Home » Foreign states won’t be blocked from owning football clubs, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer says

Foreign states won’t be blocked from owning football clubs, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer says

The government insists it will not block nations from owning football clubs – despite deciding to ban foreign states from controlling newspapers.

Both issues landed at the desk of Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer as plans for a regulator for English football were advanced just as the Abu Dhabi-led takeover of the Daily Telegraph was effectively blocked.

Ms Frazer told Sky News: “We won’t be bringing in any measures in relation to foreign ownership of football clubs.”

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While a paper might appear to be a greater means to exert influence politically, football has shown how clubs can become a tool for states.

Sections of Newcastle fans became cheerleaders for the Saudi state as the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund fended off human rights protests to buy the northeast Premier League club in 2021.

And the presence of Abu Dhabi has been felt across Manchester City since they have been transformed into a global force.

Now the reigning English and European champions, City were far from a sweep of trophies until the takeover in 2008 by Sheikh Mansour which the club insists is a private ownership.

The vice president of the United Arab Emirates also 75% owned the US-Abu Dhabi joint venture that was proposing to buy the Telegraph newspapers and Spectator magazine until Whitehall’s recent intervention over media freedom concerns.

Soccer Football - Champions League Final - Manchester City v Inter Milan - Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey - June 10, 2023 United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan before the match REUTERS/Molly Darlington
Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour (R) at the 2023 Champions League final. Pic: Reuters

But the government is less concerned with any foreign state control of national footballing institutions despite introducing the mechanism to prevent that – advancing plans for a regulator for English football that will have stronger tests on ownership.

Asked about foreign state ownership, Ms Frazer said: “We are not saying anything about who should own a club – where they live.

“What we’re saying in relation to ownership is that you need to be a fit and proper person. And I think that’s the right decision.”

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File photo dated 21-05-2023 of Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan lifting the Premier League trophy. City are bidding to add two more pieces of silverware to the Premier League trophy they have already won. Issue date: Wednesday May 31, 2023.
Manchester City won the Premier League in 2023. Pic: PA

When asked if a fit and proper owner would be involved in human rights abuses, or be from a nation that might murder journalists and lock up dissenters, Ms Frazer responded: “I don’t think it should be for the regulator to be determining issues of foreign policy.

“That’s for the government to do. And so this bill is about financial regulation. It’s about ensuring that these clubs do not go under. It’s about protecting fans and making sure fans are at the heart of the game.”