Transfer news: deputy cabinet secretary to become Premier League exec

Helen MacNamara's new employer "understands the lobbying restrictions on her role”, watchdog Acoba says
Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire/PA Images

Departing deputy cabinet secretary Helen MacNamara is set to become a top executive at the Premier League, it has been confirmed.

MacNamara will become the top-flight football league’s director of policy and corporate affairs after stepping down next month, according to an appointment letter published by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.

In her new job, she will be responsible for communications, regulation and policy including engagement with fans and the Premier League’s charities, Acoba said.

The confirmation of her job comes after the Cabinet Office announced the former ethics chief would be leaving her role next month for an unspecified role in the private sector. The Premier League appointment was first reported by the Telegraph.

The role will also involve engaging with governments and global regulators. However, the letter said MacNamara has told the committee there will be other execs on her team responsible for dealing with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – the league’s primary contact with the UK government.

It is “very unlikely” that MacNamara will need to deal with the Cabinet Office, and the Premier League “understands the lobbying restrictions which will apply to her role”, the letter added.

The league uses a contracted lobbying firm for its regular work with the government, which includes highlighting British exports and championing social policy aims, especially through charities.

Bill Bush, who MacNamara is replacing as policy and corporate affairs director and who has “deep relationships with government” will also stay on in a non-exec capacity, it said. Bush is stepping down after 15 years as an exec.

MacNamara has said she has had no official dealings with the Premier League as a civil servant, nor access to commercially-sensitive information on its competitors. She has not taken part in discussions about Covid-19 support for the league, and has “not been in a discussion about sport or media policy for the past five years”, Acoba said. 

Countersigning her application for Acoba approval for the role, the Cabinet Office said it “did not believe that Ms MacNamara's appointment could be seen as improper and also drew the committee's attention to Ms MacNamara's personal integrity”, the letter said.

“The cabinet secretary confirmed he had no reservations about the appointment but agreed that there should be standard conditions applied, preventing lobbying and the use of privileged information,” it added.

In line with the usual rules, MacNamara must wait three months before starting her new job; must not draw on privileged information she learned as a civil servant; and must not lobby the government or its arm’s-length bodies, or advise her employers on government contracts, for two years after leaving the civil service.

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