Often Partisan

Football Club Owners Discussed in the Commons

Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe Damian Collins told the House of Commons yesterday that laws must be changed to ensure no football club can ever again be “run into the ground” by secret owners in a debate about football club ownership.

The Birmingham Post reported that Collins is to present his own legislation to the Commons to reform the way football clubs are run – although without support of the Government it is unlikely to become law. Supporters Direct have carried this piece with attached video with questions in connection primarily with Coventry City but also Blues and Leeds United.

Leeds United, whose owners Gulf Finance House have agreed to sell 75% of the club to Massimo Cellino have been thrown into disarray after the Italian businessman was convicted of illegally evading import duty in a court in Sardinia. Football League rules preclude anyone owning more than 30% of a football club if they have”unspent convictions for crimes of dishonesty” – although Cellino argues that his conviction isn’t a crime of dishonesty and that he doesn’t own a majority stake in Eleonera Sports – the company being used to buy the club – as it is owned by a family trust; much in the same way Carson Yeung does not own a majority stake in Birmingham International Holdings.

With cases like these there is a lot of pressure on the football league to act to tighten up their rules with respect to football club ownership. In both Leeds United and Blues cases there is an argument of what constitutes control in a football club – neither Massimo Cellino nor Carson Yeung hold 30% stakes in the clubs concerned but it would appear that there is enough circumstantial evidence in both cases to show that both have “control” in the way that they are running things. Cellino has been financing Leeds since he agreed to take control and if the league were to block the takeover GFH would almost certainly have to pay that back – which could have implications for the financing of the club as a whole. There is a feeling that the league are reluctant to act – particularly in the case of Blues – because it is in there best interests not to rock the boat while the season is still in progress and fixtures have to be fulfilled.

As much as there is a large percentage of fans who want to see action one does have to wonder if the pragmatic thing to do is to hold on for a short while. While nothing has been made public there is an unconfirmed rumour that BIH are indeed making a big effort to sell the club as soon as they can and as much as I personally want to see rules changed I also don’t want to do anything that might endanger the sale process if it is advanced. I think we have to be fair to BIH – if they are trying to sell the club and move on then maybe we have to give them the chance to do so – after all, that is the end result I think most want. I know that there is an absence of information but that might be for commercial reasons – it’s wise to keep your cards to your chest and not let people know how much (or little) that you would be willing to accept for something. The big question I suppose is how much longer we should wait.

The club isn’t the only thing that is supposed to be on sale right now – if you’ve got HK$300million in your skyrocket (£23.25million ish) then you could buy Carson’s old house on Barker Road, which has been put on the market by Wing Hang Bank who repossessed it last year. The price was rumoured to be as high as HK$700million (£54.3million), which would have made it the most expensive home in Asia but due to the lacklustre luxury property market it remains unsold. The house was originally in the restraint order against Carson’s assets but due to the fact Carson used it as collateral for a loan (which he then defaulted on) prior to the restraint order being filed means the bank have first call on it. Carson faces a confiscation order against his assets on April 3.

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