Common ownership of sports teams: Gloucester RFC case confirms the principles from "ENIC" decision

Published 19 May 2017 By: Phil Bonner

Rugby ball in stadium

In April 2017, it was reported that Premiership Rugby had voted against[1] a proposed investment in Gloucester RFC by the France-based billionaire Mohed Altrad[2]

Under the terms of the proposed investment, Mr Altrad would have purchased a 45% stake in the Cherry and Whites, who compete in the Aviva Premiership and progressed to the final of the 2016/17 edition of the European Rugby Challenge Cup, European Rugby Union’s second tier competition. 

However, the board of Premiership Rugby was reported[3] to have voted to restrict that investment to just 20%, despite Mr Altrad having already scaled down his original plan to purchase a 55% stake in Gloucester RFC to 45%[4].

This article examines the issue of common ownership of clubs in rugby and European football. Specifically, it looks at:

  • Why Premiership Rugby was only prepared to allow a 20% investment by Mr Altrad in Gloucester RFC; 

  • How common ownership of football clubs is dealt with by UEFA (a look at the principles from the “ENIC” case);

  • How common ownership of football clubs is dealt with in England (a look at the Owners and Directors Test); and

  • The English Football League’s 2013 decision to place limits on loan transfers (the Watford FC example).

 

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Phil Bonner

Phil Bonner

Phil Bonner is an associate at Centrefield LLP, a sports and media law boutique based in Manchester, England.

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