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All that I know of Morality and obligations I owe to football

by darragh Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 at 06:12:26 AM EST

This is what philosopher and goalkeeper Albert Camus had to say on the beautiful game. It would be very interesting to know his opinion on the state of the current English premiership. This week Iraq's unexpected victory in the Asian cup with a team of Sunnis, Shias, & Kurds reminded us of the often positive effect of football. So who would begrudge flooded English football fans the right to look forward to the forthcoming football season.

But a debate is growing about the criteria of the new breed of Premiership owners. The former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's recent takeover of Manchester City has lead both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to question whether he is a "fit and proper person" to own such a club. This refers to the league rules on who is allowed to take over a premier league club. (more below)

From the diaries (with format edit) ~ whataboutbob

the Fit and Proper Persons Test (FAPPT), which go beyond any requirement by UK company law and are, to our knowledge, some of the sternest in place in any UK industry. The FAPPT means anyone convicted of a range of offences would not be permitted to become a director, or a shadow director, at a club.

However Human Rights Watch state

In the case of Mr. Thaksin, we have condemned the coup that ousted Mr. Thaksin from power last September and continue to be critical of the military-backed government. However, our research and that of other credible organizations shows that Mr. Thaksin's time in office from 2001 to 2006 was characterized by numerous extrajudicial executions, "disappearances," illegal abductions, arbitrary detentions, torture and other mistreatment of persons in detention, and attacks on media freedoms.  

The premier leagues stance on this is essentially that Thaksin has not been convicted of anything and is therefore innocent until proven guilty. This conveniently ignores that Thaksin is essentially in self imposed exile from Thailand to avoid facing the charges against him.

Admittedly the Premier league is not in the business of politics but this case highlights how like the rest of the UK the national sport is up for sale to the highest bidder, no matter where the money comes from.

The first high profile takeover was by Roman Abramovich of Chelsea in 2003. At the time little was said of the murky nature of his fortune or his possible personal reasons for such a high profile acquisition. Much more was said of the destablizing effect his money would have on the league. But this was soon forgotten as he was followed by various takeovers by American (Man Utd, Aston Villa, Liverpool), Icelandic (West Ham), & Russian (Portsmouth) businessmen.

Blinded by promises of expensive new players few fans of these clubs objected to any of the takeovers with the exception of Manchester United. There fans could see how the highly leveraged takeover, which immediately lead the richest club in the world to be £660 million in debt, could only be bad for them and their club. However despite fans successfully seeing off a previous takeover bid by Rupert Murdoch's Sky, attempts to block the Glazer takeover failed without any help from the official ruling bodies. However a significant minority of Man Utd fans so disillusioned with the state of the club set up their own democratically run club, FC United (2 years on riding high in the Unibond League!)
FC United of Manchester

Currently the premier leagues clubs and their new owners are riding a financial boom largely driven by global television rights. However this is at the expense of english fans continually having to pay for higher prices. Tom Bower in the Observer is rare in fearing the long term consequences.

The downside is that the foreigners understandably appear only interested in personal wealth and glory. None is genuinely interested in investing in British youth or re-establishing closer relations between the clubs and the fans, or encouraging football's grassroots in order to strengthen the national game.

No other country would allow their sporting institutions to be traded in such a way What money cant buy
But football, often referred to as the fabric of the nation, merely reflects the current whole sale of country. With the growth of sovereign funds in China and Russia seeking western takeovers one wonders where this will all end. I'll leave it to Larry Elliot of the Guardian to speculate for me

The approach of the government is akin to that of a madam in an up-market brothel. If the price is right, anything is for sale. You would be forgiven for finding this faintly ironic. The first thing Tony Blair did on becoming Labour leader in 1994 was to scrap Clause 4, the party's commitment to public ownership. Since then, it has been an article of faith that there will be no going back to the bad old days of nationalisation. Now, though, it appears that there is no problem about British assets being owned by the state, provided it is not our own state.

I'll declare my conflict of interests in writing this diary is that im both a Mancheste United and FC United fan
by darragh on Tue Jul 31st, 2007 at 04:15:47 PM EST
Frank Sinatra took over Manchester City?

But Frank Sinatra's dead !

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 02:28:54 AM EST
but at least he did it his way.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 04:11:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
a madam in an up-market brothel. If the price is right, anything is for sale.

Given the overall picture, it seems clear that a big football club in the UK regulatory context is a handy thing to possess for murky men with a lot of murky money sloshing around. Britain and its myriad financial services, its links to a constellation of offshore financial centres, its status as an OFC itself - all this and the glory (plus a powerful big-club tradition of "black" money sliding around across borders with excellent fake accounting not accounting for it...)

Elliott's not wrong, but the brothel metaphor falls short of reality.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 02:45:36 AM EST
I just wanted to post in Breakfast this news but fortunately found this diary. I think there is no answer as question is purely rhetorical - what if. Every country has its laws and if some refugees like Thaksin Berezovsky and others seemingly fit to buy property what we should say? FCs are usual kind of property and what they have in common with concerns over human rights abuses I cannot understand.
by FarEasterner on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 04:49:36 AM EST
I agree theres no real answer as to whether this is right or wrong, and football isnt the way to chase justice for possible human rights abuse. I was trying to express how my previous passion for football has died somewhat over the last few years as it has become just another business and whatever tenuous links there was left to community, tradition or history is now just seen as another way to make money.

It may be an old fashioned romantic view but it depresses me when i hear football fans talking about market forces and supply and demand in relation to season tickets which used to be passed down through generations within families.

The big European clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid cant be bought and sold in this way as theyre still member owned (I didnt go into this as its covered in the link "What money cant buy").

by darragh on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 05:23:21 AM EST
The finance & ownership of football clubs has always been a murky story. Right from the first founding of the FA there has been considerable latitude allowed about how a club is run.

Once, back in the 70s, local bigwigs and dodgy businessmen colluded to keep footballer's wages relatively low and their profits high. Then with the City boom some clubs, the first was Tottenham hotspur, floated themselves on the stock market. Suddenly what rules and control the FA Football League could exert were superceded by the much more rigid accountabilities of the City (quite an achievement, to be less rigorous than the Stock Exchange, but hey ho). People of any provenance could buy their way in, the idea of fanbase ownership quickly faded as huge institutions forced the sale of shares in compulsory buyouts.

And then the Premiership happened, a fools paradise sold on false pretences. the only excuse I can give for the mess that resulted is that it was probably nobody's desired outcome, just the only compromise possible between so many diverse conflicting interests.

The resulting influx of money and the cut-throat competition to be succesful and stay on the gravy train meant that players wages became astronomical and all other costs had to rise accordingly. And if you failed, the penalty was bankrupcy and ending up being owned by Ken Bates. Truly a fate nobody, even Leeds United, deserve.

And the cash cow keeps growing beyond the ability of any control. Clubs such as Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool and arsenal are beyond any form of restraint, money trumps everything and the Premiership has been stripped of all semblance of surprise or competition.

Compare the 15 years of the Premiership with the last 15 of the Cmapionship.

Premeirship has had only 4 winners in 15 years and only 8 teams have ever finished in the top 3. It is safe to say that Blackburn, Norwich, Aston villa or Newcastle will do so again soo.

Conversely, for the championship,, even during a period when Liverpool dominated (winning 8 times) there were still 6 different winners and 15 different teams finished in the top 3.

As for the FA or Littlewoods (or whatever they call it) cup. Forget it.

In the rush for money, the people that run the game have forgotten that the game only thrives on real competition. Even the yanks know that in american football which is ruthlessly equalised. Scotland has been laughed at for years because there is only Rangers and Celtic. Now we have the same in england.

There is no joy in triumph when dominance is all you know; you need gut-wrenching failure to make it meaningful. Similarly, eternal failure without hope of success is pointless. To have one or the other is to strip the game of its very essense, hope over expectation, of surprise, the trough of despair and the bitter sweet knowledge of the ephemeral nature of victory.

They have won the money, but lost the sport. Good luck to FC United, but a plague on Old Trafford and all their Premiership companions. they stole the game I loved and replaced it with a Stepford cash machine that goes through the motions of what football used to be whilst trampling our dreams of what it should be.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Aug 4th, 2007 at 09:56:11 AM EST
the idea of fanbase ownership quickly faded as huge institutions forced the sale of shares in compulsory buyouts.

In Spain it used to be that the clubs would have to be regularly bailed out of their huge debts by the government, and at some point they said basta and ruled that clubs should have to become joint stock companies except if they had been solvent for the past 5 years or so. I believe only Barça and Real Madrid qualified to remain Clubs and the rest became Sociedades Anónimas Deportivas. Some of them were bought by unsavoury tycoons (mostly from the construction business) but a few managed to keep to their fan ownership by selling shares to their members and spreading them out thin.

Somehow, La Liga is maybe more competitive now than it used to be in terms of the diversity of winners and teams qualifying for European competitions. And the Copa del Rey still remains an interesting tournament.

So, what makes the Premiership so grim?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Aug 4th, 2007 at 10:13:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, what makes the Premiership so grim?

The fact that the Premiership is administered by people who love money more than the game. That previous to that, it was administered by a combination of well-meaning but ineffectual amateurs and self-serving venal fools. This si still true of the FA.

The FA & the Premiership have entirely different views of the game and impose contradictory solutions that bugger things up. There's no co-ordination because they're going in different directions to achieve different ends.

Nobody loves the game. They just love the money or prestige associated with it.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Aug 4th, 2007 at 10:26:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
La Liga is still managed by the National Association. I guess there is pressure for the wealthier teams to decouple themselves from the rest and form their own league, also at the European level. Is that what the Premiership is? There is still promotion and relegation, right?

These moves to make separate elite leagues should be resisted. They break the "commons".

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Aug 4th, 2007 at 10:45:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, there is still promotion and relegation.

However, with regard to the elite league, I'm all for it. If four or five of the richer greedier english teams buggered off onto a remote satellite with some of their more money obsessed european cousins I'm pretty sure that the domestic game would benefit.

It would give a chance to reconstitute the game into a more sustainable format, creating obligations on those clubs remaining regarding youth development, pooled funding, transparent ownership and all of the good things we know should happen but don't because the rich clubs have a vested interest in the status quo.

I ceased to care about football a few years back as I became jaded at the lack of competition, the absurd sums of money, the cheating...god I could go on for ages. I'd love it if the rich clubs just left and did their own irrelevant pointless thing, taking all their mean profiteering pettiness and left a game that was poorer, but more honest.

Yes, pathetic romantic. But they stole my game from me. Thais, Icelandics, yanks and ruskies who don't give a flying monkeys about english football. They took it and abused it and won't let go and I wish they would leave us all alone.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Aug 4th, 2007 at 02:46:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
sorry helen that its taken me so long to reply to your excellent comments, you obviously fell out with football a while before me.

Youre right that the pandoras box was opened with the floating of football clubs on the stock market, and i think the inevitable route for it to go is some kind of european superleague. It will probably arise when enough premiership clubs and their new owners think they can get away with it. At the moment theres still just enough clubs to vote against this but i dont think that will last. However im not so sure whether it would benefit the domestic game as the top clubs would probably acquire feeder clubs in the lower divisions like they do with foreign clubs already. And a few clubs are bound to end up like leeds before that happens.

Philip Long, the head of corporate recovery at PKF, a leading firm of accountants and business advisers who have set up The Football Industry Group, is quoted in the Times today as saying, "There are clear warning signs that the football economy is overheating. The fact that 62 per cent of Premier League clubs have increased their overdraft will be ringing alarm bells at the banks. Television money has increased, but the banks will be worried that the money is effectively bypassing the clubs to be spent on buying and paying increasingly expensive players.

"The upcoming campaign is being financed through extra borrowings in an attempt to secure the rewards of a successful season, but there is growing pressure on the clubs which don't win. The excessive spending that brought Leeds to its knees is in danger of being repeated and could end with more clubs facing administration and, ultimately, insolvency.

by darragh on Tue Aug 7th, 2007 at 01:54:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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