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Opinion

Does this suggest the Premier League are ‘Fit and Proper’?

2 months ago
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Having heard the announcement about the Saudi PIF Newcastle United takeover bid last week, I experienced the same frustration as my friends, family and colleagues as the drama at our beloved club continues.

We can hardly be surprised though, given the capacity to attract storylines worthy of a soap opera. It does get one thinking as to what is going on.

My long held suspicion that confidential discussions with regard to TV rights, piracy et al seemed to give way to a notion that maybe the Premier League were stalling in the hope that, rather than give the deal the go ahead and take the flak for all the ills of the Saudi Regime, either party involved, purchaser or purchasee, would withdraw from the deal.

Of course, I would not dare to ponder such cynicism for long, though it would appear that, should such be the case, the Premier League has got their wish. Of course, this has not ended things, we have calls from local MPs and fans alike calling for an independent inquiry into the matter as well as an increase in transparency.

This whole sorry scenario has got me thinking though, what is the means by which the powers that be in football assess the fitness of a potential new owner?

It is not something I would readily concern myself in my day to day life, to be far, I do not think most people would, but the drama at St James has made me curious. It also conjures up the trials and tribulations of other clubs such as Portsmouth, for whom a series of takeovers c. 2010 seem to have decimated the club, and Wigan Athletic, having just been put into administration seven days after EFL gave the green light to a takeover from a Hong Kong consortium.

It was on this basis that I decided to look for them. My first ports of call were the websites for the EPL, EFL and FA.

After some searching, the first two remained unsettlingly free of any reference to the appropriate rules, while the latter swamped me with so many inappropriate results that there seemed nerry a grain of wheat amongst barnfuls of chaff. Of course, a google search proved more successful, providing a link to wikipedia.

It can hardly be considered in depth but at least informs way better than the sport’s governing bodies. The crux of it that I can determine is that the test looks for reason to disqualify persons seeking to take over a football club on the basis of such things as:

Possessing power or interests in other football clubs

Being legally prohibited from being a company director

They are filing for bankruptcy

Having been the director of a club that has endured two or more unconnected insolvencies

Having been the director of two or more clubs that have endured an insolvency

These may be a bit succinct but for the purposes of this article they shall suffice. I think I can say with a modicum of confidence that these seems to be reasonable criteria for assessing potential owners.

Of course, the EPL, nor the EFL or the FA for that matter, can be held responsible for how a club is run, nor what an owner, prospective or otherwise, does beyond the remit of football.

This, for me though, does raise the question of how a club like Portsmouth can go from owner to owner in quick succession or Wigan can go into administration a week after being taken over. As far as I am aware, none of the prospective directors for the PIF consortium have failed on any of these criteria. Neither, I must assume, did those owners who purchased Wigan or Portsmouth. All the while, the Saudi Consortium, and Mike Ashley are kept on hold for four months.

Of course, I am sure the TV rights were an issue, more than likely a big one.

Then there is the Saudi Kingdom itself, the human rights abuses, the “sportswashing” and so forth. The thing is, the latter are not in the purview of the EPL nor should we kid ourselves that refusing the takeover on these grounds will go towards solving any of these issues. As for the “sportswashing” of Saudi Arabia, I think it can be safely said that this takeover bid has brought more attention to these issues, not glossed them over.

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