The government insists it will not stop nations from owning football clubs – despite moving to ban foreign states from controlling newspapers.

Both issues landed on Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer’s desk as plans for a regulator for English football were pushed forward, as did the Abu Dhabi-led takeover of the Daily Telegraph was effectively blocked.

Ms Frazer told Sky News: “We will not be taking any action in relation to foreign ownership of football clubs.”

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While a paper seems to be a greater means of political influence, football has shown how clubs can become a tool for states.

Parts of the Newcastle fans became cheerleaders Saudi Arabia State as the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund fended off human rights protests to buy the northeast Premier League Club in 2021.

And Abu Dhabi’s presence was felt everywhere Manchester City since they transformed into a global force.

As reigning English and European champions, City were far from winning trophies until Sheikh Mansour took over in 2008.

The Vice President of the United Arab Emirates It also owned 75% of the US-Abu Dhabi joint venture, which until Whitehall’s recent intervention over media freedom concerns proposed buying the Telegraph newspapers and the Spectator magazine.

Soccer Football - Champions League Final - Manchester City v Inter Milan - Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey - June 10, 2023 United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan before the match REUTERS/ Molly Darlington
Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour (r.) at the 2023 Champions League final. Image: Reuters

However, the government is less concerned about foreign state control of national football institutions, although it has introduced a mechanism to prevent this. It is pushing ahead with plans for a regulator for English football that would introduce stricter ownership tests.

Asked about foreign state ownership, Ms Frazer said: “We don’t say anything about who should own a club – where they live.”

“What we say about property is that you have to be a fit and proper human being. And I think that’s the right decision.”

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File photo dated May 21, 2023 showing Manchester City's Ilkay Gündogan lifting the Premier League trophy.  City want to add two more titles to the Premier League trophy they have already won.  Issue date: Wednesday May 31, 2023.
Manchester City won the Premier League in 2023. Image: PA

Asked whether a suitable owner was implicated in human rights abuses or came from a country that could murder journalists and imprison dissidents, Ms Frazer replied: “I don’t think it should be up to the regulator to decide on matters.” Foreign policy.

“That is the government’s job. So this bill is about financial regulation. It’s about ensuring that these clubs don’t go under. It’s about protecting the fans and making sure the fans are at the heart of the game.”

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