Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Thaksin Attempts Blue Moon Party

"Typical City", they'll no doubt be saying in the bars and clubs where Manchester City supporters gather to ponder the latest tragi-comic twists in the affairs of their beloved club. For the club that are the only First Division champions ever to be relegated in the very next season (in 1938) the prospective takeover by the deposed former Thai premier and rumoured recruitment as manager of a certain randy Swede are, indeed, typical.

With the recent flood of overseas capital washing away the old guard of self-made men from the boardrooms of English football, City fans might have been entitled to expect their own American sports capitalist or acceptably shady Russian billionaire to reignite a club whose spirits have dipped after several drab, underachieving seasons.

Indeed, they might have looked on in envy as a member of their own official Hall of Fame, Niall Quinn, chose to harness Irish euros to breathe new life into another of his former clubs, Sunderland, whose self-esteem had plummetted even lower than City's.

Instead, City supporters await the outcome of Thaksin Sinawatra's proposed bid for the club, a takeover which, if successful, according to reports today, would lead to Sven Goran Eriksson becoming the club's 39th manager.

The underlying theme of xenophobia has never been far away during due diligence in any of the recent foreign takeovers of English clubs. It's a common enough response even in non-football takeovers, whether it be in banking, aviation or heavy industry for example, for the loss of indigenous ownership to be the subject of knee-jerk jingoism and doomsaying.

In an industry in which the emotional investment of its 'customers' is as significant as the financial commitment in the boardroom, the idea of the club's 'soul' being casually exported is a predictable cause of supporter outrage.

But English football has subsequently learned to live with its new foreign overlords. Messrs Abramovich, Gaydamak, Glazer, Lerner, Gillett and Hicks arrived, and the clubs they have bought have generally prospered. So any fears City fans might have about the current flirtation with Thaksin are unlikely to be based simply in narrow minded fear of Johnny Foreigner.

On the other hand, Thaksin's eventful recent past is well worthy of furrowed brows down Eastlands way. A controversial, populist figure as Thai Prime Minister, he first came to prominence on these shores during a takeover bid for Liverpool in 2004, which was reportedly to be funded via the proceeds of a Thai state lottery.

He is thought to have precipitated his own downfall by selling off his family's shares in the Thai telecoms group Shin Corp to Singaporean investors. As well as the avoidance of taxes, ironically enough, one of the charges levelled against him was of selling off a national asset into foreign hands.

Street protests and a bungled snap election followed, before last September's military coup in which Thaksin was deposed while he was in New York visiting the United Nations. Just this week, the current military government has frozen $1.6 billion of his assets as part of a investigation into corruption during his rule, and ordered him to return to Bangkok to face corruption charges.

Aside from the accusations concerning his finances, he has also been criticised for operating a draconian anti-crime policy, reputedly including a brutal crackdown on drugs in Thailand which led to the deaths of 2,500 people.

Judging by that C.V., the appointment of Sven-Goran Eriksson as manager might be the least of City's worries, despite the former England coach's established knack for earning vast salaries in return for negligible results. Despite the latest developments in Bangkok, talk from Thaksin's camp has remained bullish. Spokespersons have accused the military junta of attempting to tarnish the former premier and scupper his bid to take over at City.

Worried City fans might note in consolation that the optimistic tone of Thaksin's camp is currently remarkably similar to that expressed in the dying days of his Liverpool bid. But if he does take over, it remains to be seen whether City will be the latest club to benefit from foreign ownership, or if their fans will end up nostalgic for the days of Peter Swales notorious chairmanship.



Blogger Bluesology said...

Forget Peter Swales, let's have David Bernstein back at the helm !

4:18 p.m.  

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