Liverpool & Roma - A Conflict Of Interest

"No individual or legal entity may have control or influence over more than one club participating in a UEFA club competition" - UEFA

Will the takeover of Roma by the Boston-based private-equity investor Thomas DiBenedetto have any implications for Liverpool? Maybe, because DiBenedetto is also a stakeholder in the Fenway Sports Group, which owns 100% of the shares in the Anfield club. As the two teams' respective leagues currently stand, Roma would qualify for next season's Europa League. Liverpool are four points off qualification for that competition.

If both clubs qualify, then it is possible UEFA's rules governing the integrity of its competitions would come in to play. These state: "No individual or legal entity may have control or influence over more than one club participating in a UEFA club competition". This is defined as "holding a majority of the shareholders' voting rights" or "being able to exercise by any means a decisive influence in the decision-making of the club", among other things.

If any clubs fall foul of these rules the lower-ranked team (in this case Roma) would be excluded from the competition. It is possible that these rules would apply in this case, though one can not be certain because it is impossible to ascertain how much of the FSG does DiBenedetto owns.

Last week FSG sent out a press release announcing that it would no longer be trading under its former guise of New England Sports Ventures LLC. However, NESV is still the name of the holding company that is registered with the Massachusetts Corporations Division. This official channel has no publicly available information relating to NESV's equity structures. Neither does the Division of Corporations of the State of Delaware, where NESV is ultimately domiciled.

Usefully for investors who do not wish to disclose their identities or the nature of their investments, Delaware never does oblige them to make public this sort of information. The Premier League does oblige its clubs to make public the identities of any shareholders with stakes in excess of 10%. Regrettably, Liverpool does not do this, saying only: "The sole owner of the Liverpool Football Club and Athletic Grounds Limited is New England Sports Ventures, trading as Fenway Sports Group. John Henry and Tom Werner are generally responsible for the management of Fenway Sports Group."

The one little chink of light FSG has recently shed on who owns it is as follows: "Fenway Sports Group is led by Principal Owner John Henry and Chairman Tom Werner, with additional ownership interests being held by a select number of prestigious individuals and The New York Times." Why so secretive? Surely fans are entitled to know who owns their club, whether they are baseball or football fans, because sometimes it just might have an impact on the integrity of a competition.

Exclusively by Matt Scott

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