A NEW football regulator will prevent clubs across the country suffering "truly dark times" similar to those that Southend United have narrowly avoided, an MP has said.

“Historic” legislation is set to reform men’s elite football in England, and “put fans back at the heart of the game”, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has announced.

The Football Governance Bill was introduced in Parliament today, in a bid to “stop clubs falling into the wrong hands”, with the formation of an independent regulator.

It comes following a fierce debate over the future of Southend United over the last 18 months.

Outgoing chairman Ron Martin and a “consortium” led by Australian businessman Justin Rees finally reached a deal for them to takeover the club in December.

Now, Anna Firth, MP for Southend West, is optimistic that the new football regulator will prevent other clubs from struggling through similarly “dark times”.

She said: “Southend United is the heart of our new city. The fans are the best in the country and have suffered through some truly dark times.

“I am delighted that the club will soon be under new ownership, but we must ensure that no other clubs go through what we have just gone through in Southend or, worse, suffer the same fate as Bury.

“I warmly welcome the introduction of the Football Governance Bill, which will pave the way to protecting clubs like Southend United for generations to come, but the regulator absolutely must be given the powers it needs to enforce their new rules effectively.”

Ms Firth has repeatedly spoken out in support of the Football Governance Bill and repeatedly highlighted Southend United in the House of Commons as it was hit by winding up orders by HMRC.

Outgoing Blues owner Mr Martin was repeatedly hauled in front of the High Court over unpaid tax bills throughout last year before he agreed to sell the club.

She added: “I look forward to working with the Government on this flagship legislation to ensure that fans remain at the very heart of what the Independent Regulator for Football stands for because, as we all know, football is nothing without the fans.”

“The new regulator will implement stricter tests of owners and directors, to improve the financial sustainability of clubs, ensure their resilience and “safeguard the heritage of English football”.