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article imageOp-Ed: Bribery, corruption and 'racism' in the not-so-beautiful game

By Alexander Baron     Nov 20, 2011 in Sports
London - It remains to be seen why any red-blooded heterosexual male should want to spend his Saturday afternoons standing on a windswept terrace cheering on 22 blokes in shorts, but millions the world over do.
That's the funny side, but the English version of what is mistakenly called the beautiful game is currently going through a calamity of gargantuan proportions, that is if you believe what you read in the press. And who does?
There are currently three supposed controversies playing out in the world of British soccer: the Chelsea Pitch Owners controversy, a financial scandal involving bribery, and the biggest but in reality most trivial issue, that of so-called racism in football.
First, Chelsea Pitch Owners. For a detailed history of this organisation, the reader is referred in the first instance to its official website, but very briefly, it was set up in 1993 to ensure that Chelsea continued to play at their Stamford Bridge ground in West London. Chelsea Pitch Owners is not your average limited company; for one thing, its shares are not traded on the Stock Exchange. Its structure is such that it is controlled by its shareholders, who being primarily Chelsea fans are in agreement with the founding mission statement of the company.
A few years ago, a Russian billionaire named Roman Abramovich turned up in Britain, and among other things bought the club and began pumping millions of roubles into it, and indeed into European football generally. This sort of thing is not a new phenomenon. For many years, British horse racing, the sport of kings, has been patronised by wealthy Arabs. The passion of certain desert tribes for horses: their breeding and racing is well known. While Arab investment in horse racing has been welcomed, for some reason there are those who regard Russian billionaires with deep suspicion. Rather than being eternally grateful to Mr Abramovich and thanking him profusely for injecting much needed capital into this sport not of kings - a gentleman's game played by hooligans - he has been regarded as by some as a fly-by-night property speculator whose primary goal is to get his hands on this prime piece of real estate and develop it into a business park, or maybe a complex of dachas for other, wealthy, ex-patriate Russians.
Last month, a bizarre internal dispute led to one shareholder in Chelsea Pitch Owners receiving what he perceived to be death threats. If the purpose of these Mafia style tactics was to influence the vote over whether or not Chelsea remained at Stamford Bridge, it failed miserably, because the Club managed to secure only 61.6% of the vote needed to effect that change; 75% is required.
Doubtless, this conflict will continue for the foreseeable future, though it remains to be seen why anyone outside the so-called beautiful game should care.
In North London, Chelsea's rival, Tottenham Hotspur, has become embroiled in a genuine spy mystery; it appears that the ongoing phone hacking scandal is not confined to the media. On Thursday morning, a 39 year old man was arrested following allegations of illegally obtaining bank and telephone records in connection with the bidding process for the Olympic Stadium. As most readers will know, the 2012 Olympic Games will be held in London. Although the games are transient, the resulting infrastructure is permanent, and there is more than one party that wants to get its hand on the Olympic Stadium when the athletes and crowds have gone.
It is surely the irony of ironies that while the supporters of one leading football club are battling to stay where they are, their rivals are equally determined to move, and apparently some parties are prepared to bend or even break the law to do it.
Which brings us to the racism row. This came to a head when Chelsea Captain and President of Chelsea Pitch Owners, John Terry, used a racial epithet against a black player during an altercation in a match against Queen's Park Rangers. This being judged as only marginally less serious than serial murder, Anton Ferdinand reported it, and the Metropolitan Police, who are so concerned for the welfare of young black men that they shoot dead the unarmed variety on the streets of Tottenham, mounted an investigation.
The non-controversy of the white soccer player with a big mouth and the black one with no sense of proportion has now become not simply a domestic non-incident but an international, crisis because the man who heads world football, Sepp Blatter, had the good sense to suggest that at the end of the game, players should forget their heated tempers and settle their differences with a handshake.
That is the simplest and best solution, but while the “anti-racist” lobby may be simple, you can be sure they will play this for all it is worth, and indeed they already have.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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