Greed is still good league

Former England manager Sven-Goran Erikkson is said to have been offered £3 million a year for the manager’s post at Manchester City.

“Greedchester United here.”

“Here is Joseph Stalin. Your club is for sale. I offer £990 million.”

“That’s very generous of you, Mr. Stalin. And I’m sure the board of directors will be delighted. We’ll have to show that you’re fit and proper person, but that’s always just a formality. Though I believe you annihilated 20 million Russians.”

“When was it proved?”

“Exactly, there are no court judgements against you, so I’m sure we can safely go ahead. And that you’ll be able to invest heavily in new players.”

“As many as you wish.”

Satire, of course, but then you do wonder how you can begin to satirise the takeover of Manchester City by the ex-Premier and fugitive from Thai justice, Thaksin Shinawatra. Of whose funds £l.1 billion have been frozen by Thai police on the grounds that they have been corruptly acquired. Not that this seemed to worry Thaksin who still had almost as much again to takeover City and promise huge expenditure on new players; not to mention new manager in guess who, Sven-Goran Eriksson, in highly prosperous retirement, courtesy of the nitwit FA ever since he talked himself out of his England job, leaving behind the meagre memory of what a poor first he made of the World Cup finals. He is said to have been offered £3 million a year and if Thaksin is mug enough to pay it to him, he will probably have to learn the hard way.

That Manchester City’s ineffable directors should have chosen to sell out to such a man should, I suppose, beggar belief, except that in so far as what I immediately termed on its foundation ‘The Greed is Good League’ is largely a stranger to morality. Never before, though, to this frightening extent.

For it’s not just the alleged corruption with Shinawatra able to answer that the accusations come from the military junta which overturned him and have yet to be proved in court. In so far as he refuses to be extradited, it is hard to know how they could be.

City have therefore found themselves able, at least in their own dim view, to ignore any charges of corruption though these are vast. Not mentioned at all, and ignored not only by the directors but by the Gadarene rush of fans to buy tickets for the new season, is the shocking record of violent oppression. Those warriors of justice, Amnesty International, have hardly minced their words. Here are some of the charges they have brought over the years at Thaksin’s brutal regime. But even these are mild by comparison with what ‘The Nation’, the Bangkok newspaper, has called the man: “A second Pol Pot.” Excessive, perhaps.

“Amnesty International has received credible reports of police ill-treating and torturing suspects in pre-trial detentions to extract confessions.” In addition, Amnesty lists the killing or disappearance over the years 2001 to 2004 of 16 opposition figures among them a prominent lawyer. A blitz on drug dealers in amphetamine is estimated to have entailed the slaughter of 2000. In the rebellious Muslim three Southern provinces, which are under martial law, 500 Muslims were killed in a year. Capital punishment was reinstated, and at one point the Thais and foreigners condemned to death by lethal injection amounted to 970. The persecuted hill tribes of Akha, Lahu and Karen face death or “discrimination with regard to education, health care and other basic rights.”

Never mind. The morally challenged directors will take the money and sell their shares, while the dead brained fans will sing their anthem “Blue Moon,” welcome tarnished Sven and wait to see the goals — so pitifully few under Stuart Pearce’s regime — roll in.

I suppose for those fans, even were they made aware of Thaksin’s depredations, Thailand — other than being a holiday resort and paradise for pedophiles — was simply, to echo the weasel words of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain when the Czechs were about to be savaged by the Nazis, “A faraway country of which we know nothing,” Holidays apart, of course.

“Fit and proper.” Oh, please. Are those who make their living, and a very large one, out of pornography fit and proper? That is the case of their two owners of Birmingham City, who have now decided to sell a large chunk of their shares. As owners of Birmingham, they have behaved so far as one knows with perfect propriety and probably saved the club from extinction, but pornography is hardly a fit and proper calling.

At Fulham we have Mohammed Fayed — the Al is an honorific he has bestowed on himself. He continues to accuse Prince Philip courageously of having had Princess Diana murdered, when she died in that Paris car crash with his son Dodi. He made fortunes before he ever set foot in England not least in his dealings with the notorious dictators of Haiti, Papa Doc Duvalier. He has still failed to acquire a British passport. But he has control of Fulham who, in fact, literally owe him a very great deal. Without him, their situation could well have been parlous; in the not too distant past they seemed likely to vanish.

At Chelsea, we have the oligarch of oligarchs, Roman Abramovich, with his infinite billions. But, like all the oligarchs — and he emerged from deep poverty — he owes the wealth which has severely distorted the balance of the Premiership to his close friendship with the late Boris Yeltsin and his daughters. Enabling them to invest in major oil companies and the like which, predictably unable to pay them off, allowed themselves to be taken over cheaply. Abramovich paid £50 (borrowed) million to acquire the giant Sibneft oil business, which was worth immeasurably more. Now Chelsea are the beneficiaries — though sometimes, when he appears to interfere to buy the disappointing Andrei Shevchenko and Michael Ballack at £130,000 a week each, it’s bad for the team and the club. Abramovich, unlike the gaoled, oligarch Khodokovsky, has had the good sense to keep in with the autocratic Putin. But his fortune has hardly benefited English soccer at large.

Manchester United has fallen to the Glazer family, whose father figure, though clearly an implacable capitalist, has no strikes against him. But look at the colossal debt which he has managed to impose on United! Legal, but proper?