The UK government’s plan to bring in an independent football regular will NOT prevent the Glazer family selling Manchester United to interests in Qatar.
Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, a billionaire banker from the Middle Eastern country, has made a bid for the club, and while unconfirmed it’s thought that he will face a head-to-head battle with Sir Jim Ratcliffe, INEOS founder and Manchester United supporter, as the only bidders.
There were concerns that a Qatari-led bid – the Emir of the country was reportedly interested in the Old Trafford outfit – would lead to a conflict of interest, with two clubs from the same ownership stable unable to compete in the same competition.
Qatari Sports Investment already owns PSG, which would effectively prohibit either them or Manchester United (depending on who finished lower in their domestic competition) from participating in the Champions League.
However, takeover insiders are happy that there’s enough ‘separation’ between Sheikh Jassim and QSI for no conflict to take place.
The Sheikh will now need to pass an enhanced owners’ and directors’ test, which will be introduced by the new regulator once they have been sworn into power, as will Ratcliffe.
The good news for him is that it’s thought he WOULD meet the requirements set out by the regulator’s new legislation.
Those more likely to fail the test are individuals described as ‘politically exposed’, which would prevent some would-be owners from being allowed to buy English clubs.
However, the rules will not prohibit state controlled takeovers outright, meaning that Newcastle United’s buyout by the Saudi Arabian aristocracy would not be retrospectively investigated.
“We recognise we have had significant international investment from all over the world in English football, but what we’re trying to do is get down to who is the original owner, and they have to pass the fit and proper person’s test,” said the government’s current sports minister, Stuart Andrew.
“But we also have to know where their sources of funding are coming from.”
What Does the Football Regulator Do?
Although a starting date hasn’t been confirmed, it’s thought that the new independent football regulator could be set-up and launched later in 2023.
They will have powers divested to them by the government to oversee a number of different areas of the beautiful game. Takeover bids will be high on the agenda, with a new ‘enhanced’ fit and proper person’s test just part of the increased due diligence that the regulator will perform.
The organisation will also have the power to block member clubs from joining breakaway competitions like the European Super League, will give fans more power to veto major changes at their club (such as a change of name, badge or traditional kit colours) and will strive to get more money filtering down from the Premier League to the lower reaches of English football.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone with a stake in the Premier League is happy that the competition will now face tighter regulation. West Ham owner David Sullivan has lambasted the move as a ‘terrible idea’, while EPL chief Richard Masters believes the body ‘could take football backwards’.