This week Arsenal play yet another club whose ownership is unknown. It is the club of Martin Taylor.
It is an evil entity owned by Grandtop International Holdings, who are owned by…. Well what a surprise. We don’t know of course because they are all registered in the British Virgin Islands.
So what bunch of odd-balls is likely to have bought a club that wins nothing of significance and has a rather unsavory reputation both on and off the pitch.
But to be fair, one might ask the same of the ownership of Notts County and Leeds United. Who would ever want to buy them while having something so profound to hide that they will never actually say who the real owners actually are? And who would ensure that the FA and League would never ever do anything serious to find out who owned the clubs?
The most obvious answer to the question of who would own a football club but want to stay secret is people who have been banned from owning football clubs – people who simply are not allowed to own football clubs.
So who is not allowed to own a football club in England, and yet might want to… and wouldn’t really give a toss whether it was a club with as unsavory past as Birmingham, or a club going nowhere very slowly, like Notts County. Or even a club like Leeds.
Actually the only ones I can think of are
- Betting syndicates,
- Gambling companies,
- Owners of other football clubs
Now let’s remember that Birmingham City – whose main claim to fame is that their player crippled Eduardo, and that their directors have been arrested and held on police bail over various financial (and in one case sexual) matters, and that they then sneaked their player back into football after he took a three match (yes only three match) ban – cost the unknown and unknowable owners £81.5m which is £17.5m more than Aston Villa cost a couple of years back. And Aston Villa won the FA Cup seven times in the 19th century (or something like that). (And I must make it clear that in Birmingham’s case nothing has ever been proven and no wrong-doing shown).
Birmingham’s financial director recently said, “We want to be able to extend our hearts and our hands to them [our fans] and we want to bring all the supporters back to us and, together, we want to build a bright future for everybody.”
If that doesn’t make you throw up, nothing will.
So, who really will hide their identity and offer platitudes?
Betting companies obviously have an interest in knowing the results before they happen, as do the syndicates that try and beat them. The Chinese are quite heavily into betting, although I am sure the front men of the unknown owners of Birmingham City have no connection with any of these dastardly fellows. (And if they did Sexton Blake and Tinker would be on their trail quick as a flash).
And of course there is that pesky rule about not owning more than one club.
We can see why a betting organisation would want to own one or more clubs, but why would Manchester United (to pick a name at random) want to own Birmingham City (to pick a name out of the sewer)? Well, it would be handy if you wanted to try out some youngsters, make a few quid on the betting, check whether a ref could be nobbled without getting the Manchester nose in the dirt, and be certain of victory when the clubs play each other. A fair list of reasons in fact.
Of course I have no knowledge about who really owns these clubs – and certainly nothing to connect the very fit and proper people who own and run Manchester U with the undoubtedly (if only we knew who they were) fit and proper people who run Leeds, Birmingham or Notts County.
But that’s the point. As Patrick Moore always used to say about what lies on the other side of black holes, “we just don’t know.”
Perhaps the best chant when we meet the evil empire on Saturday would be “Who owns you?”
Today on Making the Arsenal there’s the story of the first time Arsenal’s ground was shut because of “an incident with the referee”. “Making the Arsenal” written by, well, as it were, err, me, since you ask, will be published on 30 October and will be available from this site.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009