The survey carried out for the Fifa Ethics and Regulation Watch think tank has shown that a mere one in nine (12 percent) of the public back football’s current “fit and proper test”, which is administered by the Premier League and English Football League. The crisis of confidence has come after the Saudi Arabian wealth fund attempted to buy Newcastle United and was not blocked by the Premier League despite its appalling human rights record.
There have also been questions over Sheikh Mansour’s ownership of Manchester City.
The sheikh is deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, minister of presidential affairs and member of the royal family in a country which also has a poor human rights record and where questions have been asked about it being used as a backdoor for financing terrorism.
Critics argue that questionable regimes and individuals are using football clubs to “sports wash” their reputation.
Anna De Bacci, a spokeswoman for FERW commented: “This poll finds woeful levels of trust in the current regulatory system of football club ownership, something that we have been campaigning on for years.
“The process of buying a club in this country, as in many others is shrouded in secrecy, with ordinary fans being kept in the dark. Worse still, individuals with close connections to countries, or companies with poor human rights or environmental records are still being granted the privilege of club ownership.
“We only have to look at Manchester City to see owners who have links to foreign governments, which are routinely criticised for their treatment of their people, minority groups such as the LGBT+ community and religious minorities and the environment. Yet they have still been able to buy top football clubs with international recognition and legions of fans.”
The Censuswide Poll, of over 2,000 (2,011) nationally representative UK adults, including over half (54 percent) who identified as football or sports fans, found strong support for banning individuals with links to criminal activities, dubious financial records and poor human rights or environmental records.
Asked, if the owners’ and directors’ test (also known as the “fit and proper person test”) were to be reviewed, what, if anything, do you think should be added, nearly four in ten (38 percent) said, a ban on owners and directors who have engaged in illegal actions outside of the UK such as the pirating of premier league matches and other sporting events.
An almost identical number (37 percent) wanted a ban on people who have committed crimes both inside and outside of the UK, while one in three (34 percent) wanted individuals with a track record of bankruptcy barred and the necessary funds to support the club.
Just over a third (34 percent) of those surveyed wanted an end to owners who plan a “leveraged takeover”, that would see an individual or company buy a club, but run up huge amounts of debt on the assets of the club, as happened with Manchester United.
While nearly three in ten (29 percent) wanted a ban on those who “damaged the image of football”, over a quarter (27 percent) wanted those with links to countries with “poor human rights records” prevented from becoming directors or owners.
In a final blow to the current fit and proper test, just one in 15, (7 percent) agreed with the statement, “I think nothing new should be added if the owners’ and directors’ test was reviewed”.
Miss De Bacci continued: “We have sent the findings of our poll to the Premier League and EFL urging them to urgently review the current fit and proper test, which those questioned in the survey and FERW believe lack transparency and robustness.
“What this means in practice is that individuals such as Sheikh Mansour, the Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, a country that has been criticised by the UN, British parliamentarians and respected campaign groups like Amnesty, benefit from owning world-famous football clubs like Manchester City, in a practice called sports-washing.”