The U.K. government on Thursday sensationally confirmed plans to set up an independent regulator to oversee football clubs following a slew of controversies around acquisitions, new tournament plans and allegations of financial rule-breaking.
Among the regulator’s powers will be the ability to prevent clubs from joining tournaments that do not meet certain criteria, likely including “breakaway, closed-shop” leagues.
The decision follows widespread fan opposition to plans for a new European Super League in 2021, championed by Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus.
The venture, viewed as a way for major clubs to boost revenue through guaranteed participation in an international tournament, collapsed shortly after it was announced due to the extent of the backlash.
Confirmation of the new body had been leaked, but was confirmed in a government report Thursday.
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The government is also seeking to ramp up the vetting process of club owners, imposing “stronger due diligence on sources of wealth and a requirement for robust financial planning.”
Rights groups have previously insisted that potential Premier League club owners should be subjected to human rights probes as espoused by the Amnesty International.
Following the acquisition of Newcastle United in 2021 by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, there has been widespread criticisms by organizations that are against ‘sportswashing’ especially from the Arab nations.
Currently, the rules prohibit prospective owners that have previous criminal convictions or breaches of major football regulations.
However, the government said the new regulator will focus on financial checks, saying they will be “aimed at identifying links to criminality or corruption.”
U.K. Member of Parliament Stuart Andrew said in the House of Commons Thursday it was “the most radical overhaul of football governance since the rules were first invented in a London pub back in 1863.”
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