By Tony Attwood
Does Chelsea shake when the USA uses the language of the AAA?
Or come to that does Liverpool worry that no statement from the club will ever be believed again after the admitted lying over Suarez’ contract? Do Rangers fans worry that their club has to pay 30% p.a. interest on a guaranteed loan? Do Cardiff fans worry that their owner doesn’t know the PL’s rules? (And I haven’t started on Birmingham yet).
But to go back to Chelsea, obviously the west is not at this moment freezing the assets of Russian citizens which are held in banks and elsewhere in the west. But the threat of such a move was made by Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday.
Because of the instability of the Russian currency (recently in freefall following the invasion of the Crimea) holding one’s wealth outside of the Federation is ever more attractive for Russian citizens, and that includes Roman Abramovich who of course has sizeable investments in the west.
In the most bizarre and perhaps unlikely scenario a decision to freeze the assets of Russians in the UK could mean the seizing of Chelsea FC. Unlikely of course, and utterly dependent on Russia seeking to make its military excursion into Ukraine permanent, but still possible.
Of course if the assets of Americans in the UK were to be frozen Arsenal would suffer the same fate, but if the freezing of Chelsea’s assets is unlikely, the event that the UK might fall out with America seems off the scale.
It does however raise the eternal problem – does it matter who owns all or part of your club?
It may seem hypothetical but the fact is that Kerry said. “Russia has major investment and trade needs and desires. I think there’s a unified view by all of the foreign ministers I talked with yesterday, all of the G-8 and more, that they’re simply going to isolate Russia, that they’re not going to engage with Russia in a normal, business as usual manner, that Russia is inviting opprobrium on the international stage.
“There could even be, ultimately, asset freezes, visa bans. There could be certainly disruption of any of the normal trade routine. There could be business drawback on investment in the country. The ruble is already going down and feeling the impact of this.”
Incidentally the sort of language that the AAA use over Arsene Wenger is also part of US politics now, as when the Republican Mike Rogers said, “Putin is playing chess and I think we are playing marbles, and I don’t think it’s even close. They’ve been running circles around us.” He ought to write a football blog.
Meanwhile we have the case of Carson Yeung – a man approved by the Premier League as a “fit and proper person” when he led the take over of Birmingham City in 2009,
We’ve covered the story of Yeung and his trial in Hong Kong off and on, and he has now been found guilty of money-laundering. The judge described Yeung as an habitual liar.
Birmingham fans might feel that is true after Yeung’s promise of £80m worth of investment into the club never turned up. Although maybe the fact that before making that promise Yeung had been a hairdresser and a professional gambler might have told David Sullivan and David Gold that they were dealing with a crook. Still there’s no law against selling things to a crook, only buying them from a crook.
Now we might think that this would be the end of Yeung in terms of Birmingham but not a bit of it.Yeung’s company still runs and will continue to control Birmingham City FC. And that’s what links Birmingham with Chelsea. For just as the UK government could conceivably freeze Chelsea FC as being the assets of a Russian national, so the Hong Kong justice authority could seize Yeung’s company and effectively Birmingham City FC (of which Yeung is still the largest shareholder.) Also on the board are Yeung’s 20-year-old son and Yeung’s brother in law – not the most powerful force to stand up to the might of the Hong Kong legislature.
The other problem for Birmingham is that it (like Rangers in Glasgow, who as we recently reported are so desperate for cash they are paying 30% p.a. interest on a loan which is guaranteed by the club’s assets) needs additional funding if it is to “continue its operations for at least 12 months”, (according to the club’s most recent accounts). The latest plan is a £7m placing of shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange and a borrowing of £24m from a Chinese property developer. Hmmmm.
Of course things are done differently in different parts of the world. Russia, China, Scotland, Liverpool (I do wonder if anyone will ever again take a statement by Liverpool seriously after the admission by its owner that they openly lied to the media and Arsenal about the contract of their disturbed centre forward…)
And there is the case of Vincent Tan, who it is now suggested but not proven offered Cardiff players a £3.7m bonus to beat Tottenham. This is against Premier League rules that say rather clearly that all bonuses must be issued before the start of the season.
This story comes from those old Euro hating right wingers at the Daily Mail who say that Mr Tan spoke to his players at the Hilton Hotel and said he was bringing in the new tactic of “shooting more” before announcing the incentive of the new bonus.
A spokesman for Mr Tan then said, “We didn’t realise it was against regulations. Vincent Tan has now rescinded the offer.”
Pesky things these invasions, courts, foreign governments, lies, regulations and bankruptcies. No telling where they will take you.
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