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Conflicts of interest in football governance – are more independent directors the solution?

Conflicts of interest in football governance – are more independent directors the solution?
Monday, 08 February 2021 By Joshua McLeod

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a monumental challenge[1] for the institutions that govern football. International federations, national governing bodies and professional leagues have faced extremely difficult decisions on delaying major tournaments, deciding whether to null and void seasons, broadcasting arrangements, ticket refunds and financial bailouts.[2]

Some leagues, including the Premier League, emerged from the first wave of the pandemic with relatively little friction between clubs. In contrast, the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL)[3] and the French Ligue 1[4] were marred by bitter infighting and legal battles.

The discord within a number of football’s governing institutions during the pandemic has brought into focus a key issue with their governance structures – they often give rise to conflicts of interest. This article offers the author’s views on the issue and how it might be addressed, looking specifically at:

  • Governance structures in professional football
  • Conflict of interest in football governance (the SPFL Covid-19 example)
  • Why having more independent directors could help

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Joshua McLeod

Joshua McLeod

Dr Joshua McLeod is a Research Fellow in Deakin University’s Centre for Sport Research, based in Melbourne, Australia. Joshua’s research interests centre on sports governance, sports law and organisational change. He has published research in leading academic journals including the Journal of Sport Management and European Sport Management Quarterly. Joshua has lectured in Sport Business and Governance in business schools in Scotland, England and Australia. He received his PhD from Heriot-Watt University following a three-year study into the governance of Scottish football clubs.

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