The government must swiftly implement the Crouch review recommendations and introduce an independent regulator for football
From the future of the global economy to energy security and defence spending, the shock of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is provoking a dizzying rethink of policy priorities and assumptions. The Roman Abramovich-related crisis at Chelsea FC might seem a minor subplot when tectonic plates of such magnitude are shifting. But football’s global reach and modern geopolitical dimensions make it much more than that. The perfectly timed spectacle of last week’s fixture between sanctioned Chelsea and Newcastle United – owned by Riyadh’s sovereign wealth fund – marked a moral nadir for the game, coming one day after Saudi Arabia executed 81 people. It was also shaming for this country. In football, too, a paradigm shift is needed.
The tools to effect this – or at least start the job now – are within the government’s grasp. Last April, six leading clubs attempted to join the reviled European Super League project; the horror of their own supporters demonstrated an underlying outrage among fans at the direction the sport has taken. The government set up the fan-led Crouch review on football governance. (As the review panel deliberated on where the game had lost its way, the Premier League waved through the takeover of Newcastle by the fund, chaired by the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.)