Often Partisan

Dispatched: Is Foreign Ownership really to blame?

Like many other football fans, I watched Dispatches on Channel Four last night. I was intrigued as to what they would say about the world of football finances and whatnot. Of course, with all the hullabaloo surrounding Carson and Blues recently I was intrigued to see what mention we would get on the programme.

In the end, it was an hour of wasted TV. I don’t believe Dispatches proved anything conclusive beyond what we already knew – there are football clubs up for sale, that people have theories into making money quickly out of football (with scant thought towards the fans), and that there were shady types who made out that they had the connections within the football world to make it all happen. Blues were mentioned three times; once as an example of an Asian football club owner in bother (Carson’s arrest); once in that Alex McLeish knew Sir Alex Ferguson (who apparently was going to supply the purchased clubs with loads of loan talents), and as an example of a club that may well be purchasable for a knock down price. Hardly earth-shattering.

I think the point they were labouring to make is about the murky world of football ownership. For instance, Birmingham City isn’t owned by Carson Yeung, but by BIH which is a Cayman Islands (a well known tax haven) company. The idea of having a company incorporated in the Cayman Islands is a) to take advantage of lower rates of taxation, and b) to take advantage of strict privacy laws. It’s a fact of business life that company owners will want to pay as little tax as they can get away with and do things as privately as possible. None of this is news.

The Football League essentially said – yeah, we can regulate club’s owners, but the owners of the owners, and the owners of the owners of the owners is just that much harder  and they don’t have the resources to do it. You only have to look at Notts County – a club that was bought by fictional investors – or Southampton (owned by a dead man, Markus Liebherr) to see that ownership in the Football League can be extraordinarily messy. Again, none of this is stuff that isn’t widely known already.

I was asked by a correspondent for the South China Morning Post yesterday morning what I thought about foreign ownership – whether it had a detrimental effect in football, based on my experiences as a Blues fan with Carson Yeung at the helm. I saw it as a bit of a leading question – something to get me to condemn the preponderance of foreign investment. The fact is, I don’t think it’s foreign ownership that’s the problem. I think it’s more to do with the way football clubs are owned – ownership structures seem designed to obfuscate things to a point where fans don’t know what’s going on – and to a degree that’s wrong. I’d like to see an end to corporate ownership, and the FL/PL to insist that all beneficial owners of football clubs are declared. If you don’t want transparency, then you don’t get a licence to run a club – simple.

Of course, it’s not going to happen. There are too many vested interests for the PL to turn on the owners of football clubs in such a manner. I can understand why some football fans just don’t care about the financial side of things – it’s almost not worth caring about because of how much it’s taken over the game. As fans though, there isn’t much we can do about it.

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7 Responses to “Dispatched: Is Foreign Ownership really to blame?”

  • P.J.Nicholls says:

    This whole episode started on the back of he non-league scene with clubs being taken over for their grounds & then being folded up with the grounds being sold for building.
    Nothing has been learned & the episodes are still happening with many of our historic teams no longer in existence.

  • Poppa999 says:

    The thing that I find regrettable is the league was made up originally as association of clubs. These clubs were owned by the players and the fans and businesses grew out of them as soon as gates were put up and people realised that the common working man would pay money over to watch their team.

    The owners are the custodians of that ‘club’ and even if the Blues went bust, that “club” would still exist to the fans. We would all start going the following Saturday and start supporting the Baggies or the Villa, would we? I would imagine a new BCFC would rise again as it has at Wimbledon and we would lend our support to the new club, or as it has reformed at Leicester City for example.

    To think that someone can come along with a tenner, buy a club and sell it for £89m and waltz off with the proceeds is unthinkable. No no-one makes any money investing in football these days!

  • hammy says:

    hey, we wouldnt and dont give a toss who owns us, all we want is their money for success….

    unfortunately, and typically, its out the frying pan and into the fire again….

    1st we had attention seeking sulky and his bullshitter cockerney side kicks after every penny….

    and now we have carson capone…..

    the bottom line is, there are owners/investors/realists (ie man city………and there are attention seeking pretenders……..



  • chris says:

    As you say it is the FA, Prem League, Football league and even the Government who are to blame for weak leadership, football rules and state law.
    For example why not make it mandatory that all clubs should have at least 30% of the shares sold to the public market and if it doesn’t reach that level they must make shares available on a regular basis for prospective share owners.
    That each club must be a plc in it’s own right as a sole company which cannot be owned by a parent company nor by individual owners who own more than 15% of the club and no more than 3 people can own the maximum of 15%, with the board of directors maximum ownership of 49%.
    If they don’t like it tough, move on and leave the clubs to the fans and small to medium size shareholders.
    Any more suggestions?

    • mick says:

      If you start laying down conditions they cry foul and run off to the courts claiming restraint of business. And why not? This government and it’s predecessors won’t even properly regulate banks and look at the mess that’s got us all in. The rich get rich and the ordinary person pays the price, that’s the only rule they’re interested in; whichever business it is.

  • kimberley blue says:

    Birmingham City will never achieve major investment in China whilst we play in a blue football strip as the colour is considered unlucky. The colurs they like are red or yellow.
    Talking of which have you seen the 3rd choice special European kit in Yellow which unlike the 2010 -11 strip had No fan input.
    I would rather have Barry Fry back at least we had a laugh then

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