Often Partisan

Fit and Proper

Leeds United proved at the weekend Birmingham City isn’t the only club in the Championship with ownership problems, with the apparent incoming new owner Massimo Cellino sacking manager Brian McDermott on Friday only for McDermott to return to work on Monday as the club had not yet been sold.

From a superficial level there are some marked similarities between the takeover of Leeds by the Serie A club Cagliari’s owner Cellino and the takeover of Blues by Carson. As we know, Steve Bruce had his new contract vetoed by Carson before he took full control of the club in 2007 which eventually caused Bruce to leave for Wigan Athletic. Cellino also had managed to sanction the signing of Andrea Tabanelli by Leeds on loan from Cagliari after they had loaned him from Cesena – much like Carson trying to push through the signing of Tuncay Sanli in 2009 before his takeover was completed although in fairness in both cases above at least Carson did own a stake in Blues – something Cellino doesn’t yet own in Leeds United.

However the most striking similarity is that Cellino – who was convicted of fraud in 1996 and had that conviction overturned on appeal and who served a 15 month suspended sentence for false accounting in 2001 – is currently under investigation for embezzlement in his native Italy. We didn’t know it at the time, but Carson was under investigation for money laundering by the HK authorities when he bought the club in 2009. Yet in both cases, both men have passed (or will pass) the owners and directors test set by the football league.

Cellino unlike Carson has previous convictions but even they will not count towards the test as both are considered “spent” under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and thus aren’t counted towards the test. Thus the FL are powerless under their current rules to stop Cellino from buying Leeds United despite his ongoing investigation and despite the controversy already surrounding his takeover.

One thing to bear in mind in this – and I accept this could very well be all a massive coincidence – is that Cellino is represented by a lawyer by the name of Chris Farnell here in the UK – the same lawyer who was negotiating for Gianni Paladini (and his allegedly Italian-backed consortium) with Peter Pannu when the Solihull-based Italian was trying to buy Blues. As much as people want to see the back of Carson would they have been happy with someone like Cellino coming into the club?

I’ve stated before that I think the owners and directors test isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Carson would still pass the test at this time despite having been on trial for money laundering since November 2011. However, if he is convicted at the end of this month he would then automatically fail the test as he has a conviction for a financial offence in a competent court and thus he would have to step down from the BCFC board – an eventuality I believe he may be planning for by the appointment yesterday of Panos Pavlakis and Victor Ma Shui Cheong to the board of the football club. Even if Carson appealed against a conviction, he would still be disbarred from being a club director until that appeal was successful. However – the Football League would argue that they cannot force him to sell the club – and this is the crux of the problem.

David Conn makes it clear in his article that the Football League have set their rules in such a way that they know that they can’t be challenged in court; it’s my fear that they have not made the rules stricter for fear that any usage of stricter rules would be challenged in the courts and would end in embarrassing defeat for them.

The rules are online and make it clear that they apply to someone who is a director or someone who is “in control” – ie that they either have 30% shareholding the club (Carson doesn’t) or more crucially

The regulations also allow us to consider shareholders holding less than 30% if they are acting “in concert” with others and together they go over 30%.

I believe that it is possible to prove to the Football League that Carson falls into the second bracket – and I believe that by using this the Football League can force Carson to sell on pain of the ultimate sanction they have – the withdrawal of Birmingham City’s membership of the Football League. However, I also believe that the Football League will not act without the information put to them in full that Carson has broken the rules and without pressure on them to do so.

Thus I see February 28 as a day of reckoning. If Carson walks free then it is very possible he will return to the club and start again – and as much as I think that he will be jeered and hated he will do just that until he feels he wants to sell. However, should Carson be sent down I think the next phase of protest is clear – pressure on the authorities to enforce their own rules.

nb please be very careful when commenting on this article – if I feel comments have overstepped the mark or are legally problematic I will delete them summarily. 

Talking Points sponsored by John Hicken Industrial roofing and cladding materials

Tags: , ,

41 Responses to “Fit and Proper”

  • Yes agree with the summation here. The fit and proper test was never anything but a sop to make the FL look good but in governance terms it was a waste of time.


  • Paul Carter - a lover of BCFC he says:

    I could never see the Football League ever booting a club out of the league due to the owners indiscretions. The backlash would be massive as football clubs are culturally important to their fans and it would be them who felt the punishment most.

    Whether we like it or not the Football leagues rules are secondary to UK law and I feel if Carson was found guilty and the League tried to boot him out he would challenge it in court in the case of him appealing against his conviction. I believe the League would then stand down.

    However we feel interesting times ahead at the end of this month.

    • ChrisG says:

      The FL didn’t care about the Swindon supporters when having been promoted to the Premier league they were then relegated 2 divisions I think it was due to financial indiscressions. So why wouldn’t they kick us out, let’s face it there’s only a few thousand real bluenoses & 40000 wembley hangers on.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    Such is the shambles that is The Football League. As I’ve said before, it’s not fit for purpose. The whole system needs a major shake up, in order to protect the clubs (who are a constant) not the owners (who are transient.)

  • Peter bates says:

    You onlh have to look at other clubs to see the fit and proper test is a statement with no clout at all it is as you rightly put it dan not worth the paper it is written on kro

  • Kazakblue says:

    How many Blues supporters are really shocked and stunned by the ongoing silence of the football league?
    Have they done anything yet to either reach some sort of compromise on ownership which would be beneficial to all the clubs in every division of which they have seemingly total control.
    As Dan says, they have structured their rules to make themselves immune to any legal or ethical judgement,

  • Paul Carter - a lover of BCFC he says:

    The Football League is set up from top to bottom to make money.

    The objective of looking after football clubs is secondary at best.

  • chudlt says:

    The Football League knows full well if they make an owner stand down then they will simply place a puppet in their place and retain their share holding and power. The FL does not have the abilty to remove shares from anyone.

  • John says:

    Whilst I hope you are wrong about this fit and proper test, everything I read suggests that it will not debar Cellino from acquiring the 75 per cent. One thing that struck me though was whether GFH have a duty of care to the minority shareholders. I believe that there is something called unfair prejudice which stops majority shareholders acting for their own benefit to the detriment of the minority shareholders. Selling to Cellino might be considered unfair prejudice. Maybe I am clutching at straws.

  • sappy sad says:

    either way i feel that a guilty result will be an eye opener to
    blues fans .at what the football league is about ….has bluenoses
    noticed how we seem to be groomed to the fact that reece
    brown is leaving for man. city in the summer ..with the possibility
    of a cash injection…and with the zigic contract ending leaving us
    3million better off..and with the fact that reece like trever francic
    would bring the crowds back to brum and would be worth ten
    times his value in a few years..gives the reason that why would
    blues want to sell reece in the summer..

  • Jaffa says:

    The whole ownership saga just gets better and better.surely one day soon this nightmare will end.it has to does’nt it!

  • WalmleySteve says:

    Interesting point on the lawyer used by Paladini. Whatever we may think about Yeung’s intransigence on the sale of the club, he may have helped us dodge a bullet here (although I give BIHL no credit for this, since they appear to act only in their own interests rather than those of the club).

  • jmc says:

    OP, Did Carson actually veto the contract or was it just Sully’s excuse for not giving him one and selling him to Wigan?

  • peter bates says:

    dan this probably wont come as a surprise to you but the company that mr shui cheong ma is managing director of according to boomberg markets sing pao media are also suspended from trading is it somebody else jumping on the bcfc gravy train kro

  • Frankie says:

    Think its the Football Association who ‘police’ the joke ‘Fit and Proper’ test.
    Wrote to Football League and they informed me of this.

  • Atahualpa is a BlueNose says:

    When this prospective majority owner of Leeds was at Elland Road last Friday, a group of Leeds fans congregated in the evening to voice their disapproval. The police were called to restore order. It looks as if CY will go to any lengths to try and keep control, but what concerns me now is, do the two new additions to the Board equal two new sizeable remuneration packages?
    I don’t believe they’ll be working for altruistic purposes.

    Again the talk of selling a quarter stake of the club has gone quiet, it would appear that other clubs managed to get bought and sold without all of the shenanigans that we have to endure, but I suppose that not all companies operate like BIHL or it’s hierarchy.

  • Chris W says:

    I was listening to Stan Collymore and he was slamming the “fit and Proper” as a sham, it is just a cover for the football league but actually is pretty meaningless.
    I am not a lover of anything to do with Leeds Utd or Brian McDermott, but do have some empathy in this case.
    It would appear that more and more clubs are involved in take-overs these days, the “Big” clubs attracting mega-rich Billionaires while the lower or lesser attractive by the more shadier character.
    What they all have in common is owners who are not in touch with traditions or the supporters.
    If the Football League or Football Association really care about the game and the clubs they would be doing more to help supporters trusts to become part of their clubs. Though they may not be a bed of roses, Swansea are a fine example of what can be achieved, Wimbledon are moving in the right direction.
    It is not only the ownership that needs addressing but the financial implications too.
    Will the FFP introduction see more clubs facing financial ruin as they spend to reach the “promised land”?
    Sky and the Billionaires have a lot to answer for, but the money especially from Sky, should be equally divided down the system all the way to grass roots, so that everyone benefits.
    Forget millionaire life-style players wages, lets look at the poor and needy, lets look at the future starlets in our schools, the amateurs who play for the love but have no facilities.
    Let us bring the Stars back to reality, I bet we all can recall a memory of meeting players, the most recent for Blues was Mitch Hancox at Derby being one of the fans.
    The people who control our game need to give it back to the where it belongs, with the fans.
    If it wasn’t for the fans there would be no clubs therefore no Football Association or Football league.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      The only way to “bring the Stars back to reality” Chris, is through a wage cap.. but it’s not going to happen. Unless football in this country implodes and goes bust.

      I don’t have Sky and have no intentions of having it in the future. I refuse to contribute to the mess they’ve created of the game.

      • Chris W says:

        I don’t have sky either, the sooner the politicians and footballing authorities stop counting the £ signs and realise the damage it is causing the better for all involved.

    • Teej says:

      Very well said Chris, this is the world we live in!

  • peter bates says:

    what im saying dan is that sing pao media are not allowed to trade so is it someone else who can take from bcfc and put nothing in i dont think carson yeung or anyone involved with him care one iota about bcfc all these directorships are a smoke screen to try and appease the fans but it wont work mr yeung delay no more and sell the club before we have no club to protest over once again mr yeung delay no more

    • almajir says:

      Not allowed to trade?

      Just because they’re not allowed to trade their shares on the stock exchange it doesn’t mean anything like what you are inferring.

  • DoctorD says:

    I see directors fail the Football League’s “fit and proper” test if “they are struck off by a professional governing body e.g. the Law Society”. Pity there’s no similar outfit for hairdressers.

  • Aussiebrum says:

    If the FL fail to enforce their own rules, a legal action against them by club shareholders and/or ST holders might be interesting. I’ll contribute to a legal expenses fund.

  • steve says:

    HKNews are saying that Carsen has resigned as an executive director of BIHL. Any idea what this means to us Dan ?

  • andy says:

    My comments dont seem to be displaying correctly,sorry if they are appearing as duplicated

  • Dave says:

    The Fit and Proper Test is as reliable as the Financial Fair Play idea. easily avoidable by those with the money and means to do so. FIFA and UEFA have shown that they are (allegedly) corruptible organisations. Third player ownership by Chelsea and Man City are other examples of money clubs avoiding the so called system restrictions. Add to this the behaviour of agents and we see a sport that is dirty to the core with no government prepared to do anything about it. Ideas to clean things up? I have none, maybe somebody smarter does? KRO

    • Chris W says:

      Dave, start with players wages, put a cap on them and re-invest the difference into the lower leagues right back to grass roots and education.
      Get the players to sort their own contracts and clubs to stop recognising agents.
      Supporters stop fuelling Sky, their money will eventually dry up and more clubs will be going to the wall, as long as they get an income they will spend it frivolously, this is where governments get involved and ensure the money is distributed throughout sport in general. Our current government have backtracked since the Olympics and there promise to support sporting education and sport for all.
      These are my off the top head thoughts… and never likely to take off

  • BlueNoseSteve says:

    So now he has stood down as chairman. So where does this leave us and what does this mean?
    Does he still hold the same stake in St Andrews? Will the FL be able to prove that he is involved in the running of the club? Who is the new Chairman in relation to Carson?
    Not sure what this news actually means!?!?!

  • Big Bill says:

    It is interesting that you say:-
    “Cellino is represented by a lawyer by the name of Chris Farnell here in the UK – the same lawyer who was negotiating for Gianni Paladini “.

    I wonder if Mr. Paladini knows Mr Cellino, and if so, have Blues dodged a very dodgy bullet there?

  • ErnieD says:

    knowing our luck our next owner will be Kim jung-un….

  • an olden says:

    All of the comments are a means for supporters to rail against systems that operate in a world where the only issue is money. The world of the supperter is to wish for their team to do well. The frustration is that they operate in differrnt worls The fans only see matches as an entertainment. The controllers be they the club owners or the organisations of the game operate in acommercial systems. I am unsure if the problems of the clubs in other countries are the same . For instance in Spain Barcelona F.C. are not the only team in that city there is a team called Espanyol {spelling probably wrong},although they are a team in the league ,they in fact operate as a feeder club .
    In every country there are a few clubs who dominate The bulk of clubs have attendances roughly on a par with Scotland where Celtic and before their downfall Rangers had attendances which were more than the combined numbers for the league sides. . Italy has been for years in the hands of people whose conduct was and stillis appalling. Corruption, bribary, criminal mobs of supporters. Sport is allowed like the romans used their arean as places which provided entertainment . The facts are that governments of all colours are relutant to interfere Please remember that tthe total attendances are still less than the numbers of people attending places of worship. When t.v. was confined to the BBC /ITV there was virtually none of the probems that exist today. Just a final comment, Most supporters would like ownership of clubs to be a partnership with fans having a say in the running of the club. This was so until about 1905 when for the first time a club formed itself into a limited liability company that club was Birmingham

Leave a Reply

Personalised Gifts for a Bluenose
Haircuts and League Cups
Open Tax Services
Corporate Solutions UK
PJ Planning
Rodal Heating