Let me explain that headline. Arsenal, being an open club, all above board, honest and thoroughly middle class, there’s nothing to hide. Unlike some north western clubs we aren’t late with our reporting of our figures, and unlike most clubs we make a profit and don’t hide behind multiple company structures.
But that is not how it is elsewhere – although you wouldn’t know if from the fuss made by the fact that Stan Kroenke has increased his stake in Arsenal to 28.7 per cent.
You see, we can debate the relative merits of the Hill-Woods, Mr Usmanov, and Mr Kronke, the ousting of a director, the selling of shares, because none of it is secret. We can join the Arsenal Supporters Trust http://www.arsenaltrust.org/ and become part of the share owning supporters world.
Which is certainly not the case with Liverpool (notoriously late with the publication of their financials and endlessly involved in bids and the use of money in all sorts of funny ways. Difficult things to build on time, these stadia).
Our club activities are in accounts that make sense, which is not the case with Manchester U (profits and losses hidden here and there) and the Tiny Totts (where profits magically emerge each year no matter what goes on).
But they are not the main problem. Not at all. The real problem lies in the gross negligence and incompetence of the football authorities in England such as the FA and the League.
I’ll explain further. According to league rules, clubs have to be owned by fit and proper persons. Like the ex-prime minister of Thailand.
Except in the case of Leeds and Notts C where no one (and that includes the footballing authorities in England, the tax authorities in the UK and my friend Bert who knows stuff) no one knows who owns them.
Fit and proper person? As far as we know the owners are currently serving 30 years in an American jail for rape and mass terrorism. Not that I know they are – but I am just making the point. We haven’t got a clue.
And here’s the twist – the footballing authorities in England have been quite happy to allow this to happen. “Fit and proper person? Well, its a bit of a gray area you know. When we find them we jump around a bit, but you know, it’s not as if it actually matters…” That’s how it goes – and I’ll prove it.
Let’s take Leeds. That wonderful man, Ken Bates, said he made “an error” when he said in January this year that he jointly owned the club.
Pesky thing this memory business. As when I was chatting up this lady at the dance club last weekend and I said that I owned the Eiffel Tower, well, yes, it was a bit of “an error”. Don’t quite know how I suggested I was a billionaire. I forgot my overdraft. Hey ho.
Mr B told the courts in Jersey (lovely place) that he and Mr Murrin, effectively owned Forward Sports Fund, based in the Cayman Islands, and that they own Leeds. But then Mr B said “wooops” (well he didn’t say that but he might have done) and he said, actually he didn’t own any of Forward at all. Not a bean. Not a sausage. To say he did was (and I quote from his affidavet) “an error on my part”.
Château Fiduciaire, financial administrators of Forward, based in Geneva (not far from where the England manager was based when he did things that led to his £6m fine by the Italian Finance Police for tax evasion) said the owners of Leeds will not be revealed.
So since no one else wants to ask (because they are all too busy getting excited about Kronke) HOW DID THE FA AND/OR THE LEAGUE DO A FIT AND PROPER PERSON TEST ON LEEDS OWNERS WHEN NO ONE KNOWS WHO THEY ARE?
Or put another way, how could the footballing authorities in England have let this slip?
Or, having been hoodwinked in this way, WHEN ARE ALL THE FOOTBALLING AUTHORITIES IN ENGLAND GOING TO ADMIT THEY HAVE BEEN DUPED OR BRIBED, AND AS A RESULT RESIGN?
Or is the court in Jersey going to do Mr Bates for perjury?
But let’s not be too harsh on the footballing authorities in England. Tough job and all that. Happened once at Leeds, but won’t happen again.
No one knows who owns the company that owns the company that owns Notts County. Oh my! It looks like those jolly chaps who run football in England have been conned again.
We ask, who owns Qadbak who claim they own Notts C and no one says a word. Even the Trust at Notts County that gave (yes gave) away all its shares doesn’t know who it gave them to, or why they couldn’t be paid for them. Or what Qadbak’s investments are (they boast of multibillion dollar investments – but no one knows where or what).
OK, so what about the investors in Qadbak: the Shafi family and the Hyat family. What do they do, where do they work, where is their money? Or put another way, “who the f… are they?” Or even where they live? What jobs do they have? What industries are they in?
It goes on, and it gets boring, but even little old me, sitting in my sitting room, with no resources other than the internet, recognise that when someone says that these two families have built their empires over 200 years that someone, somewhere would have written something about them. And when I find sweet F.A (to coin a phrase) I think, “hang on a moment… shouldn’t the sweet FA have got there before me?
And when I can do this with just my resources how come the football authorities in England get conned? Could anyone be that stupid? Well, yes, I suppose they could. I make no allegation that anyone in the FA or League has been bribed. Not at all. I think they are just idiots.
So as far as we know Leeds United and Notts County are owned by Al Qaeda. Or the Salvation Army. And I can say that because no one knows – at least no one associated with football. Maybe the clubs are elaborate money laundering organisations. Maybe they are owned by the Mafia. Or the Conservative Party.
This is what should happen now.
All the footballing authorities in England should resign at once, recognising that their position is utterly untenable. At best they have been made fools of. At worst they are part of the plot and have been turning a blind eye in return for cash.
That I can say with certainty, because they clearly did not do and have not done the ownership tests they should have done on Leeds and Notts County.
Second the clubs that are straight and clear in their ownership and accounting, like Arsenal, should avoid being further tainted by association with bodies that are either inept or corrupt (like the footballing authorities in England) and should form a new grouping of clubs run by honest and competent people.
Stan Kronke own 28.7% of Arsenal. Fine. Now, would someone tell us all who owns Leeds United and Notts County, and quite how and why the football authorities in England allowed themselves to be duped in this way? I think that is a rather more important question.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009
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