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FA working with leagues to tackle leveraged takeovers of clubs

FA working with leagues to tackle leveraged takeovers of clubs

  • Rules might have blocked Glazers’ takeover of Manchester Utd
  • Uefa Congress approves changes to Champions League format

The Football Association is working with the Premier League and English Football League to limit so-called leveraged takeovers of clubs, Mark Bullingham has said.

The FA’s chief executive wants limits on the money a prospective owner can borrow against the assets of a club, a move that might have prevented the takeover of Manchester United by the Glazer family or ALK Capital’s deal for Burnley. It comes as the FA continues to jockey for position over the placement of an independent regulator for English football.

“The thing to look at in future ownership structures is the way in which the debt is structured to purchase a club and making sure there’s enough security around that,” Bullingham said. “It’s the extent to which the buyer has leveraged [which] is important; that clubs are sustainable and secure moving forward.

“It is something that we are looking at, and I know the leagues are as well, to make sure that that whole area is explored in any new ownership model moving forward. I think it absolutely is something that will be explored [by a new regulator].”

The Glazers’ ownership of United has been the subject of renewed protests, 17 years after their takeover with a loan secured against the club’s assets, which has generated more than £1.5bn of interest. Burnley’s annual accounts recently revealed that, in the event of relegation, they would be obliged to make a “significant” repayment on more than £100m of debt placed on the club by the owners.

Bullingham believes the FA is a suitable place to house the new independent regulator, plans for which were confirmed in the Queen’s speech this week.

“We think we can give government a really strong argument as to how that regulator could sit alongside the FA,” he said. “I think we see the advantages that we can [bring], and we can intertwine it with the regulatory aspects that we do, but anybody would need to have a large degree of independence. So there’s a lot still to work through and it will be up to [government] to decide.”

Mark Bullingham, CEO of the FA, speaks to the media in November 2021

Bullingham was speaking after Uefa’s annual Congress, which approved wide-ranging changes to the Champions League and other continental competitions. Uefa’s president, Aleksander Ceferin, celebrated the agreement, which involved consultation with clubs, national associations and, for the first time, supporter groups. He told delegates from 55 member nations: “When we stand together … football wins and society wins as well,” before turning his fire on the hold-out clubs from last year’s failed Super League.

“I am not in touch with any of the three clubs,” Ceferin said of Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid, who are pursuing a legal case against Uefa through the European court of justice. “It’s up to them to ask for a meeting, not for me to ask them. The only greeting we get is from the courts from time to time, or some threats. The usual stuff which we are not nervous about.”

Ceferin admitted he would probably sit next to Madrid’s president, Florentino Pérez, at the Champions League final on 28 May. He also said he had called Jürgen Klopp to address the Liverpool manager’s complaint over how tickets to the game are distributed.

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Madrid and Liverpool fans will have 20,000 tickets each in Paris, with the remaining 35,000 distributed by Uefa. Klopp said the distribution was “about money”, something Ceferin said he had disputed.

“If sponsors that pay 100, or more, million euros sponsorship get some tickets, it’s part of a contractual obligation that we have,” he said. “Some tickets go to the market, some tickets go to the fans and some go to the partners. It’s not Uefa. I’m not giving tickets for free to my friends or selling to my friends. From the revenues from the finals, Uefa gets 6.5% and 93.5% goes to the clubs. It’s the system that works, and clubs couldn’t function differently.”

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