owner beware


The end of the season was wracked by the row over the registration and ownership of West Ham United player Carlos Tevez.  The matter rumbles on into the summer with an independent panel being convened to further investigate the affair, after the FA Premier League had fined the Upton Park club a record 5.5 million sum, but stopped short of taking away league points which surely would have condemned them to relegation to the Championship.

When Tevez moved to Corinthians from Boca Juniors of Argentina, there were questions raised about the $20 million fee quoted for his transfer and the rumours of a London based company's involvement turned out to be Media Sorts Investments (MSI), who were said to be buying into the club and providing funding to bring players in to the Brazilian club.  As it turned out, there was an investment opportunity there, with MSI and Kia Joorabchian having a stake in his ownership.  At the time, there were rumours that Roman Abramovich was also a part of the organisation, so the obvious move to Chelsea was expected when he came to a European club.

However, when he did leave and Corinthians decided to cash in on the Brazilian, it was West Ham that he ended up at, with Joorabchian hoping to use it as a introduction to buying the club.

That did not happen either and the Irons were left with a player that they owned some of but nobody was quite sure how much.

With the inquest running into he summer, it could be some time before the make-up of next season's Premier League is finalised.

So what has all this got to do with Tottenham apart from the East London side being an easy touch for another six points next season ?

Well, it is a situation that Tottenham might have found themselves in a couple of seasons back.

Remember when David Pleat was keen on the young Brazilian Diego - yes, the one and the same who scored the late equaliser against England in the first international at the re-opened Wembley - when he played for Santos.  A talented young midfielder, there were a number of clubs after him, but Spurs were in there first and kept in touch with his club and his father, but they did not appear to be aware that a third share of the youngster belonged to someone else.

With lots of negotiations going on behind the scenes, it was rumoured that he had links to an Italian ancestor, who would allow him to gain a European passport, but  when the deal fell down, it was this that gave rise to stories of the long delay in obtaining the Italian paperwork which scuppered the deal.  Little was mooted about the ownership of the player.  He subsequently joined FC Porto, where he failed to impress enough to make the first team regularly and moved once more to Germany this time and Werder Bremen.

But had we signed the player, would we have been in the same boat ... battling a possible points deduction because of the way the game is organised in another country.  I don't have a lot of sympathy with the Irons, but FIFA need to look at the way ownership of players is organised in the South Americas, as nowhere else does this happen.  If they don't, then it might spread with Russian gangs "investing" in the development of players across the world.

On another tack, there have been a number of clubs changing hands lately, with Liverpool being the biggest, as the two American multi-millionaires pump money into the team and the building of a new stadium.  Money from the US has also gone into Aston Villa.

Other new investors last season have included Robert Earl and Eggert Magnusson, while Michael Ashley has bought into Newcastle United.  There is one common link between these three men ... they are all Spurs fans.

With Magnusson just being a front for the man with the real money, but having made his money in biscuits in Iceland, the other two have bundles of cash from their respective businesses at Planet Hollywood and Sports Direct group (which includes the Sports World chain of stores - Sport Soccer - and the Lilywhites stores, as well as the Dunlop, Kangol and Karrimor brands of sports and leisure goods and clothing).

With the 133 million he has already put into the St. James Park club, there appears to be a lot of cash available for investment by Ashley, but you have to ask, why didn't any of these men think about putting their money into Tottenham ?  Is it that the club were not open to offers, thus indicating that Joe Lewis and Daniel Levy are considering taking it back into private ownership ... although that will be getting more costly since the price of Spurs shares have risen drastically over the last twelve months to about 1.33 today ?  Is it that they feel the development of Tottenham is fettered by the ground situation and without a larger capacity, they cannot hope to catch the top four ?  Is it that the current owners were asking too much for their stakes in the club ?

Whatever the reason, the existing board are doing a good job at the club and I, for one, would not want to see them ousted.  There is sufficient money being provided for improving the squad and the back-room set-up which Daniel Levy instituted and was much derided when it first came in, is now paying dividends.  My one big concern is that it is the fans who are being asked to pay for a substantial amount of the funding of the club.  At a time when TV money is shooting up quicker than a manager's blood pressure, the rise in next season's ticket prices is against the trend at other clubs and it is alienating the club from a lot of it's bedrock support.

Bringing another investor who can put a sizeable chunk of cash into the club would not be a bad thing for Spurs and I guess that Lewis must have a sufficiently developed network of contacts which he could tap into to bring in a willing partner, who would not try to take over.  I am not talking about money from a Malaysian Prince or an Australian iron filings magnate, but someone with a solid business background who has money that has come from a sound commercial enterprise and would assist the continued progression of the club.

Tottenham Hotspur are getting to a position we have been in at times in the past forty years, where it is vital that the next step takes the club forward.  In the past (notably when Venables had the team poised to move into the top echelons in 1992) it has seen the club shoot itself in the foot and this time, you get the impression that a few players in the right places (buying Bale shows that they know where to strengthen) and the development of the ground or a move to a new one, with sensible ticket pricing to ensure we sell out regularly (there were empty seats at the Seville home UEFA Cup tie remember) will be the stage for Tottenham to kick on.



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