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Top flight to tighten owner test

Premier League chief Richard Scudamore
Scudamore issued a staunch defence of football's self-regulation

The Premier League is to tighten its rules for club owners in response to a series of government questions over the top-flight's self-regulatory powers.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Andy Burnham had questioned "football's relationship with money".

The changes are intended to strengthen the league's "fit and proper" person test to decide if an individual is fit to own or become a director of a club.

A key change will see owners assessed before they take control of a club.

"People appreciate the level of self-regulation," said Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, defending the top-flight's governance record.

"We are sitting with a rule book which 10 years ago had 322 rules, and now has 777."

I think combining those strengthens the test considerably and answers quite a lot of the public concern

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore

In recent years, huge television deals have prompted a number of foreign investors to take control of Premier League clubs, notably Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.

But when former Thailand Prime Minister Thakshin Shinawatra took over Manchester City in 2007, even though he had been ordered back to Bangkok to face corruption charges, concerns were voiced about the league's ownership rules.

However, the new rules mean any prospective owner or director will have to tell the league of their interest and be judged prior to any takeover.

And anybody with a prison sentence of more than 12 months would also be ruled out.

"Anybody looking to become an owner or director of a club would have to let us know in advance and we would give them an answer at the time of the proposed takeover as to whether they can or can't," said Scudamore.

"There is also going to be a test that says if the UK government says you are not fit to be a businessman in this country then clearly you are not going to be allowed to own a football club.

"I think combining those strengthens the test considerably and answers quite a lot of the public concern."

The Premier League also plans to incorporate Uefa's financial rules into its own rulebook.

"In order to play in a European competition, clubs have to obtain a Uefa licence. The Premier League and the FA act as the licensors," added Scudamore.

"Last year 18 clubs applied and 18 got the licence. There are a lot of financial rules in that licence.

"We propose to lift them up and put them in our Premier League rulebook. Even if you haven't qualified for Europe you still have to meet those financial criteria to be a member of the Premier League."

West Ham face a hearing at the end of the season to decide if they will be granted a Uefa licence for next season but their financial problems and the potential for a change of ownership mean the club have not yet submitted their request.

The Premier League is due to reveal further details of its submission to the government on Tuesday, which is likely to include a strategy for keeping football competitive and developing homegrown players for the national team.

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see also
League boss fears financial hit
26 Mar 09 |  Football
Burnham issues grass-roots plea
11 Mar 09 |  Sport Homepage
Burnham demands football reforms
16 Oct 08 |  Football
FA chief fears '3bn' club debts
07 Oct 08 |  Football
Poland settle dispute with Fifa
06 Oct 08 |  Internationals
Blatter calls for 2010 enthusiasm
17 Sep 08 |  African
Fifa rejects 39th-game proposal
14 Mar 08 |  Premier League
Blatter hostile to overseas plan
15 Feb 08 |  Premier League
Premier League going global
07 Feb 08 |  Premier League

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