The entire football world should be delighted at the arrests of six Fifa executives in Switzerland this morning on warrants requested by US prosecutors. Fifa has successfully resisted reform, actively opposed transparency and supressed reports into corruption at the top of the world’s most lucrative sport.
No one will be surprised that president, Sepp Blatter, who was not one of the six arrested today, is deaf to calls for accountability at the top. He plans to stand in Friday’s election, no doubt keen to guide the Federation through its dealings with law enforcement agencies. Those arrested have yet to be charged with any crime, never mind successfully prosecuted, so Blatter has plausible deniability of wrongdoing on the part of Fifa, but under any properly constituted organisation he would step aside to let fresh blood reinvigorate the game.
The news that Swiss police are investigating the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process is even more welcome than the arrests. This investigation is separate to that being carried out by US authorities and may ultimately be more pivotal in freeing the game from the grasp of bribery and corruption.
Mike Ashley is getting his Rangers International PLC (RIPLC) General Meeting, on 12 June, at which, the directors of Rangers International PLC have decided to titillate shareholders with details of Rangers Retail Limited’s shareholders agreement, between the club and Ashley, although they note this agreement is subject to confidentiality agreements – and details appear to have been leaked today.
In an eye catching move, the directors of RIPLC are considering disapplying voting rights of shareholders who hold shares in other football clubs, in this case, Mike Ashley, who owns Newcastle United.
It’s worth saying this remains no more than bluster for now. They are “considering” disapplying rights and will lay out a “timetable for presenting a resolution for shareholders’ consideration”. I cannot believe they would be so self-harming that they would actually try to remove Ashley’s voting rights. Mike has the resources to destroy them in court, and it’s a tad futile to risk enormous legal consequences to disenfranchise someone when you and your supporters control the majority of shares. Ashley could easily circumnavigate any such act, should is be successful, but selling his shares to a trusted third party.
As such this element of the debate is futile, not even King is stupid enough to waste time and energy on it. He would lose heavily, and even if he won, Ashley would accommodate the outcome without breaking sweat. This is some tough talking but I’d like to see them try it (I genuinely would).
Two resolutions are proposed: the first by Ashley, that his £5m loan is repaid “as soon as possible”, in return for the release of security over RIPLC’s intellectual property, Murray Park, Albion Car Park and Edmiston House. Ashley is happy to hand this back, he’s a retailer, retail rights are what he’s interested in.
The second, proposed by the board, asks for shareholder approval to demand all of the club’s relationships with Sports Direct group companies, the loan, securities and the lucrative retail rights, are “renegotiated on a basis that is fair and reasonable”.
Here we get to the crux of the matter. Dave King told us months ago that Mike Ashley was a businessman, and that he would recognise the hand King dealt him and fold. The contrary view is that Mike Ashley is a businessman who will not be dictated to.
There’s a scene in Groundhog Day when lead character Phil, realising he can act without consequences, as even after death he’d pop up the next day as though nothing happened, drives onto a railway track.
Nodding to the oncoming train he says “I bet he’s going to swerve first”. Mike Ashley is the oncoming train. Trains don’t swerve. Groundhog Day looks increasingly likely, 06:00 will strike with an away day at Brechin under a provisional membership.