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Right now, Chelsea are hosting the Leaders in Football conference, billed as “the world’s most exclusive football business event where 1,000 senior executives linked to International Clubs, Leagues, Federations and Brands come together over 3 nights and 2 days at Chelsea FC to learn, network and do business.”
In my inbox this morning dropped not a last-minute invitation — not sure how I was missed off — but a PR release touting a speech at the event by Football League chairman Brian Mawhinney, in which he expressed concerns about the sustainability of the English game’s growing reliance on the “very rich.” Mawhinney asked, “Can a huge dependence on the personal or corporate wealth of individuals outside the game and on television revenue ever be sustainably sound in the long term? In my view these models need reworking sooner rather than later.”
Though this wasn’t a weak statement in a conference whose attendees include representatives from almost every billionaire in football, more important than speeches and hobnobbing at such an event is action (though it should be noted the Football League have taken the lead in recent years on regulating the games excesses). As David Conn points out today, the Football League have an ideal chance to show some teeth just this week in terms of regulating the “very rich’s” at times shady investments: the League’s board will be considering whether Notts County, Leeds United and Queens Park Rangers’s owners pass the “fit and proper persons” test.
As Conn points out, all three have serious question marks concerning their ownership, and if Mawhinney does want to start protecting the game from an unhealthy reliance on the mysteriously rich, he should start in his backyard.
- Speaking of the money in the game: The Rich Lists are out from Four Four Two magazine. At the top of the richest owners list, you won’t find Chelsea’s Abramovich or even Man City’s bin Zayed Al Nahyan — it’s QPR’s Lakshmi Mittal, worth a mighty £18.4bn. Mittal, though, only owns 20% of the club (which he purchased for the change he found in the bottom of his laundry basket, £200,000, in 2007), and the question is whether he will buy out the disgraced Flavio Briatore and start pumping some of that into the club — and perhaps thus also save QPR from an embarrassing failure of the fit-and-proper persons test.
- And more on the “very rich” rushing to the English game: Portsmouth’s new owner, Ali Al-Faraj, continues to come under the media microscope, though the Times uncritically buys the line that Ali is there for the good of the game and to pump money into Portsmouth (with the ever popular tactic of promising to spend money in the next transfer window). The first curious cat is already out of the bag, as Avram Grant returns as Director of Football.
- There was a lot of buzz in American soccer circles about the possibility of DC United moving to nearby Baltimore, in the wake of news that Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon had written to the Maryland Stadium Authority asking the agency to study the possibility of building a new soccer-specific-stadium. DC have responded with an open-ended statement that certainly doesn’t rule the move-out. While some might say DC fans ought to snatch this offer to end their long search for a stadium, and avoid the prospect of a move to (say) distant St. Louis, Baltimore just isn’t DC.
- The New York Times looks at the political situation in Honduras, where the U.S. play a key qualifier this week,
- Would you take Roberto Carlos for free? That’s apparently the offer Real Madrid have on the table, after the Brazilian offered his services to the end of the 2009-10 season for nothing. Quite how much he has left to give in return, even for nothing, is unclear.
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.