A coalition of eight clubs understood to be Chelsea, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Everton, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley defeated a temporary Premier League ban on player loans between clubs with the same owners.
The Premier League asked the clubs to pass an amendment to ban loans into the league for this January alone while they attempt to draft new rules to deal with loans and multi-club ownership.
In private conversations with the 20 clubs, the Premier League asked for extra time to get to grips with the difficult issue of clubs loaning players in from partner clubs. While a majority of 12 voted in favour, it did not reach the required threshold of 14.
In a separate vote, the clubs also rejected new amendments to harden up so-called associated party transactions governing the commercial deals agreed between clubs and external companies. It is understood 13 clubs voted in favour, one short of the required majority. In that vote, Burnley switched sides. Those rules would have put much greater personal liability on directors.
Telegraph Sport understands Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly and Manchester City’s head of legal, Simon Cliff, who was one of his club’s representatives at the shareholders’ meeting, spoke in favour of the temporary moratorium on loans being rejected.
It has proved very testing to draft rules which govern loans of players between clubs in the same multi-ownership group, and the Premier League wanted to put in place a ban on it happening this January while potential rule changes are discussed. Fair market value rules cannot be imposed when a loan does not involve a permanent transaction. The issue requires a major change to the way the system is governed.
It is also an issue facing Uefa, which is worried that a club eliminated, for instance, from the Champions League group stages could loan its best players to a partner club in the Europa League knockout stages.
Boehly’s consortium in control of Chelsea, also led by Clearlake Capital private equity investor Behdad Eghbali, is now also the owner of Ligue 1 club Strasbourg. Newcastle’s primary owners, the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), also own four clubs in the Saudi Pro League. Manchester City are part of the 12-strong global City Football Group. Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis also owns Greek giants Olympiakos and is said to be in talks with Portuguese side Rio Ave over potential investment.
Of the remaining rebels, Everton are the subject of a proposed takeover by US group 777 Partners, who operate an extensive multi-club ownership strategy across Europe and South America. Wolves, Sheffield United and Burnley’s motives are less clear. The US owner of Burnley, Alan Pace, has been linked with buying a club in Belgium. Sheffield United are Saudi owned. Wolves are owned by Chinese conglomerate Fosun Group, whose chairman Guo Guangchang’s wife Jenny is the majority shareholder of Swiss side Grasshoppers Zurich.
Executives among the 12 clubs backing the reforms privately expressed surprise as injury-hit Newcastle were effectively given the green light to do business with other PIF-owned entities this January.
Newcastle director Amanda Staveley smiled but declined to comment as she left the meeting of the 20-clubs after the proposals were voted down.
The club, whose £305m Saudi Arabian-backed takeover was completed in October 2021, had been linked with a move for Ruben Neves from Al-Hilal. Sources close to Newcastle played down any interest ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, but the vote is undoubtedly a major boost as the club plans reinforcements after injuries and Sandro Tonali’s 10-month ban from football for breaching rules.
The loan ban was proposed as a temporary measure until a concrete solution could be agreed before the summer transfer window. Associated-party transaction rules already apply to some degree in the transfer of players on permanent deals. Newcastle had to demonstrate to the Premier League that they obtained fair market value when selling the French winger Allan Saint-Maximin to Al-Ahli, another PIF club, in the summer.
The Premier League defines a related party as having “material influence over the club or (being) an entity in the same group of companies as the club”.
The competition initially started moving to close all available loopholes two years ago to stop the Saudi regime at Newcastle buying success like their City-owner counterparts did more than a decade ago.
Calls for a clampdown on owner-funded sponsors initially came after allegations were made during the Football Leaks scandal about Roberto Mancini at Manchester City. Mancini, who led City to their first Premier League title in 2012, was allegedly paid on top of his salary as a consultant with Al Jazira Sports and Cultural Club, which is controlled by City’s Abu Dhabi owners. The club and the Italian manager both previously declined to comment specifically on the veracity of claims.
As detailed by Telegraph Sport on Sunday, there remains no agreement over how much the so-called big six will contribute towards the £130m-a-year New Deal compared with smaller clubs. There is also some disagreement over spending limits on clubs immediately after relegation to the Championship.
The Everton saga was not discussed at the meeting, but it also emerged on Tuesday that the same commission that punished the club on Friday is now due to hear imminent applications for damages by rival clubs. Burnley, Leicester City, Leeds United, Southampton and Nottingham Forest have all expressed prior interest in legal action and have 28 days to lodge a claim.
David Phillips KC, Judge Alan Greenwood and Nick Igoe, the former financial director at West Ham United, will then decide whether the clubs are entitled to payouts estimated at up to £200m combined.