What is the football white paper and when will it be released?

A major shake-up to English football is coming
A major shake-up to English football is coming / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

What is the football white paper?

The government's white paper will propose a series of reforms to shake up English football, including ensuring financial security within the professional game.

The significant shake-up is set to include the introduction of a new independent regulator despite opposition from within the Premier League. The new rules will enforce tougher regulations on who can own football clubs and ensure only legitimate custodians are buying English football clubs.

The paper will also attempt to prevent the Premier League's 'BIg Six' from attempting to join a breakaway European Super League amid the competition's recent re-emergence.

The legislation aims to hand more power back to the fans, with the UK government having a greater say on several issues including TV revenue and its unequal distribution across the pyramid.

When will the football white paper be released?

The legislation was expected to be released at the start of February before being pushed back by a couple of weeks.

Widespread public sector strikes have dominated Downing Street's thinking as of late, and the sheer volume of the government's business forced a delay of the white paper's release.

The proposals are expected to be released this week, with some suggesting on Wednesday 22 February.

What the football white paper means for Premier League clubs

While the EFL and the fans are excited about the possibilities presented by the white paper, the opposition is coming from the Premier League.

The reason for that is simple: It seeks to funnel money away from Premier League clubs and with it the power.

In football, as with anything, the power is where the money is, and the Premier League have all the money. Since 1992, the financial gulf between the Premier League and the EFL has done noting but widen.

That has resulted in what many feel is a very unfair playing field with the richest clubs able to stockpile players and cherry pick the best youth players from EFL academies.

Of course, the Premier League clubs like this state of affairs. Clubs who are established in the top tier are keen to protect their position - and revenues - and the last thing they want is a level playing field. That esppecially goes for the proposed removal of parachute payments, which gives relegated teams an enormous advnatage after landing in the Championship.

At the top of the Premier League it is not popular either, as it would essentially put their own income under the microscope by trying to ensure genuine custodians run clubs rather than sportswashing super-states.

It would also prevent any kind of breakaway into a European Super League, so all of the Premier League have something at stake.

What the football white paper means for EFL clubs

If anything, the white paper is predominantly designed to protect the future of EFL clubs by removing the need for owners to take huge gambles chasing Premier League riches.

“A severe and big challenge for us is that we have a huge, irrational behaviour in the Championship," EFL chairman Rick Parry explained. "Wages are 125 per cent of turnover, with losses in excess of £300 million. Owner funding every year is around £400 million and debt is at £1.7 billion.

“Problems are immense and it’s because owners are having to chase the dream. Owner funding averages £600 million per club in the Championship - it’s the most expensive lottery ticket on the planet and that’s what we say has to change.”

Parry's point is that the financial gulf between the Premier League and the Championship has widened to such an extent that owners try to plug it themselves, and ultimately that puts the very future of club's at severe financial risk.

His solution, and the one the white paper is going to agree with, is to make that gulf between the divisions more narrow.

“In 1993, the first year of the Premier League, Premier League turnover was £45m and in the EFL it was £34m, a gap of £11m – or the EFL’s turnover was 75 per cent of the Premier League’s. In the 30 years of the Premier League’s existence, Premier League turnover has gone up 68 times, the EFL’s has gone up five-and-a-half. The gap has just widened at an extraordinary rate.

“The sharpest focus of course is the cliff edge between the bottom of the Premier League and top of the Championship. As an example, in 2018/19 Huddersfield Town got £96m from the Premier League while Norwich City, top of the Championship, got £8m. Huddersfield had two years in the Premier League and it would take 35 years in the Championship to make as much money.

“The problem is clear, the gulf is enormous. The Premier League knows there’s a problem but what we challenge is their solution, which is parachute payments, which relegated clubs get for up to three years. Year One parachute payment is now £44m, all the other clubs in the Championship get £4.8m. They’re getting around 10 times less than a parachute club.

“One Year One parachute payment is more than 44 clubs in League One and League Two get collectively from the Premier League.

“The Premier League has published numbers on how much it distributes; £887m to the Championship over three years. That is technically true but £633m, 71 per cent, is parachute payments going to a very limited number of clubs.”

Instead of parachute payments, the white paper Parry wants would be a consistent, equal, and much bigger distribution of Premier League wealth throughout the Football League so the financial gulf between the two would lesson considerably and therefore be much easier to manage by relegated clubs.

Impacts of football white paper on ownership

One key recommendation for the white paper is that the current 'fit and proper persons' test is scrapped for new owners and replaced with an 'integrity test' instead.

That would make it hard for owners with sportswashing intent to buy clubs, and it would also keep those away who might have come about their money by questionable methods.

It will also want to put fans back at the heart of club ownership, with a 'shadow board' appointed at clubs to give supporters a greater voice. Additionally, rules would prevent owners from changing team colours, badges or stadium names without fan consensus.