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By ESPN Staff

Premier League announces tougher ownership rules

A takeover of Liverpool appears increasingly imminent after the club and a number of interested parties alerted the Premier League to a possible change in ownership.

Under tougher new rules on club ownership announced by the Premier League on Tuesday night in response to Portsmouth's financial meltdown, all prospective owners are obliged to give the league ten days' notice of a takeover and prove they have the funds to sustain the club.

It is understood Liverpool and a number of parties contemplating a takeover - including Chinese businessman Kenny Huang - have already contacted the Premier League to alert them a change of ownership could be imminent.

Under the rules, the Premier League will have to be given ten days' notice of any takeover, and the prospective owners will be required to have a face-to-face meeting with league chiefs to convince them they have enough money for the season to come.

Other rule changes will see clubs having to provide evidence every quarter that they are up to date with tax payments to Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs - and they will give permission for HMRC to give details on any non-payment directly to the league.

The former 'fit and proper persons test' has been renamed as the 'owners and directors test' and toughened up. Now anyone barred from other sporting organisations or competitions will not be allowed to be a club director.

The strengthening of the regulations is an attempt to reduce the risk of another crisis similar to that suffered by Portsmouth, who went into administration last season and were subsequently relegated.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said: "We believe we have the measures now in place, the early warning system, that will reduce the risk of having a repeat of the Portsmouth situation.

"The objective of the Premier League is to reduce risk and try to prevent the worst happening but we can't eliminate risk entirely as that would involve us interfering as shadow directors in the running of clubs.

"There was reputational damage with the situation we had with Portsmouth. Clubs get tired of football being called a financial basket case. There was an element of gross mismanagement [with Portsmouth] and people have understood it was the exception rather than the rule."

Scudamore believes the league could have intervened in Portsmouth's finances in January 2009 rather than September if the new rules had been in force then, and stopped the club running up such debts with the taxman.

He added: "The HMRC debt would not have run up and we would have probably been able to prevent some of the worst."

Scudamore said he believed the new rules on future financial information would have prevented Ali Al Faraj from taking over Portsmouth in October last year, though not Alexandre Gaydamak from doing so in 2006.

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