While most people would probably jump at the chance to own and run a football club, in reality, it takes quite a lot of work to be able to do so. In England, potential owners must clear the FA’s ‘owner’s and director’s test’, in order to prove that they are suitable enough to run a football club. This was brought into the game in 2004 in a bid to reduce corruption as well as cases of clubs going bust because of inept ownership. At present, this rule applies to the Premier League, English Football League, National League, Isthmian League, Northern Premier League and Southern Premier League. Thus, as you can see, it is applicable all the way down the divisions, and is one of the strictest ownership requirements in the country.
The test is applied to all persons defined as ‘officers’ of the club, and includes directors, shareholders with a holding of 30% or higher, chairmen and secretaries, to name but a few people who would be screened by this test. Individuals would be barred from acting as an owner or director of a football club if they fall foul of any of the following regulations –
- They are prohibited by law from being a director in a company;
- They have influence over another football club;
- They have a significant interest/shareholding in another football club;
- They have criminal convictions for corruption, dishonesty, or a serious breach of the Companies Act;
- They have been convicted by the FA of betting or bribery;
- They are bankrupt or have filed for insolvency;
- They are banned by any sports governing body;
- They have previously been an officer at two or more clubs that have had insolvency events, or at one club which has had two separate insolvency events, in the previous five years;
- They have been an officer at any club that has been expelled from any of the leagues mentioned above in the last five years
Thus, as one can see, the rules behind appointing someone as an owner or director of a football club in England are quite stringent. Reporting requirements for the FA dictate that anybody wishing to take up such a position must submit a signed declaration confirming that they are not subject to any of the aforementioned conditions, after which the FA has 14 days to consider the declaration and provide written consent to the club. It is thus extremely difficult for somebody to whom any of these conditions apply to become an officer of a football club in England. The chances are so low that you could also win the lottery at similar odds; but of course, the consequences are far more grave in this case. Becoming an owner or director of a football club carries a lot of responsibility, especially due to the role that clubs play in their immediate communities, and thus it cannot be taken lightly. The FA’s test is designed to ensure that clubs are not faced with unsuitable owners who drive those institutions to ruin on the back of financial fraud or poor judgement.