Culture secretary backs Blatter calls for takeover reform

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The Independent Online

Culture secretary Andy Burnham has backed Sepp Blatter's call for tighter rules on club ownership and insists it is vital to restore "confidence" among supporters.

The Fifa president appeared before MEPs at the European Union yesterday when he claimed investment in football was "out of control".

Blatter asked for help from Europe's lawmakers to draw up more stringent regulations governing who is permitted to seize control of clubs.

Burnham backed that plea this morning, and challenged the Football Association to take the lead in tightening up rules for the Premier League.

Already this season, fans of Newcastle and Manchester City have been left to deal with the after-effects of takeovers which have turned sour.

And Burnham told talkSPORT: "It is important that the supporters know what the person's intentions are for that club and they understand the traditions and the issues around the wider health of the game.

"That's why I've said there should be a single, strengthened fit-and-proper-persons test applied before someone takes over.

"But it should be applied before they take over the club, not after the event as it is at the moment.

"Then at least we can have more confidence in the people coming in to own English football clubs, that they are the right kind of people with the right kind of intentions.

"We need a strong and reformed FA who is responsible from grass roots level to the England team. They are the people who need to regulate the game in the interests of everybody."

Yesterday, Blatter blasted the super-rich investors willing to buy and part with clubs "like you would sell a shirt", citing the example of former City owner Thaksin Shinawatra, who sold up to Abu Dhabi United Group amid allegations of corruption in his homeland, Thailand.

"We have to be alarmed," Blatter said in the Times.

"We have one Prime Minister from Thailand going back to his country and he sells his club like you would sell a shirt. Something is very badly wrong here.

"I don't know how it can be stopped, but there is always a danger that these people will just one day leave.

"You get people turning up with banker's guarantees who are not interested in football and then they lose interest in the clubs and leave. What happens to the clubs then?

"We are facing now investment in football, particularly the Premier League, that is out of control.

"English football is attractive to investors - it is a phenomenon of the era. The economic power of football is immense."

Blatter called on EU lawmakers to work with world football's governing body to draw up plans that would make it tougher for unscrupulous money men to make their profits and run.

"There are national laws in Switzerland, for example, when you buy property or make an investment, you must prove yourself. You have to prove your link with the area," he told BBC Sport.

"We must ask ourselves about what motivates these owners and are they really interested in the game or just making money?

"There must be better control of football's finances especially in the difficult climate we are facing. I urge UEFA to work with the EU to tighten up the rules, otherwise there will be big financial difficulties in the future."

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