Fans angry at share deal

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The Independent Football

Thaksin Shinawatra's claim that he is on the brink of completing a deal to give 30 per cent ownership of Liverpool was greeted with frustration and disbelief in the city yesterday. While fans called for greater transparency from their club and the Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, greeted the proposed deal less than warmly, the local media reported that Thaksin would need to revise his £63m offer to be sure of success.

Thaksin Shinawatra's claim that he is on the brink of completing a deal to give 30 per cent ownership of Liverpool was greeted with frustration and disbelief in the city yesterday. While fans called for greater transparency from their club and the Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, greeted the proposed deal less than warmly, the local media reported that Thaksin would need to revise his £63m offer to be sure of success.

Even Liverpool's own financial advisors admitted that no binding agreement has yet been made with the controversial Thai prime minister. "Until the negotiations are finalised, the deal's not finished," said Paul Baines, the managing partner at Hawkpoint, the corporate advisory firm. "But our discussions regarding the Thai proposal are progressing."

According to the Liverpool Daily Post, Thaksin's offer is not acceptable to the Liverpool board in its current form because the club does not want to relinquish all its commercial rights in Asia, as Thaksin wants. There is also a reported dispute over how many seats the Thai investors want on the Liverpool board. Liverpool refused to discuss the matter. Thaksin's aides claim there are only minor details to settle.

Caborn entered the debate by stating that clubs have a fundamental duty to try to retain links with their communities. He stopped short of saying the government could or would intervene to stop someone with a dubious human rights record investing in an English club, but he made clear his preference for new investment from local sources.

"Football clubs are a little bit special, they're part of the community," he said. "So I think it's incumbent upon football clubs to make sure that they do have those very strong roots into their community. That's where the club comes from, that's where the fans are. I think that's what ought to be considered when any takeover bids or indeed investment is being made."

Liverpool have already rebuffed an offer of £73m from the local businessman, Steve Morgan, saying it undervalued the club. Morgan already owns five per cent of the club and his proposal would have seen him take a controlling interest. Morgan appears to have the support of the majority of the fans, hundreds of whom continued to bombard the letters pages of the local press yesterday, calling for greater transparency from Liverpool.

One typical contribution came from Kevin McDonnell, an Anfield season-ticket holder. "We keep hearing from different people in Thailand, but we should not have to rely on them for information," he said. "The club has a duty to the fans to put us in the picture. We invest a great deal of time and money in Liverpool FC and it is about time they remembered that."

The club declined to respond when asked about opposition among supporters' groups to Thaksin, whose human rights record has been criticised by Amnesty International.

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