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FSA statement: Newcastle United takeover

FSA statement regarding yesterday’s Newcastle United takeover:

The Premier League’s decision to approve the PIF takeover has reopened the debate about who owns our football clubs. While Newcastle United fans are understandably ecstatic to see the back of Mike Ashley, many supporters throughout the game, including some Newcastle fans, have expressed concerns about the role of nation states in the ownership structures of clubs and the impact of their human rights violations.

Ultimately supporters have been put in an impossible position as billionaire owners pass clubs from one to another with no input from fans, meaning clubs at an elite level have become the playthings of individuals or regimes with shocking human rights records.

Alan Shearer sums that up in The Athletic today saying ‘it seems to me that ethical issues have not played a huge part in Newcastle’s takeover. Or, to put that a different way, they have been part of the discussion, but not in the decision-making process. Should they be a fundamental strand of the owners’ and directors’ test? Perhaps they should, and perhaps the whole system of governance and ownership needs reform to reflect that. These are the rules that clubs have decided for themselves.’

Football Supporters Europe (FSE) also raises important questions at a continental level, asking why the game as a whole has become so attractive to authoritarian regimes? And we too ask should moral judgements on overseas regimes be part of football’s Owners and Directors Test? Probably. Are those rules around moral relativism easy to draft? Definitely not. Is it possible to apply them retrospectively? We don’t know. But the FSA backs FSE’s demand of football’s governing bodies to work with supporters’ organisations in order to embed and enforce human rights protections within the game.

We meet regularly with the Premier League and we will be questioning them, in great detail, about the exact nature of the ‘legally binding assurances’ they received before approving the takeover. We absolutely believe that any entity which owns a club in our league system should be UK-registered with total transparency in relation to overseas influences.

The ongoing Fan-Led Review of Football Governance also provides an opportunity for the Government to look at the current Owners and Directors Test in relation to human rights. The review’s interim report was very good and its final report is due soon. We will discuss recent events, and the challenges they bring, with the Fan-Led Review panel as well as the Government, the football authorities and FSA members at our upcoming Annual General Meeting.

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