This demand may soon become part of the mandate for a newly established independent football regulator, with the government confirming its impending arrival ‘when parliamentary time allows’.
The call for these ownership restrictions gained traction during a consultation process involving various stakeholders within the English football ecosystem.
Some clubs took it upon themselves to lobby the government on the issue of state ownership – a move different from the Premier League’s own submissions.
A key responsibility of the impending regulator will be to assess the suitability of prospective owners and directors.
The government disclosed that its consultation process highlighted widespread support for an ‘ethics and integrity’ component to be integrated into the owners and directors test (ODT).
Some stakeholders advocated for limitations on state ownership within ODTs. The Premier League’s earlier update to its ODT did not specifically address state ownership.
The perceived disparity between the league and some of its member clubs emerged following the high-profile takeover of Newcastle United by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF).
While the Premier League asserted that it had secured ‘legally binding guarantees’ against Saudi Arabia gaining control over Newcastle, doubts arose, particularly during the PGA and PIF-owned Liv Golf saga in the United States.
Legal briefings identified PIF as ‘a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’ and Yasir al-Rumayyan, the chair of Newcastle and governor of PIF, as ‘a sitting minister of the Saudi government’.
These revelations raised doubts among several Premier League clubs regarding the guarantees.
The final details of the regulator’s updated ODT will be unveiled in the coming months.
The government acknowledged the complexity of corporate structures behind clubs, including private equity funds, sovereign wealth funds and fan-owned clubs, as it shapes the legal scope of the tests.
More importantly, the regulator will be an independent entity and will have the authority to compel financial settlements, addressing ongoing disagreements within the Premier League and English Football League (EFL) regarding financial redistribution.
While the regulator’s primary focus will be on financial sustainability, calls for mandatory targets on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) were not incorporated into its central role.
CEO of Kick it Out, Tony Burnett, emphasised the importance of including EDI considerations within the corporate governance code that club owners are expected to adhere to under the new regulatory framework.
The imminent arrival of the regulator received endorsement from the EFL chair, Rick Parry. He stressed the importance of ensuring financial sustainability for men’s English professional football.
The Premier League reiterated its ongoing engagement with the government on the regulator’s establishment, stating that the options for its setup remain under review.
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