Tag Archives: Assem Allam

Should Cellino Take a Leaf out of Cardiff Owner Tan’s Book? – by Rob Atkinson

Tan - fit & proper?

Tan – fit & proper?

With the Leeds United takeover still dragging on and on, it’s possible to imagine that Massimo Cellino is taking a glance around the rest of English football – and wondering what he’s done so wrong that the game’s highly-respectable and august authorities appear to be wrinkling their noses at him.

Should he, for example, be following the example of Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan?  Here is a man who has breezed into the club he’s bought and started treating it exactly like the plaything he obviously feels he’s acquired. Riding roughshod over supporters’ vehement objections, he’s now got the Bluebirds playing in red, he’s sacked the manager who did such a sterling job in getting them elevated to the Premier League for the first time since Noah was a lad – and he’s been heard disconsolately enquiring why the goalkeeper doesn’t score a few goals here and there.   The latest Tan bright idea was to offer his players a £3.7m bonus to avoid relegation, an incentive swiftly withdrawn after it was pointed out to Vapid Vincent that this was illegal.  Just to show they couldn’t be bought, his players went and lost at Spurs anyway.   Cardiff were certainly struggling under Malky Mackay – as is only to be expected in that perilous first season up.  But now, one ill-conceived managerial change later, they look doomed to relegation.  Fit and proper?  I wouldn’t want him at Leeds, thanks very much.

Allam - fit & proper?

Allam – fit & proper?

Or there’s the chap at Hull City, Assem Allam.  He doesn’t have much regard for history or tradition either.  He’s not going to change the strip though, as Mr Tan so controversially did at Cardiff. No, Assem likes the strip, and he likes the Tigers nickname that goes with it. So much so, that he wishes to rename the club Hull Tigers, exposing their horrified fans to ridicule from the rest of the football fraternity.  (Tigers, Tigers, rah, rah, rah!!)  To those who protested, adopting “City till we die” as their rallying cry, kindly old Uncle Assem has commented: “they can die as soon as they want”.  Fit and proper?  Hmmmm.

Sullivan/Gold - fit & proper?

Sullivan/Gold – fit & proper?

And further south still, we have those upright, downright pillars of the community who run West Ham – porn barons Sullivan & Gold.  Their avowed mission, to provide prurient entertainment, salacious scandal and gorgeous, pouting tits by the barrow load to every UK breakfast table, has not caused even the slightest of ripples at the FA or Football League.

Cellino - de facto LUFC owner

Cellino – de facto LUFC owner

Meanwhile, Massimo Cellino, having exchanged contracts with the useless GFH, is the de facto owner of Leeds United.  He has kept us going through what appears to be a cash crisis which would have brought the club to the brink of administration and disaster, were it not for his financial support.  Instead of going to the wall, United have been able to carry on, with Cellino paying off Enterprise Insurance – which has led to the sulky withdrawal of their petulant winding-up petition – paying the staff wages on time, funding the acquisition of two high-quality loan additions in the past fortnight and generally acting like a responsible – dare I say it? – fit and proper person to take Leeds United forward into a much more assured future – as compared to the last decade or so under a succession of potless chancers who the League appeared quite happy to see screwing things up.

Shaun Harvey - digging

Shaun Harvey – digging

Really – it’s almost as though the Football League, under that model of propriety Shaun Harvey, have a neat set of double standards and principles so flexible they might very well be called totally bent.  All those dodgy geezers in charge of other clubs, and not an eyebrow raised anywhere until this latest Tan gaffe.  And there’s poor old Massimo, doing his best, funding our skint club – and they seem to be digging deep for any excuse to tell him to get lost.  Perhaps the King of Corn should be trying to emulate the Kings of Porn in order to gain this elusive acceptance.  Perhaps he should change the Leeds United strip to pink with green spots, or start offering illegal bonuses  à la Tan at Cardiff.   Or maybe he could sweetly advise the denizens of the Gelderd End to accept a change of name to Leeds Peacocks, or end up sleeping with the fishes?  Any of these seem to attract more official approval than the Italian’s current, inoffensive and supportive stance.

It does make you wonder – doesn’t it?

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Time to Do Away With Megabucks Ownership and Let Fans Run Clubs – by Rob Atkinson

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Vincent Tan: clueless

The time is fast approaching when the people who know what the game in this country is all about, are going to have to stand up and be counted.  I mean, of course, the fans – and I write in the full awareness that too much standing up can lead to you being evicted from some of the more authoritarian clubs in the various leagues.  But this type of standing up would be symbolic.  It would send out a signal that we, the fans, have had enough of clueless owners and chairmen manking about with our game.

In the last week or so, it’s been carnage in the Premier League alone.  Steve Clarke of West Bromwich Albion has been sacked, a decision that makes lighting that extra boiler to get a few more leagues of speed out of the “Titanic” seem like a model of sober judgement.  Andre Villas-Boas has gone too, a victim of his club’s failure to hang on to their star performer from last season, Gareth Bale.  Anyone who saw the look on the face of Danial Levy during Spurs’ 5-0 demolition by Liverpool would not have given much for AVB’s chances of avoiding the pre-Christmas axe.  Meanwhile, up in Hull, battle-scarred old warhorse Steve Bruce is having to hide behind a sickly grin and pretend that it’s OK that Hull’s megalomanic owner, Assem Allam, is planning to trample all over the finer feelings of City’s support by forcing through a name change to Hull Tigers whilst inviting those who vociferously object to “die as soon as they like”. Tigers, Tigers, rah, rah, rah!

And now we have the news that Cardiff City’s clueless owner Vincent Tan has told his successful manager Malky Mackay – a hero to the Cardiff fans, and rightly so – to either resign, or be sacked.  Presumably Mr Tan feels that Mackay has been interfering too much in team affairs, and not listening to the vast wisdom of one V. Tan Esquire.  Who does this jumped-up little pro think he is, after all? Doesn’t he know whose toy Cardiff City is??

In truth, it’s beyond a joke already.  Good, honest pros are at the mercy of clueless amateurs whose only qualifications to be where they are in the football hierarchy are a stuffed wallet and a fool’s ego.  It’s way past time that somebody, somewhere, got a few people of common sense and influence together – or failing that, the likes of Bobby Charlton and Trevor Brooking would do – and set to discussing an alternative model for the game in England – before these spoiled, rich-kid charlatans ruin it beyond repair.

You wouldn’t have to look far to find that alternative model.  Go East, young man – cast your eye and focus your thoughts across the North Sea and look how things are run in the Bundesliga of good old Deutschland. Wonderful stadia with safe standing, reasonable ticket prices, a fantastic league nurturing a successful national team – and the fans involved at every level, helping make the decisions that ultimately affect them, for the good of all – not just some bloated plutocrat with a brain full of damp rot and the arrogant belief that wealth justifies autocracy.

Football in this country has a long history of being in thrall to a clutch of well-to-do local businessmen, but at least there was a hint of democracy in the old-style board of directors.  Now it’s CEO’s here and Directors of Football there, and all frantically knuckling their brows to whichever barmy billionaire sits on top of the whole creaky edifice.  They say with power comes responsibility, but not in English football.  No, sir.  These people delegate the responsibility whilst hanging on to the power.  They hire and they fire and then they do it all over again.  As the process goes on, so the credibility of the game diminishes – what’s the reaction of the fan in the street when he hears that an excellent coach like Steve Clarke has been sacked before the season is half-over?  Why, they laugh derisively, clearly unaware of the respect due to some stockbroker and investment banker who happens to own most of West Brom – despite being unburdened by any knowledge of the game.

Sadly, it looks nigh-on impossible to transform our game into anything resembling its efficiently-successful German counterpart.  Too many vested interests, too much money involved – and far too many tender, fat, sleek egos which demand to be stroked and adored whilst being party to amateurish decisions that would shame a Tory minister.  So it looks as though we’ll have to put up with what we’re reluctantly witnessing happen – and resign ourselves to the game here become ever more like the franchise system of American Football.  Yay.

When’s the next home Ashes series, anyone?

Leeds Bête Noire Bates Replaced as Football’s Panto Villain by Hull’s “Doctor Death” – by Rob Atkinson

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Smile on the face of the tiger – disgraceful Allam

Leeds United fans know all about how it feels to have your club owned by a man who makes your teeth curl up with embarrassment, someone who has only to open his mouth to reveal the yawning cavity inside his skull.  Thankfully, Bates is now consigned to the dustbin of Elland Road history – give or take an outstanding court case or two – and the club can finally look forward to a future unencumbered by the whims and conceits of an irascible and unrepentant old man.  Some will mourn the loss of one of football’s “characters”, but really – with characters like that, the game would swiftly lose the plot. And anyway, it seems that there is another of the Batesian ilk, making a bad name for himself over in the Far East, in that soon-to-be City of Culture, Hull.

Hull City owner Assem Allam could be seen on the TV earlier this afternoon, simpering away to himself as his team of tigers beat Mighty Liverpool, courtesy of two wild deflections and some truly appalling Scouse defending.  The atmosphere at times was really quite deafening, the Hull fans – not noted for the passion of their support – belting out “City Till I Die” in a manner calculated to rock the rafters.  Allam bore the look of a man who felt he had personally inspired such vociferous support – and in a way that was true.  For Allam’s pre-match comment on the song rendered with such feeling by his club’s fans was that  “I don’t mind ‘City till we die’. They can die as soon as they want, as long as they leave the club for the majority who just want to watch good football.”  Not the most subtle of rebuffs for those City fans who are protesting against Allam’s proposed change of the club’s name to Hull Tigers.  In fact some would say that they were the words of a man disposed to let his mouth work without any apparent connection to his brain; the words, in short, of an intemperate oaf.  Most unsuitable for a future City of Culture.  But Allam was not content with one yobbish sound-bite.  He went further:

“How can they call themselves fans, these hooligans, this militant minority, when they disturb and distract the players while taking away the rights of others to watch the football, and of companies who have paid good money for advertising?

“If they want to express their feelings they are free to do so, either outside the stadium or pay to take [advertising] space.

“Seriously, they are welcome to talk to the stadium management about buying a space for a permanent banner, 10 times as big if they want. I am a supporter of democracy. I would have no issue with that.”

The City fans have organised themselves in an attempt to stop Allam from ripping away at their traditions and history in the name of tacky commercialism.  They will have noted with dismay that the Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan has succeeded against the protests of that club’s fans in changing the teams colours from blue to red, leaving them with the humiliating spectacle of their beloved Bluebirds turning out, in effect, in a strip that is a betrayal of their long-standing identity.  Tan’s regime  is also now threatening the future of popular manager Malky Mackay; the fans see this as a step too far and are issuing stern warnings and organising protests against such folly.

There is a growing and worrying need for sets of fans to form action groups against various pieces of arrant folly on the part of people who have bought football clubs in the evident belief that they then have the right to do whatever they like with those clubs.  The model appears to be based on the franchise system common enough in the States, where owners do have this licence to operate exactly as they please, even to the extent of closing down or relocating their toys, under a new identity and perhaps thousands of miles away. That’s just too horrible to contemplate for English football and, in the absence of any obviously helpful legislation to protect traditional interests, it does seem that the fans have little choice but to band together and get militant.

The conclusion is difficult to avoid that the game in this country has taken a wrong turning in making conditions so propitious for loaded foreigners to come in, buy their trophy clubs and then, with little or no understanding of the history and social impact of those clubs, set about bending them unrecognisably out of shape.  It may be that Assam is not aware of how embarrassing the Hull City supporters find it when opposing fans mock them by singing “Tigers, Tigers, rah, rah, rah!” at them.  But any football fan would completely understand that kind of humiliation – so why make things worse with a complete Tigers re-branding?  Does Tan at Cardiff honestly have any idea of the impact a change from blue to red has had on the fans of that club? Of the stick that the fans will have had to take from their despised rivals in Swansea? It seems doubtful that these people, flush with cash and arrogance, either know or care.

Both Hull City and Cardiff City are currently proud members of the Premier League – so things could be worse.  Both are doing OK as well.  But if you asked me, as a Leeds fan: would I settle for success at the kind of price being expected of fans of the two City teams – then I’d have to say, resoundingly: NO.  History and tradition count for a lot in football. This new wave of minted foreign ownership is set fair to suck the soul out of the game if the trend is allowed to continue.  That then becomes a national cultural issue and – surely – some Government department should be sitting up and taking notice.  And really, they should be taking notice now – and thinking about some possible protective action now as well.  Otherwise we will be doing the usual futile thing of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.  You can’t get much more uselessly British than that.

This footballing Tale of Two Cities is a definite pointer away from the creeping, insidious growth of clueless foreign ownership – and that’s not a xenophobic stance, it just so happens that most of the new owners are not from these Isles – which probably explains their lack of appreciation of just what the game here – and the fan culture – are all about.  It will be far too late to do anything about it when someone like Allam or Tan – or indeed like Bates, who proves that arrogant idiocy is not simply a matter of foreign nationality – decides that Hull isn’t a good place for a football franchise, and relocates them somewhere else entirely, with a snazzy new name to attract untapped local support.  It could easily happen – who speaks then for the disenfranchised Hull City fan of fifty years faithful support?

If we did move away from the current situation, we could do a lot worse than look to Germany, and their preferred system which relies heavily upon community-involved, supporter-owned football clubs which are part of the local fabric and represent the heart and soul of the fans.  It works very well in Germany, and certain clubs elsewhere – notably Barcelona – benefit from a similarly democratic and inclusive situation.

Whatever the future brings, I wish the supporters of Hull and Cardiff all the best as they struggle to retain their clubs’ identities in the face of unsympathetic ownership structures.  They will need all the luck and good wishes they can get – but if they succeed, it’s good for all of us – because it would send out a definite message that every football fan of every team should endorse: You’re welcome here, Mr Billionaire, and so is your money – but don’t you dare mess about with MY club.

Perhaps then, fan power would really have found its feet and organisations like IMUSA, LUST, and the protest groups at Hull, Cardiff and elsewhere can start to exercise a real and responsible on the game in this country.  That, if you think about it, is what will be needed if we’re ever to give the People’s Game back to the rightful owners.  And they are of course the people – us, the fans who love football and want to see it prosper – in the right way, the proper way, the traditional way.

Not – please note – as some rich guy’s toy to play with, break and then discard as a bored and spoiled child will tend to do.  Messrs Allam and Tan, and all the others – be warned.