English football planning to block owners guilty of human rights abuses

Premier League clubs have accepted stricter regulations for their owners and directors tests, which would prevent anyone found guilty of violating human rights from holding an ownership position in a club.

Several new disqualifying incidents were approved along with test adjustments at a meeting of English top-flight club shareholders.

According to the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations, those who violate human rights and those who are subject to government sanctions will not be permitted to hold positions of ownership or leadership, and the list of criminal offenses that will disqualify someone has been expanded to include violence, fraud, corruption, tax evasion, and hate crimes.

The regulations, which go into force right away, are stricter than the recommendations from the independent regulator meant to replace the standards employed by the Premier League, Football Association, and EFL.

Someone being looked into for one of the disqualifying occurrences would not be allowed to become a director. Owners and directors currently in place will be examined as part of annual due diligence to ensure rules compliance.

It was decided to add the Charity Commission, Financial Conduct Authority, Prudential Regulation Authority, and HMRC to the list of regulating agencies where a suspension would result in disqualification.

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The rules have come under intense scrutiny since Newcastle was acquired by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), despite the nation’s dismal record on human rights.

The fact that the PIF is referred to as a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Newcastle’s chairman, Yasir al-Rumayyan, as a serving minister of the Saudi government in brief submitted in a US court action involving the PGA Tour and LIV Golf has also alarmed clubs.

The league authorized the purchase of Newcastle after getting legally enforceable assurances that the Saudi government would not own the team. It is understood that neither the PIF chairman, Mohammed bin Salman, nor any other PIF members would have been impacted by the revised restrictions.

Therefore, Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s economic affairs director, said: “The acid test of whether this new rule is fit for purpose is whether it would involve serious efforts to assess the involvement of prospective buyers in human rights abuses.

Top-flight English football still risks becoming the sportswashing toy of authoritarian figures around the world unless the Premier League gets this right.”