Clause 34 - Incumbent owners

Football Governance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 21 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 35 and 36 stand part.

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Equalities)

Clause 34 provides the regulator with the necessary powers to test incumbent owners who are already in place at clubs. It limits the regulator to testing where there is concern about an owner’s suitability. That will allow the regulator to tackle any risks to clubs from unsuitable owners already in the industry, while recognising that there are suitable owners already in the system who do not need to be tested. If the regulator has information that gives it concern about the fitness of incumbent owners, those owners can be assessed to ensure that they have the requisite honesty and integrity and are financially sound to own a club.

If the regulator has information that gives it grounds for suspicion, incumbent owners can also be tested on their source of wealth to establish whether it is connected to serious criminal conduct, including crimes such as drug trafficking and fraud. The regulator will not remove incumbent owners because of mere suspicion about their source of wealth; rather, an incumbent owner must be treated as unsuitable if the regulator is more sure than not that the source of wealth is connected to serious criminal conduct. The clause will ensure that the regulator has the appropriate powers to test incumbent owners where a risk of harm arises. Clauses 39 to 44 provide the regulator with the powers needed to remove unsuitable owners, allowing the regulator to address such risks. That will help ensure the sustainability of clubs over the long term, benefiting football now and into the future.

Clause 35 provides the regulator with the necessary powers to test incumbent officers who are already in place at clubs. It limits the regulator to testing where there is concern about their suitability. That will allow the regulator to tackle any risks to clubs from unsuitable officers already in the industry, while recognising that there are suitable officers already in the system who do not need to be tested. Again, if the regulator has information that gives concern about their fitness, incumbent officers can be tested to ensure that they have the requisite honesty, integrity and competence and are financially sound enough to continue in their role. The clause will ensure that the regulator has the appropriate powers to test those incumbent officers, and clauses 39 to 42 provide the regulator with the powers needed to remove them if necessary. That will help ensure the sustainability of clubs over the long term.

Finally, on clause 36, the regulator’s ability to test or re-test incumbent owners and officers will prevent unsuitable custodians from harming clubs over the long term, not just at the point of entry. The Government are aware that a finding that an incumbent owner or officer is unsuitable brings about significant consequences for that person and may cause concern for the club or fans. That is why, when the regulator is minded to fail an incumbent owner or officer, clause 36 requires it to give them and the relevant club an opportunity to make representations before making its final decision. That will allow an owner or officer an appropriate opportunity to argue their case before the regulator finds them unsuitable, ensuring that the regulator has all relevant information available to it and allowing it to make better decisions and ensure that the regime is more effective.

I commend the clauses to the Committee.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

I have no major issues with the clauses, so in the interests of not repeating what the Minister outlined, I will simply welcome them.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 34 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 35 and 36 ordered to stand part of the Bill.