Premier League strengthen new owners test to block human rights abusers from buying clubs

·2 min read
Premier League CEO Richard Masters  (PA)
Premier League CEO Richard Masters (PA)

Individuals found to have committed human rights abuses will be unable to be an owner or director of a Premier League club under new rules approved by the English top flight on Thursday.

Human rights abuses, based on the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020, will now be one of a number of additional “disqualifying events” under a beefed-up Owners' and Directors' Test (OADT).

The league also now has the power to block people from becoming directors where they are under investigation for conduct that would result in a "disqualifying event" if proven.

The Premier League has faced strong criticism in the past from Amnesty International in particular for allowing Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) to lead a takeover of Newcastle, despite the country's appalling human rights record.

Under the new rules approved by clubs on Thursday, a person or a company being subject to Government sanctions is now also a disqualifying event, while the range of criminal offences which could result in disqualification has been extended to include offences involving violence, corruption, fraud, tax evasion and hate crimes.

The league has also voted to widen the group of regulatory authorities where an existing suspension would result in disqualification, to now include the Charity Commission, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Prudential Conduct Authority and HMRC.

The league's moves to strengthen its test come at a time when a Government white paper on football governance is proposing that a new independent regulator would set an “enhanced” owners' and directors' test, which would be intended to replace the tests used by the Premier League, the Football Association and the EFL.

Decisions taken by the Premier League board under the new OADT will now be subject to review by a new, independent oversight panel.

The threshold for 'control' has been lowered to 25 per cent, from 30 per cent, and club chief executives will now be brought within the OADT's scope.

The new process should also be more transparent. The league says a list of agreed 'acquisition materials' - information required by the Premier League in order for it to complete its due diligence - will be published as part of a takeover process.

Additional annual due diligence will be conducted on existing club directors to ensure ongoing compliance with OADT. The league is also committed to publishing the names of individuals or companies who have been disqualified under the OADT and to create an annual compliance report.

Additional reporting by PA.