(Bloomberg) — The English Premier League said it could examine the human rights records of potential soccer club owners, following controversies surrounding the ownership of Chelsea FC and Newcastle United FC.
A senior Premier League executive told lawmakers in a parliamentary committee that the league is in talks with human rights experts.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK for his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin and most of the club’s business was frozen, while the October takeover of Newcastle by a consortium backed by by Saudi Arabia, due to Amnesty International lobbying Europe’s richest football competition over the kingdom’s human rights record.
Helen MacNamara, the Premier League’s director of policy and corporate affairs, said the current trial of owners and directors is under review and the league has spoken to Amnesty as it explores possible options.
“How would it work if we wanted to put a human rights test element into the process? We’re trying to define and decide what that might look like,” MacNamara said.
League shareholders will discuss the planes in the coming weeks and months, he added.
Appearing before the parliamentary digital, culture, media and sport committee, MacNamara and Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston were questioned on issues surrounding the ownership of the British sports team.
Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale before the UK imposed sanctions on March 10, a process made more urgent after the club was banned from regular business. MacNamara said he was “really confident a buyer can be found” for Chelsea and that the current sale process is “pretty settled”.
MacNamara said the league hopes the sale will take place before May 31, when the short-term license allowing Chelsea to operate despite sanctions expires. “The government needs to issue an operating license so the club can be sold,” he said.
Huddleston said the government would soon respond to a football review that had looked at club ownership and recommended an independent regulator for the sport. He added to the pressure on the Premier League, saying the current test “needs to be more robust”.
“The owner-director test, as it’s often called now, is really important, it’s not currently working the way I think we’d all like it to work and so it needs to change,” Huddleston said.
“Fully understanding the points that there’s an element of embedded in that.”
Premier League considers human rights test for future owners
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