Football has ‘challenges’ after Chelsea sale, says Premier League’s Richard Masters

The Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Masters, has admitted football has “some challenges to meet” around the owners’ and directors’ test after the sale of Chelsea by Roman Abramovich.

Masters pondered whether Abramovich, who was hit with UK government sanctions after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, would have passed the test if it had been in place when he bought Chelsea in 2003. He stressed the sport is looking at how to put safeguards in place after being asked whether the Russian-Israeli oligarch, who sold Chelsea to a consortium led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital in May, had been a positive influence on English football.

“It’s difficult to say now with hindsight that it’s all been good obviously, given what has transpired over the last six and a half months,” Masters said. “I think if you ask Chelsea fans, they’d give you a different answer. I think the situation we ended with has given the sport some challenges we’ve got to meet.

“Ultimately, there wasn’t an owners’ and directors’ test when Abramovich took ownership of Chelsea, and so I suppose the answer to the question is had there been that in place what would have happened and what safeguards we need to build in for the future.”

Masters said the procedure needed to be strengthened. “It is a rolling test. Prevention is better than cure, isn’t it? There wasn’t then, there is now, it’s going to change and part of that actually is probably going to be the strengthening of the annual … I wouldn’t call it a MOT, but an annual test.”

Chelsea were given a deadline of 31 May for a takeover. The sale took place at a dramatic pace and went close to the wire, with Chelsea facing the prospect of serious financial consequences if the deal with Boehly and Clearlake had collapsed.

“Nothing like this has happened before,” Masters said. “There was obviously a genuine concern the sale wouldn’t take place in the timeframe that was available. That didn’t happen thankfully”

Masters, who said there were no plans to revive the idea of holding Premier League games abroad, said the majority of the division’s clubs wanted to keep the League Cup in place. However he stressed Uefa’s changes to the Champions League after 2024 would create extra pressure on the competition. He added that discussions over whether to continue staging semi-finals over two legs were ongoing.

“I think that now we know what’s happening post-2024, there are going to be discussions between the FA, the Premier League and EFL on how to reform the calendar,” Masters said.

“Clearly, I think the biggest impact of the Uefa reforms are on the League Cup because of the loss of midweeks, so we need to find a solution to that. If you talk to Premier League clubs, they want the League Cup to remain, they want it to remain part of the competition, the Wembley slot, the European place. That’s one of the things we’ve got to discuss and that’s got to happen now.”

There is a desire to manage the workload on players this season, which begins with Arsenal’s trip to Crystal Palace on Friday. Clubs who play away in the Champions League on a Wednesday will not play in the lunchtime kick-off on the following Saturday. Teams will also not be asked to play twice in the space of 48 hours over the festive period.

A multi-ball system will be in place as the league attempts to combat time-wasting after it was shown that the ball was only in play for an average of 55 minutes and seven seconds last season. One ball will be on the pitch, the fourth official will have a spare ball, and there will be a further eight balls stationed around the pitch. It is hoped the system will speed up play.