Carson Yeung’s conviction shows yet again that England needs much stricter rules on football club ownership

The anger of fans towards the whims of benefactors is swelling

Share

English football’s reputation has been dragged through the mud once again – this time in a Hong Kong courtroom. Carson Yeung was sentenced to six years in jail yesterday, after being convicted earlier in the week of money-laundering. The court found that the former hairdresser laundered some £55m between 2001 and 2007. Yeung was described by the judge as “not a witness of truth”.

Yet this individual was considered a “fit and proper person” by the Premier League authorities only five years ago. Yeung became the largest single shareholder in Birmingham City Football Club between 2007 and 2009. His conviction leaves the future of the club, which now competes in the Championship – professional football’s second tier – in a pitiful limbo.

Birmingham needs investment after announcing a £4m loss in its most recent accounts. But an attempt by Yeung’s former company to sell a 12 per cent stake in the club to a Beijing advertising firm also fell through yesterday. And there is a chance that the Hong Kong authorities will seek to seize Yeung’s assets, which might include a soft loan he made to the club.

The ramifications for the wider universe of English football of this debacle are deeply uncomfortable too. English football, the Premier League in particular, has embraced foreign ownership of clubs over the past two decades.

About half of the clubs in the Premier League are now owned by foreign nationals. Some have invested eye-popping amounts of their own money, such as the Russian Roman Abramovich of Chelsea and Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour of Manchester City. They have won the gratitude of fans. Other overseas owners have been less free-spending. Some have even been in the mould of Yeung. Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Thai Prime Minister, bought Manchester City in 2007 and was convicted of corruption in a Bangkok court the following year. Portsmouth became the first Premier League club to go into administration in 2010, after being passed through the hands of a sequence of mysterious foreign owners.

The anger of fans towards the whims of benefactors is swelling. Vincent Tan, the Malaysian owner of Cardiff City, changed the club’s colours from blue to red. That the club has traditionally been known as the Bluebirds cut no ice with Mr Tan. “In Asia red is the colour of success,” he explained.  Hull City’s owner, Assem Allam, an Egyptian-born British citizen, has also alienated fans in East Yorkshire with his determination to change the club’s name to Hull Tigers.

The immediate lesson of the Yeung case is that the Premier League’s fit and proper person test, introduced in 2004, is not fit for purpose. But it points to deeper problems around the central issue of football club ownership in England. The fact is that clubs are not conventional businesses, but unique social institutions. Whatever marketing teams say, fans are not just “customers”, but stakeholders too, and they regard themselves as such. Other countries recognise this special status and have much stricter rules on who is allowed to buy a club. The highly successful German Bundesliga requires that fan groups must have a majority stake.

With every high-profile conviction and fresh round of antagonism between autocratic tycoons and fans, the case for a shift in the rules governing English club ownership grows stronger.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAS Developer - DI Studio - Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Developer, Chester, Banking, DI Studio, £450-...

Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40 - £50K first year: SThree: SThree Group an...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Nursery Room Leader

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: JOB DESCRIPTION - NURSERY ROOM LEADER...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The No campaign has a classic advertising problem: they need to turn a negative into a positive

John Hegarty
 

August catch-up: genius of Apple, fools and commercial enterprises, and the Queen

John Rentoul
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone