Tuesday, November 28, 2006

World officials worry about English club takeovers

Football’s top global officials have expressed alarm at the web of foreign cash engulfing England's FA Premier League. The FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, disclosed that he has set up a working group with a brief to investigate the money behind some of the most prominent attempts to take over England’s top clubs. “I am very surprised that everybody is trying to take over the English clubs,” he said. “The Premier League must be a very attractive league. As long as people take over clubs for the good of the game and the promotion of the game, we have nothing to say against them. But clubs from the beginning belonged to the fans; when they have nothing to say, then we are worried.”

The FIFA group met for the first time yesterday in Zurich with an instruction to try to understand, as Blatter put it, “where the money is coming from and where it goes”. The working group is the clearest manifestation yet of Blatter’s concern that English football has become the biggest target for takeovers. Its inaugural meeting comes days after Eggert Magnusson, the Icelandic biscuit magnate, took control of West Ham United.

"Just as worrying to the FIFA president, though, is what he sees as the distortions in the transfer market caused by the richest clubs, threatening the competitiveness of championships," Kevin Eason commented in The Times. "He would not mention them by name, but Chelsea, backed by the billions of Roman Abramovich, were in his sights when he spoke caustically of clubs who could afford to buy 30 players and leave many of them on the bench."

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