Money for nothing  – Calling for the SFA to have a debate about financial rule changes

Date: 27th January 2024

Money for nothing  – Calling for the SFA to have a debate about financial rule changes

It was recently  announced ( leaked to the press) that the Billionaire owner of AFC Bournemouth, Bill Foley was interested in buying up to 25% of Hibernian. To do so it would require a change of the SFA rules which currently prohibit multiple ownerships of football clubs. The current limit would see and new owner being restricted to 9.9% as we saw when Mike Ashley then of Newcastle United held that amount of shares. I am not sure many people would have wanted him in Scottish Football given his reputation in the North East of England

This  announcement raises many  the questions that the SFA need to consider. There is of course no surprise to anyone that there has been no proper debate of scrutiny around this with the usual Hampden Park money grab of whatever cash they can find. We have seen it before with the influx of the  betting companies and of course that fantastic wholesome sponsorship from the highly desirable Glens Vodka deal.( They give us cash and our clubs need cash so no issue here)

Is changing a rule that has served Scottish Football well in the past worth considering and if so how will if benefit the wider game? If we use Partick Thistle as an example the infamous  Ken Bates tried to buy the club when he owned Chelsea. Due to the duel interest rules he was unable to buy the Jags which was a huge escape as within 6 months Chelsea went into administration. If we fast forward to 2019 when Chen Lee and Paul Conway of  Barnsley ( and owners of a selection of other clubs) also tried to buy Thistle once again the duel interest rues stopped in happening. At that time Jags fans were in regular contact with Tykes fans who were warning us that  they felt no benefits from being part of the wider group and that the owners were overseas and had no interest in the fans. On the field Barnsley continued to bounce between the divisions and the Moneyball business strategy they were sold produced very little returns for the club. With the DUEL interest route blocked from this investment group it  of course allowed for a path to open up for Partick Thistle fans to buy the club for the community.

So the existing rules have been proven to be a safeguard for at least two of our clubs in the past and there may have been more given that so many of these types of deals are done in secret. Of course when it comes to the Bill Foley “investment” there are more questions than answers.

The obvious one is in changing the ruling regarding due ownership what would the benefits be for Scottish Football. From a Hibs perspective they might argue that  it would give them access to better loan deals from other clubs and with further investment they might be able to challenge more at the top six of the league. The Romanov Lithuanian experiment is a salutary reminder that this model has been tried and tested and dumped before. Opening up the market  might help fuel another race to no where  given that the top of the game is a duopoly.

Will the SFA look at the bigger picture will all the clubs be able to contribute to the debate ? Of course we know that is unlikely. Given what we are seeing in England with the problems with Financial Fair Play what impact will allowing our clubs to be part of debt ridden clusters of clubs does this move help the financial sustainability of our clubs. Remember being in the English Premer League you are allowed to have up to £120 in debt

The reality is that is a very different scenario to asking Taylor Swift for a few bob and is stepping into the unknown with  few obvious tangible benefits. In opening up this multi club pathway what impact will it have on governance at local level ? Another key question for the SFA to address is that with fewer and fewer Scottish players  in our top teams do they want this new investment to bring in even more foreign players? Should this change in the rules not be debated throughout the game?

Sadly as is always the case with  decisions made behind closed doors it looks like the poor governance of the game will allow for decisions to be made that someone somewhere things will be good for our game. Give the track record of floor six at Hampden Park the jury is very much out on them doing the right thing.



1 Newcastle United FC  – Saudi Public Investment Fund, RB Sports & Media, PCP Capital Partners Saudi Arabia

Net worth: £489billion

2 Manchester United  FC – Glazer Family, Sir Jim Ratcliffe USA / ENGLAND

Net worth: £22.01 billion

3 Manchester City  FC – Abu Dhabi United Group, Silver Lake ABU DHABI

Net worth: £17.37billion

4 Chelsea  FC– Todd Boehly, Hansjorg Wyss, Mark Walter USA /SWISS / USA

Net worth: £12.47billion

5 Arsenal FC – Stan Kroenke USA

Net worth: £10.18billion

6 Aston Villa  FC – Wes Edens, Nassef Sawiris  USA /  Egypt

Net worth: £9.39billion

7 Everton FC  – 777 Partners

Net worth: £8billion

8 Liverpool  FC – John W. Henry, Tom Werner

Net worth: £7.74billion

9 Fulham FC – Shahid Khan  USA

Net worth: £6.24billion

10 West Ham  United FC – David Sullivan, Daniel Kretinsky  England / Czech Republic

Net worth: £5.76billion

11 Wolverhampton Wanderers FC – Guo Guangchang, Liang Xinjun, Wang Qunbin China /Hong Kong

Net worth: £5.45billion

12 Tottenham  Hotspur FC – Joe Lewis, Daniel Levy USA / England

Net worth: £4.58billion

13 Crystal Palace  FC – John Textor, David Blitzer, Josh Harris, Steve Parish

Net worth: £4.34billion

14  AFC Bournemouth – William P. Foley USA

Net worth: £1.26billion

15 Brighton &  Hove Albion FC – Tony Bloom England

Net worth: £1.03billion

16 Nottingham Forest  FC – Evangelos Marinakis Greece

Net worth: £489million

17 Brentford FC  – Matthew Benham

Net worth: £220million

18 Sheffield United FC  – Abdullah bin Musaid Al Saud Saudi Arabia

Net worth: £158million

19 Luton Town  FC – David Wilkinson England

Net worth: £25.74million

20 Burnley FC  – Alan Pace ALK Capital. Velocity Sports Partners (VSP) USA

Net worth: Unknown estimated £200 – £300m


Dual Interest in Clubs – these minutes are obviously not in the public domain but were leaked to us by a club representative who believes that these issues should be debated by the whole game


Scottish FA Article 13 (Dual Interests in Clubs) states inter alia that “except with the prior written consent of the Board” no person who is a shareholder in a club in Scotland may at the same time also be a shareholder in another club resident in any of the 55 member countries of UEFA.


Article 13 is widely drawn such that being involved in the management or administration or being able to influence the management or administration of more than one club is also forbidden without the prior written approval of the Board of the Scottish FA.


That said, there have been a limited number of instances when the Board of the Scottish FA has granted consent to particular circumstances which would have otherwise breached Article 13.   The natural presumption is that dual interests are not permitted or encouraged in Scotland.


The Board is aware that clubs currently face an uncertain financial future as they respond to the global coronavirus pandemic in the weeks and months ahead without the income they would normally generate from playing matches.   Every club will have its own strategy to find a route through the difficulties.   Some may have reserves or access to support from existing stakeholders.   Others may seek to attract support from new sources.


Against this background the Board has been asked to clarify its attitude towards Article 13.   The matter was debated by the Board on 23 March 2020 and the following, non-binding guidance can be given.


  • Each case will be dealt with on its merits.   It is for a member club to furnish the Board with all the information it can provide to support any application for a consent under Article 13.


  • A formal decision can only be made once the Board has received and assessed an application from a member club.


  • In making an application to the Board,  a member club will have been required to complete due diligence on the people becoming involved with the club and where relevant, certify they are “fit and proper people” under Article 10.


  • No form of pre-clearance can be given by the Scottish FA to a speculative or conditional transaction.


  • The Board will deal only with member clubs.   It is not the role of the Scottish FA to introduce potential investors to member clubs or to give advice on the suitability of any potential investors or to comment on the appropriateness of any potential set of arrangement for the member club.


The foregoing guidance simply restates existing practice.   In the current circumstances the Board has signalled that, subject to being satisfied with the detailed arrangements and protections for the member club and its supporters set out in any formal application, the Board of the Scottish FA would be open-minded towards an application for consent under Article 13 where a new investor or group of investors acting together would hold up to 24.9% of the enlarged equity in a member club and at the same have an interest in a club (or clubs) out with Scotland provided that the national association(s) where the club(s) were registered also approved the resulting Dual Interest in the member club in Scotland.


So that was the past and now the decision has been made behind closed doors as usual because that is the way it has always been and that is the way they want it. Not even the clubs have a say.

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