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.