Is football's owners' & directors' test fit for purpose?
Published 21 January 2015 By: Richard Barham
When a new prospective owner of an English football club hoves into view, the question is often raised, particularly if the prospective owner is portrayed (rightly or wrongly) by the media as a "shady character", as to whether he is a fit and proper person to run a football club, and whether he will or should pass the relevant owners' and directors' test.
Test Under Premier League, the Football League and the Football Association Rules
The Premier League, the Football League and the Football Association all have separate and different owners' and directors' tests.1 However, one thing that all the tests have in common, is that they are objective tests. There are essentially a number of boxes that need to be 'ticked' in order for a person to pass the tests, and be deemed a fit and proper person to be involved in the management or ownership of a football club. The tests all require, to all intents and purposes, simple yes/no answers, and they focus on a number of areas, covering various which include unspent criminal convictions, involvement in other clubs (including insolvent clubs), breach of certain league rules, sports bans, bankruptcy, and professional misconduct. So, for example, the rules ask if an individual has been disqualified by law from being a director under the Companies Disqualification Act 1986, or has been convicted of a dishonesty-based offence in either the UK courts or the competent courts of a foreign jurisdiction. If the individual has, he is deemed to be an unfit person to run a club and will fail the test unless they are spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.2 The tests are applied strictly to the letter of the rules.
These are all objective tests, applied formulaically, and most individuals would not find it difficult to pass them. In fact, there have been very few individuals who have been prohibited from being a director or owner of an English club for failing the relevant test.3 This has lead to a view expressed by some that, given the lack of disqualifications, the test is not sufficiently rigorous, especially where individuals who are portrayed as unfit have managed to pass the test. Also, in a number of cases owners and directors have stood down before the test has been applied to them by the relevant League or Association.4
Get access to this article and all of the expert analysis and commentary at LawInSport
Already a member?
Articles, webinars, conference videos and podcast transcripts
This work was written for and first published on LawInSport.com (unless otherwise stated) and the copyright is owned by LawInSport Ltd. Permission is granted to make digital or hard copies of this work (or part, or abstracts, of it) for personal use provided copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage, and provided that all copies bear this notice and full citation on the first page (which should include the URL, company name (LawInSport), article title, author name, date of the publication and date of use) of any copies made. Copyright for components of this work owned by parties other than LawInSport must be honoured.
- Tags: Corporate Law | Criminal Law | England | Football | Football Association | Football Association Owners and Directors Test 2014-15 | Football League | Governance | Italy | Premier League | Premier League Rules | Regulation | Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 | Thailand | The Football League Regulations
- An explanation of how football clubs use forward funding
- Corporate governance in professional sport – the board of directors
- Integrity In Sport Update: former president of Lecce Football Club sentenced for fixing
- Third party ownership – to ban or not to ban?
Richard heads both the London Corporate practice, and Sports practice, of Dentons.
Richard's focus is on M&A and corporate work. He is particularly interested in corporate governance issues, and regularly advises companies and other organisations on how they best operate to achieve good and effective governance standards.