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Labour commits to review of club ownership criteria

LABOUR today confirmed that it would conduct a review of the “fit and proper” club ownership criteria in football after financial mismanagement led to the exit of Bury FC from the English Football League.

The Labour Party manifesto, launched in Birmingham today, commits to make sport “accessible and run in the interests of those who participate in it and love it.”

It states that football in particular “has become divided between the extremes of the very rich and the very poor with clubs in Bury and Bolton facing collapse.”

Bury FC almost collapsed and was expelled from the English Football League in August due to financial difficulties, despite owner Steve Dale passing the English Football League’s owners’ and directors’ test. 

EFL executive chair Debbie Jevans ​​​​​has since told MPs that evidence of the source and sustainability of funding for Bury were not provided by Dale, while Football Association chairman Greg Clarke admitted he only spoke to the owner after the club had been expelled.

Bolton Wanderers barely remained in League One this season after former owner Ken Anderson risked its financial collapse and according to administrators, “used his position as a secured creditor to hamper and frustrate any deal that did not benefit him or suit his purposes.”

The manifesto says: “A Labour government will examine the state of the game, its governance and regulation, its ownership rules and the support and funding of the clubs that are vital to local communities.”

It commits the party to a review of the takeover criteria for club owners and directors and “ensure that supporters’ trusts have a proper role so that the professional game is properly run for all its fans and all its clubs.”

This would partly involve giving accredited trusts the right to appoint and remove at least two club directors and purchase shares when clubs change hands.

The manifesto also backs up recent pledges by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to ensure that a proportion of Premier League television-rights income is spent on grassroots football facilities and that the Cricket World Cup — currently shown on Sky Sports — would be free-to-air.

It also confirms the party’s intention to legalise safe standing at Premier League and Championship football matches, after shadow sports minister Rosena Allin-Khan said last month that she would “personally ensure that safe standing is introduced in time for the 2020/21 football season” if Labour comes to power.

The manifesto states that the party would also commission an independent review into discrimination in sport and would curb gambling advertising, establish gambling limits, a levy for problem-gambling funding and mechanisms for consumer compensation.

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