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A fortnight after the human rights organisation first wrote to the league’s chief executive, Richard Masters, asking for a meeting over its proposals, drafted by a leading QC, to make the test human-rights compliant, its offer has finally been accepted.
At present the owners’ test, applied to every individual named as having a direct role in controlling a Premier League club, does not make any mention of human rights. Last weekend Crystal Palace fans raised a banner condemning the test and the decision to approve the Saudi deal.
“We’re obviously pleased that the Premier League is willing to talk about these proposals as a starting point for what we hope will be a process that leads to considerable strengthening of the rules on football governance,” said Sacha Deshmukh, the CEO of Amnesty International UK.
“The current rules concerning who owns and runs English football clubs are woefully inadequate, with no bar on ownership for those complicit in acts of torture, slavery, human trafficking or even war crimes.
“The Saudi buyout of Newcastle United always looked like an attempt to sportswash Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record with the glamour and prestige of the Premier League and top-flight football.
“We’re keen to discuss with Richard Masters our ideas for a human rights-compliant owners’ and directors’ test which can help weed out unsuitable owners complicit in human rights violations, as well as reducing sportswashing and generally improving governance within the game.”
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The owners’ and directors’ test covers a limited scope of criteria, primarily possible conflicts of interest and criminal convictions. Last year Amnesty commissioned David Chivers QC of Erskine Chambers to devise a revised test which would broaden its scope to make it consistent with Fifa’s statutes, which commit the game’s governing body to “respecting all internationally recognised human rights and … to promote the protection of these rights”.
Chivers wrote: “A change to the Owners’ and Directors’ Test to incorporate a reference to human rights would not make the Premier League some sort of outlier. Rather, it would see the Premier League brought into line with modern expectations of corporate governance and responsibility.”