British sports minister to hold talks on foreign owners

  • Other Sport
  • Thursday, 28 Jun 2007

LONDON: British sports minister Richard Caborn will held talks with senior English soccer administrators yesterday to discuss concerns over the increase of foreign owners at top clubs throughout the country, a spokesman said. 

“Richard Caborn will meet English Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, English FA chairman Geoff Thompson and Football League chairman Lord Mawhinney for talks early on Wednesday,” his spokesman told Reuters. 

The spokesman however denied media reports that the Premier League did not wish to meet the minister, citing a “busy diary on all sides” as the problem. 

Wednesday’s meeting comes as Manchester City look set to become the latest English top-flight club to be bought by a foreign investor. 

Former Thai Premier Thaksin Shinawatra has launched a £81.6mil (US$163.1mil) bid for the Premier League club, following in the footsteps of local rivals Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea, among others, who are all owned by non-British multi-millionaires. 

“The meeting is not just about the Manchester City deal. The City deal has of course raised concern, but this is just the latest in a growing trend,” the spokesman said. 

If the Thai Premier – charged with offences of corruption in Thailand and with his assets in that country frozen – is successful with his bid as seems likely, eight of the Premier League’s 20 clubs will be in the hands of foreign owners. 

At the present time seven clubs – Aston Villa, Chelsea, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester United, Portsmouth and West Ham United are owned by companies or individuals who are not English or British. 

Thaksin, who previously made an attempt to buy Liverpool, claims the charges against him in Thailand are a politically-motivated move by the military junta that deposed him and that he will have no problems passing the “fit and proper person test” used for potential club owners and directors of English clubs. 

Caborn wants to discuss the details of that test in fine detail with the Premier League and FA officials. 

“The minister will ask the leagues if there is a problem for the game with the influx of foreign investment and there is anything that the government or fans should be worried about,” his spokesman said. 

Earlier this week, British Labour Party member David Taylor described Thaksin as “unsavoury” and told the British parliament that foreign takeovers of clubs needed urgent attention. 

Caborn is currently lobbying the European Commission, the Brussels-based EU executive arm, to include strict rules on foreign owners in its upcoming reform of how sport should be run across the 27-nation bloc.  

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