to try and work out how to respond to Rick’s [Parry, EFL chairman] particular challenges. So I spent my time talking to our clubs about how to resolve these issues,” Masters added.
The EFL hopes the new deal, which the regulator could arbitrate over if it cannot be agreed upon, will help narrow the revenue gap between the two organisations.
Parry said: “When we formed the Premier League in 1992-93 the difference in turnover between the Premier League and the EFL was £11m. EFL’s turnover was 75 per cent of the Premier League’s.
“That gap is now £3bn. The EFL’s turnover is 6 per cent of the Premier League’s.
“It’s a chasm.”
Asked if there would be a deal in place by the start of next season, he added: “We live in hope, and we’re putting every effort into it, but we’ll see.”
Masters said: “We very much hope so. That’s our intention.”
Newcastle Saudi questions
Masters also revealed the Premier League is “aware” of the Public Investment Fund’s (PIF) admission that they are in fact controlled by the Saudi Arabian state – but would not confirm whether further investigations are taking place.
A key tenet of PIF’s takeover at Newcastle was the contention that the fund is not owned by the Saudi royal family, something the Premier League eventually accepted.
However, documents submitted in the course of a legal dispute in the US between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, also owned by PIF, appeared to admit the fund is controlled by the Saudi Arabian state.
A brief filed to the court complained that the requirements of the court were “an extraordinary infringement on the sovereignty of a foreign state” because the fund is not subject to basic discovery, due to the fact that PIF is a “sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” and its chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan is a sitting minister of the Saudi government.
Masters said that he couldn’t “really comment on it” because of Premier League protocols that mean they only reveal when a charge has been made.
“Even to the point of saying ‘is the Premier League investigating’ it, I can’t really comment. Obviously we are completely aware and you are correct about the general nature of the undertakings we received at the point of takeover [that PIF claimed it was not controlled by the Saudi state] but I can’t really go into it at all.”