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A colleague is suggesting a prohibition on overseas ownership of English soccer teams and Formula 1 racing teams.
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A colleague is suggesting a prohibition on overseas ownership of English soccer teams and Formula 1 racing teams.

Lord Scriven, a member of the Liberal Democrat party, has urged the government to take action against and possibly prohibit the overseas ownership of English football teams and sports entities.

In a discussion held in the House of Lords on Thursday, Lord Scriven called out Stefano Domenicali, the chief executive of Formula One, for being arrogant and harming the sport’s reputation due to his lack of action towards addressing concerns about “sportswashing.”

“This debate has taken the lid off the murky waters some are swimming when it comes to sportswashing and the government will now act,” he said. “I hope that after this debate, the UK government will act to regulate their role, in regard to due diligence on human rights issues and also think through foreign ownership of Newcastle United by Saudi Arabia and the McLaren F1 team by Bahrain in the new bill that is before parliament, in terms of banning foreign state ownership of clubs and teams here.”

Lord Scriven, who is the vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on democracy and human rights in the Gulf, had raised the debate in the House of Lords to highlight the issues of “countries that use sporting events to ‘sportswash’ their human rights record, and the role of sporting bodies in aiding this practice”.

He stated that on March 11, he had sent a letter to Domenicali, which was shown to the Guardian, expressing strong disapproval of the CEO’s lack of involvement in addressing human rights violations in Bahrain.

During a session in the House of Lords, Lord Scriven mentioned the situation of Sayed Hashem Alwadaei, who was reportedly detained by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy during the F1 testing earlier this year. The organization alleges that Alwadaei was subjected to torture and interrogation while blindfolded and without the presence of his lawyer, on accusations of taking part in peaceful protests without authorization. Lord Scriven asserted that Alwadaei’s arrest was a deliberate attempt to suppress protests during the grand prix in March.

Lord Scriven expressed that he had made numerous efforts to communicate with Domenicali, but unfortunately, those attempts were unsuccessful. He mentioned that his messages and letters, in which he had asked for proof that F1 was truly promoting positivity and conducting proper assessments on human rights in the places it traveled to, were not acknowledged.

“The reason for initiating this discussion and advocating for stricter regulations for bodies like F1, based in the UK, is due to Mr. Domenicali’s arrogant behavior, lack of professionalism, and disengagement. His actions as leader of F1 have tarnished the sport’s reputation as he has shown a reluctance to address important issues, such as human rights violations.” The speaker made these comments during the debate.

Stefano Domenicali, chief executive of Formula One, at the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

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He expressed his disapproval of the CEO’s position in a letter to Domenicali. He stated that the lack of communication suggests a lack of solid evidence of F1’s positive effect on human rights. He also raised concerns about insufficient efforts to address potential risks.

“I understand that you believe it is acceptable for the leadership of F1 to disregard those expressing concerns about F1 events, thereby enabling the Bahraini government to perpetrate human rights violations and mask their abysmal human rights track record.”

During the discussion, the topic of sportswashing and the ownership of English football clubs was brought up. The government recently released a football governance bill that suggests giving the English football regulator the power to remove unfit owners and compel them to sell their shares in a club.

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Despite a recent decision to block an Abu Dhabi takeover of the Telegraph Media Group, the provision did not include a ban on foreign states owning English clubs.

Several Lords have expressed their intention to modify the football regulation bill in order to address sportswashing and the ownership of English clubs by foreign entities.

The government will not require the regulator to stop foreign ownership of English clubs, according to Lord Parkinson, the parliamentary undersecretary for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

“The unilateral evaluation of human rights concerns would not be deemed suitable for a football regulatory body,” stated the speaker. “The primary goal of the regulator is to ensure the financial viability of clubs and the overall industry. Clubs can have varying ownership structures, including state ownership or ownership by individuals closely tied to foreign governments.”

F1 released a statement as well, stating that for many years, their mission has been to have a positive impact in all the countries where they hold races. They strive to bring economic, social, and cultural benefits to these communities. F1 recognizes that as a sport, it has the ability to unite different countries and cultures through the shared passion and thrill of intense competition and accomplishments. They prioritize their obligations concerning rights and hold their partners and supply chain to high ethical standards, as outlined in their contracts. They also closely monitor their adherence to these standards.

Source: theguardian.com