The Unique History Of The FA Fit And Proper Person Test

For most industries, a background check is a series of relatively straightforward checks that a creditable agency can transform into a formality.

From a DBS criminal record check, UK right to work checks as well as checking qualifications, references, and work history, most jobs require a very similar level of checks to ensure that a successful applicant can legally do the job and is as capable as they claim.

Certain fields, such as finance, law, and roles where an employee is in charge of children or vulnerable adults may require more specific and advanced background checks as well.

However, some types of background checks are far less common and are designed with very specific and unusual roles in mind, and the most unusual example of this in the UK is the FA Owners and Directors Test, often simply known as the ‘fit and proper person’ test.

 

English FA Fit And Proper Person Test

It is the dream, ambition, or financial goal for many people to own a football club.

In some cases, this is purely for sentimental reasons due to a previous connection to a particular team, but in others, it is about making a considerable investment that can pay for itself several times over, particularly as the English Premier League has skyrocketed in value over the past three decades.

As a result, many owners and directors want to be part of the running of a football club and to reap the rewards of doing so, but to be a director or own more than 30 percent of the shares of a club, you must pass the Owners and Directors Test (often known as the “fit and proper person” test).

This test, which is in Section F of the Premier League Handbook (as well as the English Football League, National League, and Scottish Premier League) and was introduced in 2004 to ensure that the people who run clubs are run by owners who are unlikely to bring a club into disrepute.

They also stop owners from having a significant interest, power, or control over another club in the football league, stop owners who cannot by law become a director, owners filing for bankruptcy even if they have the capital to buy the club or are not allowed to enter the country.

Typically they focus on matters of financial responsibility, criminal records, and honesty, with any person who has an unspent criminal conviction relating to dishonesty (such as fraud) or has run a football club into administration disqualified from running a club.

There are some rather unique specific cases to this as well, as offences related to the game itself, such as ticket touting can lead to a ban.

This aspect has stopped several potential owners from taking over struggling clubs and has in at least one case caused a serving director to be banned from running a club.

Dennis Coleman, director of Rotherham United, went into administration twice and therefore disqualified himself from holding a position of responsibility at a football club in the future.

The first owner to fail the test came in 2009 when the owner of Chester City, Stephen Vaughan was convicted of VAT fraud whilst he was the owner of the Widnes Vikings rugby club. Because of this fraud conviction, he failed the fit and proper test and transferred control of the club to his son.

It is a rather unique background check that is different from the typical tests used to check a person’s suitability for a directorship role at any other type of business and has seen several changes over the years in response to a range of unique situations the original test did not account for.

In particular, the situation at Portsmouth from their FA Cup victory in 2009 up until their purchase by Michael Eisner, a former executive at Disney involved multiple different owners, including Sulaiman Al Fahim, Ali al-Faraj, Balram Chainrai and Vladimir Antonov in less than a decade before the Pompey Supporters Trust took over.

Another dramatic example took place at Notts Country when Munto Finance attempted to purchase the club as part of an elaborate fraud by convicted fraudster Russell King, which led the club to the brink of collapse, although they eventually found more stable ownership.

The expulsion of Bury FC from the EFL, as well as the near-liquidation of Bolton Wanderers, the financial issues at Derby County, and the issues at Wrexham AFC before Ryan Reynolds and Ryan McElhenney took over have led to calls for this test to be clarified and strengthened.

So What? Screening and ensuring someone is a fit and proper person for a job role is vital, especially if they are at a director level. To ensure this is the case, bespoke screen services are needed.

If you’re looking for a background check company, contact us today, and see how we can help your business. You’re in safe hands with Agenda Screening Services.

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