As the Guardian notes:
Politicians from the three main parties and football supporters' groups have united in calling for the Football League to make public who owns its clubs after the league approved as "fit and proper" the offshore owners of Leeds United while keeping their identity private.
The sports minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, said: "Fans of any football club have a right to know who the owners are. We want to see greater supporter representation in the running of football clubs and far greater accountability. The League should insist on clubs making public to their supporters who owns them."
He was joined by the Conservative shadow sports minister, Hugh Robertson, who argued: "As with Parliament and many other areas of public life, transparency is going to be an increasing requirement and expectation. That includes publicly identifying the owners of football clubs. Football should reform its governance, to include greater supporter representation on the board of clubs."
That call was echoed by the Liberal Democrat MP for Harrogate, Phil Willis, who has long criticised the anonymity of Leeds' ownership, routed via companies in offshore tax havens. "At the very least, supporters of a club have a right to know who owns it. As an act of faith and goodwill, I hope the Leeds United board now publish the documentation they have presented to the Football League so that all sense of mystery can be removed."
The Premier League does now require its clubs to publish the names of all shareholders with stakes of 10% or more, but the Football League does not. Instead, clubs must tell the League's chairman, Lord Mawhinney, and three other senior executives, who the ultimate owners are, but the information is not made public.
I applaud all three parties for their observations, but think its time they went much further.
It is very obvious that we now need the following on public record with regard to all and every company, trust, partnership, LLP, charity and other entity created under law in the UK, and with regard to all business and trading names used in the UK so that anyone anywhere can be sure with whom they are trading:
- The names of the real human beings (not nominees) who are the ultimate beneficial owners of more than 5% of the entity (related parties to be aggregated to come to the figure) and if there are none the names of those who established the trusts that created that situation and those who have benefited in any form from those trusts in the last ten years unless that was charitable;
- The full names and addresses of all directors, partners, settlors, trustees, enforcers (yes, trusts have them), and other statutory officials who mange these entities;
- The full accounts (not abbreviated) of all accounts that enjoy limited liability;
- The address where each of these persons is resident – nominee addresses not allowed.
And we need a competent legal authority to pursue this.
It’s a sad fact that in the UK Companies House is just not interested in doing so.
Then we’ll have transparency. And it’s very obvious we need it.