Sunday 9 March 2014

Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung jailed. 'Fit and Proper'? I don't think so

For fans of Birmingham City Football Club, the only story that's mattered this week was the conviction and jailing for money laundering of our owner Carson Yeung.

Birmingham may have won the Carling Cup in 2011 and finished 9th in the Premier League in 2010 but it doesn't change the fact that his ownership of the club has been a disaster!

Since his arrest in 2011, the club has slowly been asset stripped. Losing all its players from the Premier League and forced to sell up and coming stars like Nathan Redmond and Jack Butland.

The club has no money, is relying on young players and loanees and has the weakest squad in over 20 years. The club is going nowhere fast as things currently stand.

His buying of the club and subsequent conviction raise some awkward questions for the Premier League, the Football League and the game in general in this country.

How was Carson Yeung allowed to take a controlling share of a Premier League club?

Yeung took and passed the 'fit and proper test' or to give it its official name the 'owners and directors' test.

He passed it as he didn't have any unspent criminal convictions. He also had to confirm he hadn't been involved in two football insolvencies in the previous 3 years or been sanctioned by another sporting body.

However, he'd been under investigation for money laundering since 2008. A year before taking control of Blues in October 2009.

He tried to buy the club towards the end of 2007 but the deal fell through as he couldn't raise enough money.

Despite this, he was still able to buy the club for a ridiculous £81 million pounds two years later. It seems the fit and proper test failed when it was needed.

The Premier League in the last 10 years has become a huge global brand. It's the most glamourous and exciting football league in the world.

The Premier League has been elevated and put on a pedestal. Its attracted an ever growing number of foreign owners to English football.

Many are unfamiliar with owning and running professional football clubs. Some don't have a feel or understanding for the social and cultural importance that clubs play to fans, towns and cities around the country.

The biggest English clubs like Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool hold an obvious appeal to any potential buyer, but mid ranking clubs like Birmingham are also proving to be attractive to overseas business people.

When I say mid ranking I'm talking about clubs like Birmingham who are big enough to be in the Premier League but there's so many similar sized clubs that they can't all be in the Premier League at the same time. (look at the Championship for mid ranking)

The likes of Carson Yeung want to have a piece of the glamour and prestige of the Premier League. They can't buy the truly big clubs, but clubs like Birmingham become more attractive.

What they fail to release is that unless you own a club challenging for a Champions League place you don't really matter on a global stage. Yeung wanted to grow the Birmingham City brand in China? Blues will never be a global brand!

English football is unique and special but when I look at what's happened at Blues in the last 3 years, it's made me think the footballing authorities in England need to work harder at protecting the values and traditions of football.

Clubs are cultural and social institutions that mean something to people, prospective owners from abroad should be vetted properly.

Yeung may have lived the dream of owning a Premier League football club but the details of his trial reveal that he was simply a chancer.

His vanity is what made him take over Blues, a vanity that can never understand the emotional and financial investment thousands of Blues fans like myself have invested over the years.

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