Johnny’s latest press coverage

Football Regulator will help protect clubs in peril like Torquay United

April 2, 20240

Like many football fans across the country, I welcome the Government’s announcement that a new football regulator will be installed to protect one of our nation’s most cherished community assets, football clubs, MP Johnny Mercer writes.


Trips to Home Park are always a highlight of my family’s week and, as a season ticket holder, I care deeply about the future of our City’s club and the wider English Football League.

In Devon, we are proud to be home to three professional football clubs: Plymouth Argyle, Exeter City and Torquay United. The future of one of those clubs is, once again, in doubt.


Torquay United were sent into administration after owner Clarke Osborne announced that he could no longer fund the club on 22nd February. Mr Osborne has resided over two relegations since taking over in 2016 and the latest 10-point penalty threatens a third. The future of the club remains in the balance.


This is a feeling which will be all too familiar to Plymouth Argyle supporters. Back in 2011, Argyle was in dire straits, penalised with a 10-point deduction and sent into administration. Average attendances dropped significantly to around 7,000, and the club narrowly held onto its Football League status with two successive 21st place finishes in League Two.


Outstanding debts of £18 million and empty cash reserves forced Argyle into a precarious position until James Brent sweeped in to secure the club’s financial future. This shared experience also explains the outpouring of support shown by many janners for the rival club.


Torquay’s ongoing ownership dilemma, and the way in which rival fans have come together to raise £23,000, has been a timely reminder of the need to protect clubs across the football pyramid. On Saturday 23rd March, Plymouth Argyle and Exeter City fans put their rivalries aside to support Torquay United in their 1-0 home win versus Hampton & Richmond, coined ‘Devon Day’.


A bumper crowd of more than 3,000 fans from across the three clubs turned up at Plainmoor, a crucial fixture in their fight for survival in the National League South. If you would like to donate to Torquay United to help them to fulfill their fixtures during this testing period, please consider donating here.


With all this in mind, the Government’s plan for an Independent Football Regulator is long overdue but much welcomed. The Premier League’s inability to agree a suitable funding settlement with the English Football League only serves to underline this point. Football cannot govern itself and needs an independent hand.


The new regulator’s primary function will be to keep clubs solvent, checking that they have enough money to operate sustainably and working with their boards and leagues to fix problems. Once the Football Governance Bill is passed by Parliament, the regulator will have the power to enforce serious sanctions should it need to with the full force of the law behind it.


This will help prevent clubs being forced into Torquay’s position of intense discomfort. The Bill has my full backing and, I hope, cross-party support.


As ever, please get in touch via or 01752 876979. Surgeries can also be booked with me through these channels.

Luke Jones

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