EFL: New Rules against Owners and Agents

The EFL announced on Friday changes to its rules ahead of the new season. The biggest of these rule changes are with respect to the conduct of owners of clubs and agents working for them; both issues that have affected Birmingham City in the past twelve months.

Finances and BCFC

The full text of the announcement can be viewed on the EFL website here.

There are two new rules I am particularly interested in.

The first relates to the activities of registered intermediaries working for football clubs.

An amendment to the Owners’ and Directors’ Test was agreed which prohibits a registered Intermediary from engaging in activities that fall within the definition of a ‘Director’ under the EFL Regulations. This amendment brings the EFL into clearer alignment with the Rules of the FA.

This rule might as well be called the “Mendes rule” as it clearly is an attempt to prevent a situation such as the one at Wolves last year with Jorge Mendes.

However, this rule is also good for Birmingham City as it ensures that neither Darren Dein nor any other agent can any longer have any level of influence at the club as Dein exerted last summer.

While Dein’s influence was curtailed just prior to the appointment of Garry Monk there has been no indication from my sources in Hong Kong that Dein’s contract with BSH or any of its subsidiaries has been revoked. This suggests to me that there may be expensive penalty clauses to do so.

I think this new rule is a good thing because I think a club (or club owner) employing a registered intermediary as an advisor is always going to create a conflict of interest.

If an intermediary is working for a club, it’s difficult to confirm that the intermediary is working for the benefit of the club and not for his own players or interests.

The second rule I’m interested in relates to the conduct of an individual in relation to the operation of a football club. The announcement states that:

The EFL Chairman proposed the adoption of a new policy in circumstances where it is considered appropriate to take direct action against individuals who fail to meet the standards that are expected of them under the Regulations.

The policy outlines that it should be reserved for the following circumstances:

A very serious single act or persistent serious acts

Relating to the operation of an EFL football Club

Where the individual’s conduct is clearly damaging to the standing and reputation of the wider profession and the game of football.

This is intriguing to me as it’s appears to be a catch-all rule where the League can take action against an owner or director without them having to fall foul of the Owners and Directors Test (OADT).

The test of this rule will be how and if it is implemented; what the “very serious single act or persistent serious acts” must entail for the EFL to take action.

I’ll admit my scepticism that what I or other fans may feel is a serious problem might not be the same as what the EFL feels is a serious problem – simply because any action forced under this rule is likely to be challenged in the courts.

For example, under these rules would Carson’s arrest on suspicion of money laundering be considered to be enough to act, or would that have been ignored as it didn’t directly relate to his operation of BCFC?

Likewise, the sheer antipathy and disrespect shown to fans by Peter Pannu might have been horrible to us, but was it serious enough to warrant action?

It’s good to see that the EFL are trying to be seen to do something – particularly as there are more and more problems relating to football ownership cropping up around the EFL. However, words are one thing, actions are another.

The EFL board are looking to adopt these policies at their next meeting on July 26.

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