In The Mixer
One man's opinions on all things football

This may seem hard to believe, but the Premier League does actually have rules governing who can gain control of a Premiership football club. You see, not just any Tom, Dick or deposed despot can put on their wellies, wander into top paddock and milk the Premiership cash cow. No, they must first pass what is known as the ‘fit and proper person test’.

This is a fairly new idea in football. Whilst other sports, such as rugby, have had vetting procedures in place for many a year, football has always been a free market. If you had the money, you could have a slice of the action. Well, not any more. About a year ago, some bright spark at Soho Square decided that given the trend amongst foreign billionaires to invest in Premiership football teams – you don’t get that rich without doing something wrong – it would be right and proper to introduce rules to safeguard the beautiful game from an influx of undesirables; hence the ‘fit and proper person test’.

It is probably jumping the gun to try and second guess how the Premier League goes about deciding what constitutes a so-called ‘fit and proper person’ - after all, if the bigwigs who govern the top tier of our national game had the same sense of justice and moral obligation as you or I, West Ham would have been relegated months ago – nevertheless, one would hope that the scope of their criteria extended so far as to examine the financial propriety and human rights record of whosoever tries to gain control of a Premiership club.

Now this brings us on to the former Thai Prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra whose bid of £81 million to buy Manchester City was yesterday recommended to shareholders by the club’s board. It would appear, therefore, that only the minor obstacle of being deemed both ‘fit and proper’ now stands in between Shinawatra and his dream of taking control of a Premiership team.

So, is Mr Shinawatra a fit and proper person? Well, up until yesterday, the only information that I had on Thaksin Shinawatra was a series of allegations of financial impropriety – he’s alleged to have profited to the tune of £1 billion following a deal made possible by his own legislation - and Amnesty International’s repeated concerns vis-à-vis over two thousand uninvestigated murders, the use of excessive force against demonstrators, torture of detainees, and the impunity enjoyed by state officials for alleged human rights violations.

One would have thought that all this would be sufficient to disqualify Mr Shinawatra from taking over at Man City, but having recently seen an interview with the man, I have to admit that he comes across as quite a cheerful and congenial chap. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he has a certain teddy-bearish quality about him. My media-induced lack of cynicism has, therefore, led me to turn my attentions away from the fact that Mr Shinawatra’s government was frequently challenged with allegations of corruption, dictatorship, demagogy, treason, conflicts of interest, human rights abuses, acting undiplomatically, the use of legal loopholes and hostility towards a free press and turn instead towards all the good that he achieved whilst in power – I've heard that he managed to cut poverty in half and provide near universal access to affordable healthcare.

For some reason, I’ve got a funny feeling that the Premier League will also choose not to focus on the negative, and Mr Shinawatra will be deemed both fit and proper to become Chairman of Manchester City.


If I were the head of the Serbian Football Federation, I’d be worried. The racist chanting by Serbian fans during their U21 team’s final group match against England has really landed them in it. UEFA don’t mess about when it comes to serious matters like this; they operate a policy of ‘zero tolerance’.

Or at least that’s what UEFA's clownish spokesman, William Gaillard, would like us to believe.

Among the besuited, champagne-quaffing footballcrats at UEFA, ‘zero tolerance’ is something of a hazy expression. For it can imply numerous eventualities, to which if you or I were pushed to give a numeric tolerance-value, it would certainly not be zero. For example, when Ashley Cole was subjected to monkey chants at the Santiago Bernabeu, when England played Spain three years ago, the Spanish FA were fined £30,000. Considering gate receipts for that game would have been upwards of £1.5 million, the fine imposed was not zero-tolerant. I would probably place it somewhere in the region of 6-tolerance, which is fairly tolerant, given that my scale only goes up to 10 and 10 would have involved letting the Spanish off scot-free.

So, following the embarrassing events of Sunday night, what punishment can we expect to see meted out to the Serbian FA?

Those of us who don’t ride to work on the UEFA gravy train would expect to see Serbia expelled from the competition. No ifs, no buts, no questions. That way, in any future tournaments, fans who come to support their team or country would know that racist behaviour was counterproductive to their cause. This is the commonsense solution. So will it happen? Of course not. UEFA have already said that nothing will happen before an investigation takes place on July 12th.

An investigation is presumably required to establish that the monkey chants were actually monkey chants and not some inoffensive noise that sounded just like monkey chants. By the time this investigation takes place, the tournament will have been over for nearly three weeks.

However, once the necessary investigation has established for certain that the monkey noises were actually monkey noises, we can then expect to see Serbia banned from taking part in the next Euro U21s. Not likely! This just wouldn’t be in keeping with UEFA’s policy of burying their head in the sand and trying not to do anything too proactive.

A ban is not going to happen. It never does with UEFA. Every racist incident in European football has been met with a paltry fine and no further action and that is exactly what will happen to Serbia. A drawn out investigation will be quietly concluded and UEFA’s mouthy spokesman will claim that the fine is another example of Europe’s governing body getting tough on racism. Meanwhile, Serbia’s mediaeval fans will continue to make their presence known in their own unpleasant way.