So, the shortish reign of Thaksin Shinawatra has finally come to an end.
None too soon perhaps for Man City fans settling down to some Pepto Bismol after that ridiculous and probably unnecessary roller-coaster ride. While stern looking Premier League officials waxed on about ‘fit and proper persons,’ it was clear that the former Thai Primer Minister with the dubious human rights record would provide the sort of leadership the Premier League could do without.
Things started off well, as they often do in these early ownership periods. Sven Goran Erikson managed to turn City around after a dismal and almost fatal two-year run under Stuart Pierce. The club did the double against Manchester United, and City looked to be on the upswing. Fans were happy. Players were happy. But as so often happens with massively-wealthy persons with a track-record of abusing human rights, Shinawatra wanted more, more, more.
Seemingly off in his own world, which is apparently like Football Manager with unlimited funds and the difficulty setting on ‘Easy,’ Shinawatra got incensed at City’s respectable ninth place finish and Fair Play UEFA Cup spot. Like a petulant forum poster, he demanded Erikson get the sack, all to the delight of Man City fans who lashed out at their owner at the end of the season to, surprise surprise, no avail.
So on to Mark Hughes, and then, mercifully, Shinawatra’s tax evasion stuff back home, and today the selling of the club to an Abu Dhabi consortium.
So it’s a clean slate for City, right? Brand new owner Abu Dhabi United Group representative Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim reported today that, “Our goal is very simple: to make Manchester City the biggest club in the Premier League, and to begin with to finish in the top four this season.” So, back to realistic expectations then. And all that for the glory of the club, right?
Al-Fahim again: “We in Abu Dhabi United Company for Development and Investment are keen to develop ways to provide support and care for various sports activities to help build and develop a new generation of young State, which represents the real wealth and the future of this nation and the cornerstone for building the future of our civilisation.” Well, the glory of the UAE, Manchester City, you know, either/or.
So not only are Premier League football clubs the playthings of the super-rich iron fists of the world, they are also propaganda arms for super-rich oil nations with their own stake in the human rights game. Arab consortiums, American Football team owners, Thai Prime Ministers on the lam; it’s all starting to resemble a Tintin comic. While City fared pretty well in comparison with other clubs destroyed by hubristic ownership (Leeds Leeds Leeds!), this in-one-day, out-the-next ownership system does not suit the slow-progressing and unpredicabtle world of club football outside the Top Four, as the number of administrations and point-deductions in the lower tiers reveals.
Early signs are for City are not good. Perhaps at thrity-two million pounds, Berbatov will come in and somehow do for City what he could not do for Spurs, i.e. lead them to a consistent top four finish…yet the star-striker as club-saviour tactic only works normally when the player is Pele or Maradona. It may be that the Abu Dhabi United Group are beneficent owners with all the best intentions for one the most storied clubs in England, but a few hundred million pounds, a hope, and a prayer does not a sustainable business model make.
Richard Whittall is author of the curmudgeonly footbaholic web log, A More Splendid Life.