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Helen Grant Portrait Mrs Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con) [V]
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The governance of English football is broken; our national game, the beautiful game, is certainly in crisis; and now is the time for fundamental reform, reform that can only be achieved through the creation of an independent football regulator. This was the central recommendation of “Saving Our Beautiful Game—Manifesto for Change”, a report co-authored last year by a group of which I was a member. These experienced individuals, with a deep interest in football, brought everything together and produced a document that has proposed the creation of an independent football regulator. That regulator would be absolutely independent; would be funded from within football, not by public money; and would not require Government to run the game, which is extremely important.

The impact of an independent regulator would be more far-reaching than any of the specific responsibilities it would have, because an independent regulator would change the culture of the business of football in our country. Such a step would be a crucial milestone in the long-overdue process of rebalancing our national game, to make it a game that works just as much for the grassroots, the community, and the lower-league clubs as it does for the big six in the premier league. An independent football regulator would be an affirmation from this place that football is part of our history, our culture and our communities, and deserves protection.

I pay tribute to the Minister for the leadership he has already shown on this issue in recent months. I am also delighted that the concept of an independent regulator is to be considered by my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch). She is well suited to the task, and I know she will carry out a review that is both broad and forensic, and that places the opinions of the fans at its very heart. We know that an independent football regulator would enjoy enormous support from the footballing public across the country. The fact that the petition reached 100,000 signatures in less than 12 hours speaks for itself.

Association football is the most popular sport in the entire world and is played by more than 250 million people in over 200 countries. It was born in England over 150 years ago, and it has a huge connection with communities across the length and breadth of our country, but if we want to protect and preserve that fabulous heritage for generations into the future, our football governance needs emergency surgery, and it needs that surgery now. Let us drive through the radical change required, let us create an independent football regulator, and let us make the governance of this beautiful game, which we all know and love, fit for the 21st century.