Bishop & Sewell

Fair play to the Premier League, they come in for a lot of criticism but they at least have pre-empted the government’s intervention on preventing individuals found to have committed human rights abuses being allowed to be an owner or director of a Premier League club under new rules, writes David Little, a Partner in our Commercial department who increasingly handles Sports Law cases too.

You might have thought it was common sense that anyone guilty of human rights abuses would be an unsuitable owner, but history shows us otherwise. Before the rule change, the Premier League’s decision to approve the Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund-led takeover of Newcastle United was heavily criticised by Amnesty International, and many fans.

However, their new rules now also allow the League also to block people from becoming directors where they are under investigation for conduct that would result in a “disqualifying event” if proven.

Human rights abuses, based on the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020, will now be one of a number of additional “disqualifying events” under a beefed-up owners’ and directors’ test.

Under the new rules a person or a company being subject to Government sanctions is now also a disqualifying event, while the range of criminal offences which could result in disqualification has been extended to include offences involving violence, corruption, fraud, tax evasion and hate crimes. Once again, you might have thought this was plain common sense. It is at least now codified by the League so rules can be applied.

The League has also voted to widen the group of regulatory authorities where an existing suspension would result in disqualification, to now include the Charity Commission, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Prudential Conduct Authority and HMRC.

As I wrote here last month the League’s moves to strengthen its test come at a time when the Government white paper on football governance is proposing that a new independent regulator would set an “enhanced” owners’ and directors’ test, which would be intended to replace the tests used by the Premier League, the Football Association and the EFL.

It’s difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at sports minister Andrew Stuart MP’s pun as he introduced the Football Governance White Paper to the House of Commons last month: “When (football) fans needed us we have been in their corner.” (Ref!!)

As you can see the debate hardly filled the House of Commons.

Like many fans I wish the government would keep its nose out of football. There are lots of other, more pressing challenges for them to overcome. The Premier League’s self-governance seems fine to me.

The government should stay off the pitch.


Contact our Sports Lawyer

David Little, is a Partner in the Corporate & Commercial team and also Head of Sports Law for the firm. If you would like to contact him please quote Ref CB394 on either 07968 027343 or 020 7631 4141 or email

The above is accurate as at 25 April 2023. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times. The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Category: Blog, News | Date: 25th Apr 2023

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