Triesman draws battle lines on ownership test
FA chairman wants governing body – not the Premier League – to rule on 'fit and proper persons'
The Football Association chairman Lord Triesman wants his organisation at the head of a new "fit and proper persons test", instead of the Premier League, to investigate the finances and backgrounds of potential investors in English football clubs.
Triesman told The Independent that he believed that the FA should be the ultimate authority when it came to the delicate decisions on whether certain investors should be able to own English football clubs. Triesman said: "I have thought the whole way through that the regulatory authority of the national association in any sport needs to be clear cut and it needs to be able to answer the questions about fit and proper persons as much as any other body."
The remarks by Triesman, in a wide-ranging interview, are likely to raise eyebrows at the Premier League who made a great play in May of tightening up their fit and proper person's test after pressure from the then-Culture Secretary Andy Burnham. The Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore announced tougher criteria for any club director with a stake of 30 per cent or more.
The FA's first independent chairman said it was not practical that the existing "fit and proper persons" tests were administered separately by the FA, the Premier League and the Football League. Conceding that his view might be regarded as "controversial" in some quarters, Triesman said: "Not everybody shares the same view but my feeling is that it would be a good deal more efficient if we all administered one system. It's a system made for partnership.
"What I do regard as progress are the efforts made in the Premier League to strengthen their processes. They have all gone in the direction which I think they need to go in. I think there are potential gains in efficiency by working together rather than everyone running a different system." Triesman added: "It [the fit and proper persons test] has become a good deal more robust."
Scudamore and Triesman have clashed before, most notably when the FA chairman made an explosive speech in October criticising the debt in English football clubs and warning that they were not transparent enough about finances. Triesman told The Independent that he still believed he was right to make that speech and that clubs had changed their attitudes. "What's most important is that everyone is much more careful about risk," he said.
With England's qualification for the World Cup imminent – they could seal it on Wednesday with a win over Croatia or next month in their three remaining qualifiers – Triesman said that he expected the approach to be different in South Africa. In 2006, there was embarrassment at the FA at how the WAG phenomenon among the players' families staying in nearby Baden-Baden, in south-west Germany, was permitted to take over.
Triesman said: "Fabio [Capello] will set the standards and I'll back him. I see a group of people working around him who are dedicated to the players' athleticism, their fitness, their health and that's great to see. There is nothing else buzzing round the edges. That's what they are doing."
As well as the FA, Triesman is also chairman of England's 2018 World Cup bid board charged with persuading the 24 all-powerful Fifa executive committee [ExCo] members to vote for England. With some ExCo members facing allegations of profiting from ticket scandals – Jack Warner – or taking bribes – Nicolas Leoz – Triesman said he had trust in the process.
"We'll earn it [trust] from them [the ExCo] and we will play it straight," he said. "I have set out my stall about this in the past. We will publish accounts and play it completely straight. I think it is there to be won and I really hope it is England."
It will be Fifa whom England need to impress over the next year, and who on Thursday made the decision to ban Chelsea for two transfer windows for their conduct in the Gaël Kakuta affair. Triesman said his organisation was "closely monitoring the ruling".
"When one of our leading clubs has such a penalty imposed on it by world football's governing body, it is important that as the national association we fully understand the details of the case and the penalty. I don't have all the details, and as Chelsea have confirmed they intend to appeal the decision, I am not in a position to debate the case further."
On the fit and proper persons test, a spokesman for the Premier League said last night: "There is a very clear reason the Premier League and Football League devised different tests because it is important the test comes in at an appropriate level for clubs playing in their competition."
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