Tag Archives: majority

Arsenal set for 1.5bn takeover from Middle East consortium

We'll bid record 1.5bn for Arsenal (twice as much as the Glazers paid for United)… but they MUST finish top four, say Arab consortium

By
Dave Wood

PUBLISHED:

22:32 GMT, 2 March 2013

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UPDATED:

10:48 GMT, 3 March 2013

Arsenal's eagerly-anticipated north London derby with Tottenham on Sunday was given an added edge with reports that a Middle East consortium will launch a 1.5billion takeover bid for the club in the next few weeks.

The group, made up of investors from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, hope to tempt owner Stan Kroenke with the world record sum, reports the Sunday Telegraph.

But the group warned that Arsenal, currently fifth in the Premier League and three points behind fourth-placed Spurs, must act quickly amid fears that the club miss out on a Champions League place and fall into a cycle of decline like Liverpool.

Money talks: World record takeover would put Arsenal in the same financial league as Manchester City and PSG

Money talks: World record takeover would put Arsenal in the same financial league as Manchester City and PSG

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere

Prize asset: Arsenal's Jack Wilshere

American Kroenke is the club's majority shareholder, while Uzbek Alisher Usmanov also holds a significant stake.

The offer for Arsenal would reportedly see the potential investors bid around 20,000 per share, making Kroenke's holding worth 830m.

It would be the world’s biggest ever bid for a football club, dwarfing the 800m paid by the Glazers for Manchester United.

Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke

Alisher Usmanov an Arsenal shareholder

Money men: Owner Stan Kroenk (left) and majority shareholder Alisher Usmanov (right)

Big fans: The consortium want Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to stay on

Big fans: The consortium want Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to stay on

A meeting has already been reportedly been requested with the American to discuss the proposed
offer. The seriousness of the bid is reinforced by the recent successful
takeovers of Manchester City and Paris St-Germain by Middle East backers.

It is unlikely Usmanov will want to sell his shareholding, given his 'dream' of taking control of Arsenal himself, but the Middle East consortium
believes it will be able to work with the billionaire, who does not
currently have a seat on the board.

Any takeover would inevitably raise questions over the future of manager
Arsene Wenger but the Frenchman is understood to be highly-regarded by
the consortium.

A bid source was quoted as saying: 'Arsenal is at a pivotal position at
the moment. The fear is that the club is facing a cycle of decline like
Liverpool. From our point of view it is the perfect moment to make this bid
because at this moment in time you can still genuinely justify this
extraordinary valuation on the club.

'We will not bid for Arsenal if they go into decline. Kroenke and Usmanov will
not get this kind of valuation if Arsenal do not succeed and will not get
this kind of valuation ever again.

'The amount of capital required to pump into Arsenal to make it competitive
within England, Europe and the world means that the valuation cannot go any
higher.'

George Groves should be feared after Glen Johnson demolition

Win proves I'm a contender! Groves believes he should be feared after Johnson demolition

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UPDATED:

17:24 GMT, 16 December 2012

George Groves insists his demolition of Jamaican veteran Glen Johnson at London's ExCel has identified him as a fighter to be feared by his super-middleweight rivals.

Groves defended his Commonwealth title with a wide points victory over a respected opponent whose 71-fight record includes wins against Roy Jones and Antonio Tarver.

It was only the 24-year-old's 16th contest, yet he succeeded in defeating Johnson more comprehensively than British rival Carl Froch, who secured only a majority decision in June last year.

In control: George Groves scored an easy unanimous points decision over Johnson at Excel

In control: George Groves scored an easy unanimous points decision over Johnson at Excel

Fighting back: The 24-year-old has fought just twice this year due to injury setbacks

Fighting back: The 24-year-old has fought just twice this year due to injury setbacks

'That performance will tell the rest of the division that I'm here, that I'm a contender and someone not just to keep an eye on, but to fear,” Groves said.

'I will give anyone in the world a decent fight and would beat a lot of the top guys. I believe that now I'm a world class fighter.

'Johnson has boxed at the highest level for a long time, and at light heavyweight as well. The good fighters he's beaten is impressive.

'I can look back at this year and say I've only had two fights, I've had two successful fights and have made big improvements.'

Injury has restricted Groves to just two outings this year and while he was hit too easily, his movement, accuracy and work-rate fully justified the 120-107 120-107 119-109 decision on the scorecards.

The one surprise was that he failed to become only the second man to stop the battle-hardened Johnson after Bernard Hopkins, although the 43-year-old was saved by the bell at the end of the sixth round.

'There were times when I was absolutely nailing him and 95 per cent of other super-middleweights would have gone, but he stood there,” Groves said.

'I genuinely thought I'd stop him. I didn't underestimate how good his chin was, but he can really take a punch.'

Promoter Frank Warren revealed that Groves and Billy Joe Saunders will be fighting again in London in February and tipped the former to win a world title by the end of 2013.

Rising star: Billy Joe Saunders moved to 16-0 with a win against Nick Blackwell

Rising star: Billy Joe Saunders moved to 16-0 with a win against Nick Blackwell

Saunders' rapid development continued with a unanimous points victory over former unlicensed fighter Nick Blackwell in the best contest of an entertaining bill.

Blackwell provided the 2008 Olympian with the toughest test of his 16-fight career and stalked down his opponent throughout, but Saunders' classier work saw him prevail 117-112 116-113 115-114 on the scorecards.

The win adds the vacant British middleweight title to his Commonwealth belt and while Saunders is far more advanced in his career, he covets a showdown with Chris Eubank Jr.

'Chris Eubank Jr is arrogant and I want to put him in his place. I didn't like his dad and I don't like him,' Saunders said.

'He's got nothing I want on, but I'd like to beat him because he's arrogant. He keeps calling people out but hasn't boxed anyone yet.'

The defeat was the second of Blackwell's 14-fight career, but the heavy underdog's gutsy performance and superb conditioning ensured he will challenge for British and Commonwealth honours again.

Liam Smith secured the vacant Commonwealth light-middleweight title with a comprehensive points victory over Steve O'Meara.

Patrick Collins: The anti-Wenger mob should be careful what they wish for

The anti-Wenger mob should be careful what they wish for

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UPDATED:

00:46 GMT, 16 December 2012

So, farewell Arsene Wenger. Not yet perhaps but soon, very soon, if the pack has its way.

Defeat at Bradford City, in what some of us still call the League Cup, was apparently the last straw.

It seems that the Arsenal manager must fall on his sword. Failing that, he must be shown the door.

Troubled times: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under fire

Troubled times: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under fire

Either way, he has to go. Don't take my word for it; listen to the people.

One red-top tabloid, which knows a bandwagon when one comes clattering by, organised a highly scientific opinion poll.

This 'damning' exercise revealed that around 60 per cent of respondents believed that Wenger's time was up.

Considering it was taken in the hours
after Bradford, and plainly included a hefty cargo of drunks, comedians
and Tottenham supporters, some might think the manager came out rather
well.

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Yet the weight of informed opinion
was against him.

Somebody called Tim, who is apparently a spokesman for
the Arsenal Supporters' Trust, announced: 'His inability to delegate or
seek help from others has resulted in a stale environment where best
practice is no longer to the fore.'

We must wonder how 'Tim' can speak so confidently of such private matters.

But in the current climate, even impertinent middle-management clichs find an audience.

Which takes us, quite seamlessly, to Stewart Robson, who played for Arsenal more than a quarter of a century ago.

Robson declared himself 'embarrassed' by Wenger. 'In my view,' said Robson, 'it was time up for him three or four years ago … Tactically Arsenal are all over the place, they are under-prepared defensively and he doesn't understand the game well enough.'

Now, most will acknowledge that losing to Bradford was mildly disgraceful, that a good many of Arsenal's displays this season have been sub-standard, that the performances of players such as Gervinho, Chamakh and Santos are incomprehensible and that the manager's recent transfer dealings are heavily at odds with his glittering track record in this department.

And Wenger must know that he has made enemies.

He is not 'clubbable', he has never sought membership of that managerial cabal which likes to gather after matches to swap cosy anecdotes, curse grasping players, endorse amenable agents and slurp expensive red wine.

A frosty winner and a graceless loser, the Arsenal manager has offended most of his contemporaries down the years with his distaste for conspiratorial small talk.

He will expect no mercy in these mean and trying times.

Yet Robson's portrayal of Wenger is clearly an absurd caricature.

The man who 'doesn't understand the game' has won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups.

That same inadequate innocent has secured Arsenal a place in the Champions League for 15 consecutive seasons.

Think about it: not since Tony Blair's first administration was in its opening year have Arsenal failed to qualify for Europe's major competition and even then they played in the old UEFA Cup.

The consistency is staggering, the achievement extraordinary, especially when we reflect that he has also effectively built a glorious stadium and encouraged his sides to produce some of the most enthralling football the modern British game has seen.

Staggering consistency: Wenger with the FA Cup and Premier League trophies in 2002

Staggering consistency: Wenger with the FA Cup and Premier League trophies in 2002

In recent memory, the teams of Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas, back to Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira have set standards of excellence which speak of inspired coaching and sensitive development.

Yet this is the man whose head is currently being demanded by an avenging posse.

Loud of voice and short of memory, they seek a manager who will take them to 'another level'.

Well, in a spirit of helpfulness, I have compiled a random list of men who may be open to offers of employment.

Assuming that Pep Guardiola is unavailable, it includes the likes of Avram Grant, Roy Keane, Kenny Dalglish, Alan Shearer, Iain Dowie and Mark Hughes.

These may not be the kind of candidates who would slide snugly into the shoes of Arsene Wenger.

Clearly, I have no stake in this particular argument.

But we are considering the future of an authentic visionary, one of our most brilliantly accomplished football managers.

And so I say to the avenging mob: be very careful what you wish for.

The Dazzling Dozen in a truly great year

When you want to know what kind of sporting year it has been, you look at the BBC Sports Personality contenders.

Great year: Bradley Wiggins

Great year: Bradley Wiggins

In lean times, when achievements are modest, the odd, frivolous option sneaks on to the list; a darts player here, a snooker champion there. Not this year.

Eleven golden Olympians and Rory McIlroy: never has there been such an extravagant outpouring of talent.

So many candidates, several with gold at their necks, were reluctantly passed over.

There was no place for the extraordinary Alastair Cook, nor for a single representative of the national game, despite the winning of the Champions League.

That's the kind of year we've just lived through.

And if, when the votes are counted, Bradley Wiggins climbs to the top of the rostrum, just ahead of Mo Farah and Andy Murray, then I suggest that the matchless glories of 2012 will have been accurately assessed.

Football must see beyond money if it wants to tackle its problems

English football has a few problems. Nothing important. Minor issues involving racism, thuggery and a failure to understand the grotesque figure it is currently cutting.

The coin that sliced open Rio Ferdinand's eyebrow was symbolic of the problems which beset the game.

Disgraceful: Ferdinand hit on the head by coin from the crowd

Disgraceful: Ferdinand hit on the head by coin from the crowd

Disgraceful: Ferdinand hit on the head by coin from the crowd

Football is perhaps the last area of recession Britain in which a coin is seen not as an asset but a weapon.

Those whose task it is to portray the 'product' in its most sympathetic light – Sky TV and the Premier League – are at pains to point out that we have travelled far from those grim days of the Seventies and Eighties.

Yet still the echoes linger. Just listen to the young gentlemen at West Ham taunt the Liverpool fans with: 'Sign on, sign on with hope in your hearts. And you'll never get a job.'

It carries the authentic stench of Thatcher's Britain. The simplest reform becomes a matter for debate.

Gordon Taylor, of the PFA, makes the unarguable suggestion that nets should be erected by the corner flags, so that his members might be protected from coin-hurling idiots.

He is instantly shouted down by Steve Kelly of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.

Unarguable suggestion: Gordan Taylor

Unarguable suggestion: Gordan Taylor

'I don't think nets would bring safety,' says Kelly.

'The next thing would be wire mesh, then fencing, and we all know what that meant.'

It is drivel; trite, illogical drivel. Yet we sense that football will succumb to such foolishness rather than do the right thing.

And so a fine man like Lord Herman Ouseley walks away from a game which has been swamped by the self-interest of the major clubs.

And David Bernstein, at the FA, sees his reforming instincts cynically sabotaged by those whose sights rarely rise above the bottom line.

Yes, football has problems. Such a pity that it shows so few signs of recognising them.

P.S.

When they told Geoffrey Boycott that Yorkshire would stage the 'Grand Depart' of the 2014 Tour de France, he thought they were having him on.

Assured by his Test Match Special colleagues that this was indeed the case, he started to warm to the prospect: 'Riding up and down the Dales, it teks some doing, does that.'

He racked his brain for a famous cyclist.

Then he cackled, wickedly: 'Will that Lance Armstrong be coming'

Very Yorkshire; flattered by being chosen yet not overly impressed. I'm not sure the Great Race knows what it's in for.

Arsene Wenger backs club blocking Alisher Usmanov bid for Arsenal board place

Wenger backs board over Usmanov ban from Gunners' top table

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UPDATED:

23:45 GMT, 14 December 2012

Arsene Wenger has backed the club’s decision to block billionaire shareholder Alisher Usmanov’s attempts to win a place on the Arsenal board.

Usmanov has seen his plot to secure a place on Arsenal’s top table blocked by majority shareholder Stan Kroenke, so despite owning 29 per cent of the club, the Russian has no say in how Arsenal are run.

The bilionaire oligarch, who is worth more than Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, has been critical of the board’s running of the club.

Denied: Alisher Usmanov wants a place on the Arsenal board

Denied: Alisher Usmanov wants a place on the Arsenal board

Usmanov says he would seek to pay off the remaining debt from building the Emirates Stadium, with making large transfer funds available.

However, when asked about whether he would like some of Usmanov’s money to spend in the transfer market, Wenger replied: ‘I’ve always said the same, which is that we want to produce the money from our own resources.

‘Because we are in the Champions League, we can produce the money.’

Wenger’s comments show that he still backs the club’s self-sustaining financial model, despite the temptation of Usmanov’s bank balance.

Nevertheless, the Arsenal boss will go on a January spending spree as he looks to breathe fresh life into his faltering side.

Arsenal are facing up to an eighth consecutive season without a trophy, and growing numbers of supporters feel it is time for Wenger to walk away.

However, the Frenchman came out fighting at the club’s London Colney HQ yesterday, issuing a staunch defence of himself and his side.

Wenger has the total backing of Kroenke and has always insisted that he will not resign.

And when questioned about the level of criticism he has received this week, the Frenchman responded: ‘I am here for that, and [I get criticised] very well.

Support: Arsene Wenger backed the ban

Support: Arsene Wenger backed the ban

‘I am responsible for results. It is my job to take criticism, so I do it. I would prefer it if everyone says I am fantastic. I cannot say we were fantastic when we lost on penalties at Bradford.

‘Am I the right man to lead I have already answered this question. We are top professional people. What is important is what happens tomorrow, not what happened yesterday.’

Meanwhile, Arsenal will battle Manchester United for Stoke’s Asmir Begovic in January. Wenger has made a new keeper a top priority and Begovic is the prime target.

The Bosnia star, 25, has been scouted by spies as Arsenal work on an 8million bid.

But Wenger will be forced to battle it out with Sir Alex Ferguson. Sportsmail exclusively revealed United’s firm interest in Begovic last Saturday. Wenger wants competition for Wojciech Szczesny as No 1. Liverpool’s Pepe Reina and Swansea’s Michel Vorm are also on the shortlist.

George Groves confident of stopping Glencoffe Johnson

I'm going to knock him out! Groves confident of stopping Johnson for only second time in his career

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UPDATED:

18:22 GMT, 14 December 2012

George Groves hopes to sound a warning to the super-middleweight division by becoming only the second fighter to stop Glencoffe Johnson at London’s ExCel Arena tomorrow night.

Groves headlines the bill after Ricky Burns’ WBO world lightweight title defence against Jose Ocampo was abandoned for contractual reasons.

It will be the unbeaten 24-year-old’s second outing of a year interrupted by back and nose injuries and the significant cut sustained during his six-round stoppage of Francisco Sierra in July.

Tough: Johnson pushed Froch all the way when they met in 2011, losing by majority decision

Tough: Johnson pushed Froch all the way when they met in 2011, losing by majority decision

Johnson is a 43-year-old veteran of 70 fights and while he has lost 17 times, he only failed to last the distance against Bernard Hopkins in 1997, providing Groves with a target for the fourth defence of his Commonwealth belt.

'I’m ranked highly with all the four major sanctioning bodies so now I’ve arrived in world class I want to build on those rankings,' he said.

'I want to keep my options open with all the organisations so that if any door opens, against any of the champions, I can jump straight in. We’re already knocking loudly.

'Clearly Glencoffe knows how to survive and stopping him would make a huge statement. I do expect to stop him but don’t expect him to just fall over.'

Groves will defend his Commonwealth title against the veteran Jamaican on Saturday

Groves will defend his Commonwealth title against the veteran Jamaican on Saturday

Groves has victories over James DeGale and Paul Smith on his 15-fight record, but Johnson is indifferent in his assessment of his opponent.

'From what I’ve seen I’m not impressed as such, but I respect George as an unbeaten prospect with a lot of potential,' the Jamaican said.

'The way I look at it, the fight isn’t about George Groves. Right now, I feel good about what I can still do. If I fight smart I’m the better fighter. It’ll be up to the judges to do their jobs correctly.'

Groves's biggest win came against rival James DeGale at The O2 Arena in May 2011

Groves's biggest win came against rival James DeGale at The O2 Arena in May 2011

Prospect: Beijing 2008 Olympian Billy Joe Saunders is also on the bill

Prospect: Beijing 2008 Olympian Billy Joe Saunders is also on the bill

Billy Joe Saunders defends his Commonwealth middleweight title and fights for the vacant British belt when he meets former unlicensed boxer Nick Blackwell.

The 23-year-old 2008 Olympian turned professional at the same time as DeGale and Frankie Gavin, but is viewed by many as the most promising of the trio.

'I didn’t really get pro boxing at first. I thought that as long as I stayed hydrated and ate fresh food, I’d be okay. But now I really live the life, take all the right vitamins and supplements,' he said.

He added: 'I’ve not really shown what I’m about in the ring but people at our gym have seen a big improvement.

'Hopefully Blackwell will hang around long enough for me to really show my classy boxing.'

Stan Kroenke has been accused of having no passion for the club by former shareholder Lady Bracewell-Smith

'Why he wanted to be part of Arsenal I do not know': Stan Kroenke accused of having no passion for the club

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UPDATED:

00:29 GMT, 14 December 2012

Former Arsenal director Lady Bracewell-Smith has accused the club`s majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, of having no passion for the club.

The Gunners are currently attracting unwanted headlines for their on-field performances, while manager Arsene Wenger and the club`s board are feeling the heat from supporters regarding their transfer policies.

It is more than seven years since Arsenal won a trophy and questions are being asked about when that drought will end.

Accused: Former Arsenal shareholder Lady Bracewell-Smith took to twitter and accused majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke (pictured), of having no passion for the club

Accused: Former Arsenal shareholder Lady Bracewell-Smith took to twitter to accuse majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke (pictured), of having no passion for the club

Arsene Wenger and Stan Kroenke

Bracewell-Smith, who sold her shares in Arsenal to Kroenke last year but remains an honorary vice president, tonight took to Twitter to criticise the American amid the gloom that is surrounding the club.

'If making money was the motivating factor, surely there are better ways,' she wrote.

'Football is a business of passion and SK has no passion for AFC.

'(Kroenke) shows he cares very little. Why he wanted to be part of AFC I do not know.'

Arsenal were humiliated on Tuesday when they were beaten by Bradford in the Capital One Cup. During that match, Bracewell-Smith tweeted about striker Gervinho, calling him a 'flop'.

Arsenal"s American owner Stan Kroenke buys 80m ranch in the Rocky Mountains

Gunners chief Kroenke in 80m splurge… but let's hope he's got some change for Arsene after buying ranch the size of 71,000 Emirates Stadium pitches

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UPDATED:

23:34 GMT, 3 December 2012

On Saturday Arsenal fans marched against the perceived lack of financial muscle being flexed in the transfer market. How could a club with billionaire shareholders and some of the most expensive tickets in world football be unable to compete in the Premier League

News then, that 5,000 miles away American majority shareholder Stan Kroenke was putting the finishing touches to an 80million deal for a Montana ranch will not sit will with feuding fans.

The billionaire businessman has purchased the 124,000 acre site – enough to fit 71,000 Emirates Stadium pitches – in the Rocky Mountains, a fitting location considering the indifferent form of his team and the size of the task facing them if they are to maintain their place among England and Europe's elite.

Scroll down for video

Stan Kroenke's 80 million farm Broken O Ranch in Montana

Not bad: The 10,000-square-foot main house overlooks the Sun River and comes with indoor pool

River view: 20 miles of the Sun River run through the Broken O Ranch

River view: The main house looks out over the 20 miles of the Sun River that run through Broken O Ranch

Stone floors and hunting trophies give the main house a hunting lodge fee

Welcome: Stone floors and hunting trophies give the main house a hunting lodge feel

Arsenal currently sit tenth in the Premier League having endured their worst start to a season for 18 years. Rumblings of discontent among fans have become roars in recent weeks and much of the ire has been directed at the board.

Ivan Gazidis has bore the brunt of the criticism, though Wenger and Kroenke, who owns 66 per cent of the club, has also been heckled.

Covering the equivalent of 71,000 Arsenal pitches, the Broken O Ranch runs 3,500 mother cows, 800 replacement heifers and 175 range bulls.

Against the tide: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under increasing pressure from the fans

Against the tide: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under increasing pressure from the fans

Against the tide: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under increasing pressure from the fans

Such is the vastness of Broken O that the UK's second largest city, Birmingham, at 103 square miles or 66,174 hectares, would virtually fit into it twice.

Situated along the eastern edge of the stunning Rocky Mountain Front – the Broken O Ranch is regarded as one of the US's most grand and significant ranches.

It was owned by the Moore family who spent around 25 years building it up and includes more than 20 miles of the Sun River coursing through it.

The Sun River corridor provides exceptional brown and rainbow trout fishing, antelope, whitetail and mule deer hunting, as well as extensive upland game bird and waterfowl populations.

The main house looks over the 20 miles of the Sun River

Room with a view: The main house gives panoramic views right up to the Rocky Mountains

Broken O Ranch covers the equivalent of 71000 Arsenal pitches

Huge: Broken O Ranch covers the equivalent of 71,000 Arsenal pitches

Each year the ranch produces 25,000 tons of alfalfa hay and 700,000 bushels of small-grain crops.

Denver-based Kroenke, who is worth 2.5 billion, is now thought to be the eighth largest landowner in the USA following his latest purchase – owning an estimated 864,000 acres.

Real estate company Hall and Hall managed the sale for Mr Kroenke, who also owns a number of US sports franchises.

VIDEO: A look at the Broken O Ranch:

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Broken O Ranch spans three counties and is 45 miles west of Great Falls

Location: Broken O Ranch spans Lewis & Clark, Cascade and Teton counties and is 45 miles west of Great Falls and east of the stunning Rocky Mountains

 Broken O Ranch runs 3,500 mother cows, 800 replacement heifers and 175 range bulls

Legacy: Mr Kroenke is said to be looking forward to building on the work done by previous owners in making Broken O one of the most significant farming ranches in the US

The UK city of Birmingham could fit twice into the Broken O Ranch

Vast: The UK city of Birmingham could fit twice into the Broken O Ranch

Patrick Collins: Ignore the tacky "Rafa Out" crowd and the bigots, football"s silent majority must set the tone

Football's silent majority must set the tone, not the bigots who just want to be noticed

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UPDATED:

02:00 GMT, 2 December 2012

It was a tacky little sign, white
paint smeared on a blue banner, and it said: ‘Welcome to the circus,
starring Fat Rafa as the new clown.’ The letters were slightly smudged
and the ‘n’ of ‘clown’ was squashed against the banner’s edge, as if it
were an afterthought. But the man holding it up seemed strangely proud
of his creation. For the cameras were taking his picture and all was
well with his world.

Other placards sprouted around
Stamford Bridge to greet Rafael Benitez, their new manager. ‘Rafa Out!’ …
‘In Rafa we will never trust’ … ‘Rafa Benitez: Chelsea Fans Do Not
Forget’. The last referred to a trifling slur which the rest of the
world had long since forgotten.

But even as we sniggered, we realised that they had been noticed and thus their object had been achieved.

Spelling it out: Chelsea fans protest before Rafa Benitez's first game in charge

Spelling it out: Chelsea fans protest before Rafa Benitez's first game in charge

Rejecting a Chelsea manager even
before he started his job was clearly absurd but the antics of the West
Ham fans at Tottenham last weekend were darker and far more disturbing.

It is thankfully impossible to
comprehend the characters capable of screaming anti-Semitic insults,
chanting slogans about Adolf Hitler and making hissing allusions to gas
chambers.

But that was the kind of trash which
passed for banter at White Hart Lane and witnesses insist that hundreds
of visiting supporters joined in. You must have read about it; it was in
all the papers.

The clowns and the choristers were at
it again yesterday at football grounds across the nation. And while
their excesses were reported, nobody seemed in the least surprised. It’s
‘tribal’, you see; a way of making a point and gaining attention.

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Patrick Collins: How 65 seconds of confusion cost England their chance
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

It’s the sort of thing that they do,
because they see themselves as being part of the action. And many of us
find that genuinely disturbing.

Some time ago, I wrote a book which
considered the various ways in which fans follow their chosen sport.
Some are largely silent, as in golf or snooker. Others, such as horse
racing and speedway, are loud, passionate but distant observers. At the
big tennis tournaments they make their noise only when play is
interrupted, while at cricket Test matches the crowd have grown louder
down the years but remain essentially respectful of the nature of the
game.

And all of them — save, perhaps, the
dreary grotesques of cricket’s ‘Barmy Army’ — recognise the convention
by which the watchers watch and the performers perform.

Dreary grotesques: The Barmy Army in Sydney

Dreary grotesques: The Barmy Army in Sydney

True, there was a time, a few years back, when the distinction grew blurred and some of our major sports were interrupted by streakers. But they were happily eliminated, first by the certainty of arrest, then, far more effectively, by television’s admirable decision to turn its cameras away from their tedious caperings. The ancient truth was reasserted: nobody ever bought a ticket to look at the audience.

As the past week’s events have demonstrated, only football still struggles with that simple concept. Having paid extortionate prices for their seats — which they rarely occupy, since mob culture insists on mass standing — football fans demand a share of the spotlight. Obscene gestures, vile chants, abusive placards; anything goes, anything likely to get them noticed.

For those who truly want to cause spectacular offence, football offers an irresistible stage.

Abuse: West Ham fans taunted their Spurs counterparts at White Hart Lane

Abuse: West Ham fans taunted their Spurs counterparts at White Hart Lane

Thankfully, it remains true that the decent majority are deeply disturbed by the squalid excesses of the minority. And there are broad and hopeful shafts of light. Yesterday, at Millwall’s Den, the local South London derby with Charlton was played on ‘Jimmy’s Day’, an occasion which marked the murder four years ago of a blameless young fan named Jimmy Mizen.

In the years since Jimmy’s death, his parents have dedicated themselves to combating violence and raising the aspirations of young people and yesterday they joined with Millwall’s outstanding Community Scheme to celebrate the advances achieved. So we should not doubt that football can be a genuine force for good.

But too often it sells itself short. Too often it allows its tone to be set by chanting morons, or hissing bigots, or misguided enthusiasts with misplaced pride in their crudely painted placards; all demanding to be noticed. We cannot say with confidence that they would go away if we denied them the attention they seek. But it might be worth the effort.

Flintoff’s fight night is just a bushtucker trial in boxing gloves

His ring walk was fine, his glare was ferocious and he answered the opening bell with the urgency of a seasoned pro. It was then that things started to go wrong for Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff in the Manchester Arena.

Nobody ever doubted his heart or his spirit, since they are his stock in trade. No, his fistic limitations lay elsewhere, in the areas of timing, technique, footwork and strategy. And when a man enters the professional ring lacking all of those basic assets, then we know that we are watching not a genuine contest but a reality TV stunt; a bushtucker trial in boxing gloves.

In fairness, the matchmakers had done their work well. Richard Dawson was what boxing calls ‘a body’. Whereas Freddie was said to have spent the past four months in the gym, Dawson seemed to have passed his time in the Oklahoma branch of Dunkin’ Donuts.

He was two stones heavier than our hero and much of that poundage hung from his waist.

Stunt: Andrew Flintoff won his ring debut

Stunt: Andrew Flintoff won his ring debut

Yet still he threw the only authentic punch of the four brief rounds, a short left hook that took Flintoff off his feet for a few confusing moments in round two. As for Freddie, well, he tried his heart out because that is his nature. He flapped and he flailed, threw frantic punches from the elbow, like a man trying to swat an elusive fly. Yet nothing came naturally to him, since it isn’t his sport. Imagine Mike Tyson attempting a cover drive and you have the picture.

The television commentator, painfully anxious to create a sense of occasion, made much of the minor celebrities at ringside; all ‘good mates’ of Freddie, it seems.

And when the fight was done and Freddie had won — as we rather suspected he would — those good mates celebrated euphorically, as if a world title had been delivered.

Victorious: Flintoff celebrates a win over Richard Dawson

Victorious: Flintoff celebrates a win over Richard Dawson

David Price, the British heavyweight champion and a sensible chap, was asked for his view. ‘It was what it was,’ he said, benignly. ‘You can’t take it too seriously.’

Indeed you can’t, which is why Freddie Flintoff’s boxing career is likely to prove brief, trite and utterly forgettable. Such is the way of reality TV.

PS

England’s leading football clubs paid out more than 77million to agents in the 12 months to September 2012.

That’s 77m the sport will never see again, handed over for no good reason to people of no obvious talent for performing no useful function.

It is a scandal which screams out for investigation.

But nothing will happen, since the consequences would prove uncomfortable.

Still, the Premier League remains the greatest league in all the world. Don’t believe me, ask a football agent.

David Beckham set for Monaco talks and rules out Premier League return

Monaco lead the chase for Beckham after former England captain rules out Premier League return

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UPDATED:

17:42 GMT, 29 November 2012

David Beckham has revealed he has numerous offers to continue playing after his Los Angeles Galaxy career ends this weekend, with Monaco leading the chase, but the former England captain does not expect a return to the Barclays Premier League.

The 37-year-old will bring the curtain down on six seasons in Major League Soccer in Saturday's MLS Cup final against Houston, and clubs are already lining up to sign the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star.

French side AS Monaco have emerged as one of the favorites and negotiations are expected to take place after Saturday's cup final.

Plenty to ponder: David Beckham is considering his next move as his time at LA Galaxy draws to an end

Plenty to ponder: David Beckham is considering his next move as his time at LA Galaxy draws to an end

Final farewell: David Beckham will play his last game for LA Galaxy this weekend

Final farewell: David Beckham will play his last game for LA Galaxy this weekend

The 37-year-old is understood to be open to the idea of moving to the principality, but clubs in Russia and Brazil are also keen.

'I'm lucky because at 37 years old, I've been offered some exciting options,' Beckham told Sky Sports News. 'I've got quite a few offers on the table.'

Monaco are in the the second tier of French football, Ligue 2, following their relegation from Ligue 1 in 2010.

Fun in the sun: Beckham could be tempted by a move to Monaco

Fun in the sun: Beckham could be tempted by a move to Monaco

But billionaire Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev bought a majority stake in the club in December 2011, with ambitions to return them to the level they were at in 2004, when they were runners-up in the Champions League.

They are currently top of the league after 15 matches of the season.

But asked if a return to England was on the cards, the childhood United fan was more cautious.

'I've always said I think I would struggle to come back and play in England because I've played for the biggest club in the world, the biggest club in England, Manchester United, and I couldn't see myself playing for any other Premiership team.

Silver lining: Beckham has the chance to win his second MLS Cup

Silver lining: Beckham has the chance to win his second MLS Cup

'But you never know. Like I said, we've got some exciting options on the table. I do think we'll be spending a little more time in England because it's good for the kids to see their grandparents.

'Over the last six years it's been difficult not seeing them as much as we'd like and they'd like, but we definitely won't be leaving LA for good.'

Beckham's reluctance to return to England to play could disappoint new QPR boss Harry Redknapp, who is among those to have been linked with an offer for the midfielder.

Red for life: Beckham says he could not play for another Premier League club having played for Manchester Untied

Red for life: Beckham says he could not play for another Premier League club having played for Manchester Untied

But Beckham said he appreciated all the praise that has come his way from Redknapp and others.

'What I'm really touched about is the fact that I've still got great managers like Harry, like (Paris St Germain coach) Carlo Ancelotti coming out and saying great things about me, not saying they would like to sign me, but saying nice things about me.

'I've spent a couple of months with Harry when I was training at Tottenham. He doesn't have to say the things that he says so it's nice that he talks about me in such a nice way.'

Rangers win tax appeal "in principle"

Murray vindicated as Rangers win tax appeal 'in principle' after majority verdict

By
Graeme Yorke

PUBLISHED:

20:43 GMT, 20 November 2012

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UPDATED:

09:49 GMT, 21 November 2012

The tribunal which heard Rangers' appeal over their bill for the use of Employee Benefit Trusts has delivered a majority verdict allowing it 'in principle'.

The tax tribunal stated that the 'controversial monies received by the employees were not paid to them as their absolute entitlement'.

Rangers had argued that the payments, thought to be close to 49million, had been loans rather than wages and not subject to tax.

No verdict on any sum that the oldco Rangers were liable for was included in the findings, but Sir David Murray's company welcomed the verdict as vindication of their stance.

'In principle': Rangers' appeal was accepted by a majority verdict at the tax tribunal

'In principle': Rangers' appeal was accepted by a majority verdict at the tax tribunal

Oldco Rangers had previously stated they could be liable for up to 75million but the tribunal ruled that Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs assessment should be 'reduced substantially' with only some payments subject to tax.

'It was conceded that advances in favour of certain players are taxable and liable to NIC (National Insurance Contributions), and 35 we have found that, in certain other limited instances, there may be a similar liability.

'To that extent the assessments should stand. In these circumstances we expect that it is sufficient that we allow the appeal in principle.

Vindicated: Former Rangers director Paul Murray's company welcomed the news

Vindicated: Former Rangers director Paul Murray's company welcomed the news

'Parties can no doubt settle the sums due for the limited number of cases mentioned without further reference to the tribunal.'

Murray International Holdings, who were majority shareholders of the oldco club until Craig Whyte's takeover in May 2011, declared in a statement: 'We are satisfied that the Tax Tribunal has now published its widely awaited decision and note the contents thereof.

'We are pleased with the judgement which leaves minimal tax liability and overwhelmingly supports the views collectively and consistently held by our advisers, legal counsel and MIH itself.'

The decision does not affect the current football club at Ibrox, which was reconstituted as a new company when the oldco Rangers was consigned to liquidation in June.

New regime: Rangers' owner Charles Green

New regime: Rangers' owner Charles Green

MIH also called for an inquiry into the leaking of information surrounding the case.

A website devoted to the case won the Orwell Prize for blogging while a BBC documentary team won a Scottish BAFTA for their investigation into the payments.

The Murray statement continued: 'This has been an exceptionally long, difficult and expensive process involving not just the Tax Tribunal but also significant efforts to resolve the matter with senior HMRC officials on a commercially sensible basis for all parties.

'We will therefore review the detailed content of the decision with our advisers and legal counsel to ascertain what action, if any, is now required by MIH.

'While MIH has at all times respected the privacy of the Tax Tribunal proceedings, a substantial quantity of confidential information relating to the case has become available for public consumption stimulating considerable discussion and often ill-informed debate.

'This has been wholly inappropriate and outwith the fundamental principles of natural justice.

'We therefore formally request that the relevant authorities investigate how these sensitive details have been released so widely.

Relegated: Rangers now play in the Scottish Third Division

Relegated: Rangers now play in the Scottish Third Division

'We have instructed our lawyers to retrospectively review online and printed publications relating to the case to identify whether legal redress is either appropriate or necessary.'

HMRC revealed they were thinking about mounting a challenge to the decision, which was supported by two of the judges, Kenneth Mure QC and Scott Rae, but opposed by the other, Dr Heidi Poon.

A statement from HMRC read: 'We are disappointed that we have lost this stage of the court process and we are considering an appeal.

'The decision was not unanimous and the diligence of HMRC investigators was acknowledged by the whole tribunal.

'HMRC is committed to tackling avoidance and it is right that we challenge the type of avoidance seen in this case.'

What does the verdict mean in layman's terms

In the vast majority of cases, the tribunal has found in favour of Rangers Football Club in that the payments to the individual players were loans and they were at the discretion of the trustees of the Employee Benefit Trust. Basically, they were determined to be loans, not remuneration. On that basis, there is no further tax payable in terms of PAYE or NI (National Insurance), as HMRC was claiming. It is indicated in the ruling that in some cases, a minority of cases, the tribunal found in favour of HMRC so in those cases it was determined that is was remuneration, not loans, and PAYE and NI should be paid. But that is in the minority – in that vast majority, the verdicts went in favour of Rangers.

WHO IS LIABLE FOR ANY MONEY OWED TO HMRC

In the majority of the cases, it would be Rangers oldco. If HMRC was unable to reclaim those monies from oldco, could it pursue individual players Maybe. But it would depend upon the individual circumstances of each player, what they've done on their tax returns. There is not a clear, uncomplicated route in terms of recovering money from the players. HMRC's primary is to go after oldco for those monies.

WILL HMRC GET ANY MONEY FROM OLDCO RANGERS

There is only a certain pot of money available via the liquidation route. For those sums that were discussed, it just increases by a small percentage how much of the overall pot goes to HMRC. By Duff and Phelps' estimate, about four months ago, they thought there might only be about 1million available via liquidation. They would just rank along with other creditors to get a proportion of that 1million pot so it's not going to make a huge difference to the overall pay-out that HMRC get. They were already due 25million-plus of VAT and PAYE that Craig Whyte didn't pay.

COULD ADMINISTRATION AND LIQUIDATION HAVE BEEN AVOIDED HAD THE VERDICT BEEN KNOWN BEFORE CRAIG WHYTE'S TAKEOVER IN MAY 2011

What actually put Rangers into administration was the fact that Craig Whyte didn't pay VAT and PAYE. It wasn't the big tax case, and I think that's a point worth stressing, it wasn't the big tax case that put Rangers into administration. I think the big tax case potentially had two influences. Firstly, when Sir David Murray was trying to sell the club, it could well have put off some potential buyers of the club because the big tax case was hanging over Rangers. Without it, maybe other buyers may have come along, buyers who might have been a better outcome for Rangers than Craig Whyte. Secondly, after Craig Whyte had actually bought it, was he influenced by the fact that the big tax case was there Did that influence the fact that he didn't pay VAT and PAYE and didn't put more money into club because maybe he thought he was going to lose the big tax case anyway Only Craig Whyte knows the answer to that. There were probably a couple of junctures where the big tax case may have influenced the final outcome of events.

WILL HMRC APPEAL

It's difficult to say. It was obviously a very complicated verdict, it was only a majority, it was 2-1, it wasn't unanimous. HMRC are clearly disappointed by the outcome. I think they will take their time and consider the likelihood of winning an appeal and the benefits of pursuing it further to try to get a favourable outcome.