Football company rules to be examined by MPs

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FC United fans
Image caption,
Not all fans are as pleased with their club owners

MPs are to investigate how professional football in England and Wales is governed to see if it requires government intervention to reform it.

The cross-party committee will examine whether there is too much debt in the professional game.

It will also look at whether the rules requiring owners to be "fit and proper persons" are adequate.

Sports managers, club representatives and fans are among witnesses expected to be called by the committee.

The inquiry has been prompted by the rows relating to debts at Liverpool and Manchester United, as well as concerns about whether the current governance arrangements are fit for purpose.

The New England Sports Ventures (NESV), owner of the Boston Red Sox, bought Liverpool FC for £300m in October. The club said at the time that the sale reduced its "debt servicing obligations from £25m-£30m a year to £2m-£3m".

And Manchester United was bought by the US-based Glazer family for £800m in 2005.

Critics say the family has saddled the club with massive debts, which has led to protests by supporters' groups.

Governance models involving supporter trusts, and other schemes from the UK and abroad, will also be examined by MPs.

The chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, John Whittingdale, said questions will be asked about whether football clubs should be treated differently from other commercial organisations.

The government's coalition agreement promised to "encourage the reform of football governance rules to support the co-operative ownership of football clubs by supporters".

Mr Whittingdale said: "There is widespread concern that the current governance arrangements are not fit for purpose.

"Our inquiry will look at the case for strategic government intervention and improved self-regulation and will consider models which involve supporters more in how clubs are run.

"We are keen to hear from a wide range of interested parties, including fans, as well as the clubs themselves and their own regulatory bodies."

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