Amnesty International urges Premier League to overhaul 'hopelessly unsuited' owners’ and directors’ test

Jeremy Wilson
·2 min read
Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St James' Park stadium in Newcastle - AFP
Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St James' Park stadium in Newcastle - AFP

Amnesty International has written to the Premier League urging it to overhaul an owners’ and directors’ test described as “hopelessly unsuited” to scrutinise the human rights records of football club owners.

The intervention follows the controversial Saudi Arabian-backed bid for Newcastle United which eventually collapsed when the public investment fund pulled out rather than over the concerns that had been raised regarding the country’s human rights record.

Amnesty has commissioned a new ‘human rights-compliant test’, produced by corporate lawyers David Chivers and Seamus Woods, and says that the current Premier League test contains no prohibition even for those complicit in acts of torture, slavery, human trafficking or even war crimes.

Amnesty’s proposed new test calls for the Premier League coard to consider whether a prospective owner or director has been complicit in serious violations of international human rights law, or any conduct that is at odds with the Premier League’s anti-discrimination policy.

After the collapse of the Saudi-Newcastle deal last week, Amnesty described the attempted purchase as a “blatant attempt” at ‘sportswashing’ and said that Saudi authorities had tried to “buy into the passion, prestige and pride of Tyneside football”.

Amanda Staveley, the financier who headed the bid, blamed the bid’s collapse on Premier League delays, while another source rejected suggestions of ‘sportswashing’. 

Amnesty’s new letter, which has been sent to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, suggests a meeting to discuss how a new test could be improved.

“The controversy around the Saudi-Newcastle has been a major wake-up call - the Premier League urgently needs to get its house in order,” said Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director.

“The current owners’ and directors’ test is hopelessly unsuited to the task of vetting who gets to own and run English football clubs - it needs a serious overhaul.

“Top-flight football needs to sort out this thorny issue of ownership. The owners’ and directors’ test simply hasn’t kept up with modern trends in international football ownership, not least with foreign powers buying their way into the game.”

The Premier League have not commented on the letter, but regard their ownership test as something that has and can continue to evolve.