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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 20, 2009

MPs want debt tests for potential club owners

MPs have called for changes to football rules to prevent the likes of Manchester United's owners saddling clubs with debts running into hundreds of millions of pounds. The all-party Parliamentary Football Group believes takeovers such as the Glazers' - and including Tom Hicks' and George Gillett's at Liverpool - can pose a threat to a club's future.

The MPs, who have no power to enforce any changes, also want loans to clubs by owners such as Chelsea's Roman Abramovich to be treated as debt.

In their report on English Football & Its Governance, the MPs say the current 'Fit and Proper Persons' test should be changed so that it takes into account whether any prospective new owner is preparing to raise debt on the club's assets.

Other recommendations include for English football to adopt FIFA president Sepp Blatter's 6+5 rule for a maximum of five foreigners in any starting XI.

The MPs also believe that Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards and chief executive Richard Scudamore have too much power over the organisation.

Group chairman Alan Keen MP said: "We are saying that before someone can take over a club they have to pass a test, and should be financing the takeover on money they put in and not on debt.

"We are worried about incidents where people have taken over clubs such as Manchester United where the Glazers, who have never in the past shown any interest in football, and used the club's assets to secure loans for the takeover.

"If people come into a club simply to make money, or just gives the club a loan, we are worried that at some point they will take it out and threaten the existence of that club.

"A lot of money goes from the Premier League down into the grass-roots and if someone comes in purely to make money they might decide they do not want to give any more money to Football Foundation.

"Clubs are not mere companies and Manchester United is different from British Home Stores. Supporters feel they own the club. They deserve more than clubs just being cash cows.

"The financial world has learnt a serious lesson in the last year that living by the old adage 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' can lead to catastrophic results. There is a real danger that English football could go the same way."

The report says limits on foreign players should be introduced to boost development of domestic players.

"If we wish for the fortunes of our national team to improve, we must ensure that young domestic talent is given the opportunity to get experience at the top level," says the report.

"We recommend that a measure is brought in to ensure that a minimum number of domestic players are to be included in a club's starting line-up."

The report says FIFA's 6+5 proposal is "more efficient and more desirable in the long-term".

In relation to the Premier League, the report says: "The chairman and chief executive [have] too big a role in the decision-making process."

The MPs also say there should be more independent members on the Premier League board, as well as the FA Board and the Football Regulatory Authority, and each club should have at least one fans' representative on the board.

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