In-carson-ated Blues Boss Raises Further Questions Over Foreign Ownership
Today saw Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung sentenced to six years in jail – so what does the future hold for the blues? And does it raise further questions over foreign ownership and the measures the Football League puts in place to establish whether they are financially sound?
March 7th, 2014
If a Hong Kong hair stylist came to me with £81.5 million and an offer to buy my football club from me, I would imagine a few questions would immediately come to mind. Is this serious? Should I accept it? And how many wigs did he have to sell to earn £81.5 million?!
In 2009, that’s exactly what happened to former Birmingham City co-owners, and current West Ham co-owners, David Gold and David Sullivan. They must have thought all their Christmases had come at once, as they rid themselves of England’s yo-yo club (the Blues have been relegated and promoted 12 times, the most of any English team), and bought into the more stable club that is West Ham. Admittedly, that season was one of very different emotions for the Midlands club. After experiencing the elation of beating Arsenal at Wembley to lift the Carling Cup earlier that season, they then suffered the heartbreak of relegation to the Championship – something they’ve never really recovered from since.
The relegation of 2011 marked the beginning of a torrid period for the club, with Yeung then being summoned to court in June 2011 over money-laundering charges. However it’s not all that surprising that Yeung has landed himself in hot water. His rags-to-riches story is certainly like that of a Hollywood movie, with a lowly Hong Kong hairdresser making something of himself by investing in Macau in the 90s and becoming one of Hong Kong’s top property developers. One has to ask however, where did he get all that money to invest in property from?
Granted, if he could sort my retreating hair out I’d willingly offer him £85 million, however I very much doubt that he could. So why did the Football League not look into his past more, before accepting him as the owner of Birmingham City? Simply put, they’re scared. Under tight rules drafted up in 2004, Yeung wouldn’t have been ineligible to take over Birmingham until today, because only somebody who has been convicted of dishonesty, corruption, perverting the course of justice, serious breaches of the Companies Act, is still eligible to take over a club. The story is the same with potential Leeds United buyer, Massimo Cellino, who has fraud-related convictions but could still take over the West Yorkshire club.
This brings about the argument of introducing some common sense to the situation. Surely, if somebody has gained a large sum of money seemingly out of nowhere, the Football League should be able to tell something isn’t quite right.
Why however, when there are such substantial sums of money involved, and we have seen such falls from grace such as Portsmouth, isn’t there an independent panel that looks into football takeovers? With so many taking place, it would hardly be difficult to recoup the money by charging potential suitors a fee from each takeover. And even if there is such a panel, why aren’t they doing their job? They might want to look to the models of Huddersfield Town chairman Dean Hoyle, and MK Dons chairman Peter Winkelman, albeit the latter in controversial fashion, as a way to conduct business.
Alas, this would probably make far too much sense for the footballing bigwigs to handle, who again have seemingly overlooked the interests of the fans who keep them afloat.