Very fit and totally proper
By Mark Burke
I'm in Holland at the moment and one of my old clubs. Fortuna Sittard has been the subject of a take over bid. You know the type where a 'front man' is representing a very important business man from Dubai, Russia, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, the USA, Qatar (delete as appropriate) in this case it was a mixture, I think of Qatari, and Brazilian 'money' that was 'behind' the bid.
I put a lot of the words in inverted commas because when you read these stories you just know in a lot of the cases that it is not even credible enough to be called a lot of hot air.
You guessed it, this 'takeover' didn't happen and the 'front 'man' will now go off to parade his ego somewhere else. In the UK we have the 'Fit and Proper Test' which means we NEVER have these problems do we?
Below is a transcript given to me in confidence by somebody in the know which gives in detail the actual 'Fit and Proper' test that businessman have to go through so our clubs don't end up in the wrong hands, we wouldnt want that do we?
This test shows that not just anybody can own a football club, there is avert strict and 'robust' procedure they have to go through before they can get their hands on our football clubs.
Very fit and totally proper. Buying an English football club can be a long and protracted affair or it should be if its done correctly.
'Ah Sir, we see you have put in a bid for Everchester United'
'Thats great, just a few formalities and the clubs yours to do with what you like until you become bored or are indicted in your homeland for offences against humanity but I'm sure that wont be for a a good few years yet'
'So we'll just whizz through this form and then you'll be able to wash as much money as you like through the club, after all it's your club Sir or it soon will be'
First thing we need to ask, Do you have any criminal convictions? A standard question obviously doesn't apply in your case.
You served four years for involvement in a people smuggling ring but were released after two? Well that's hardly worth putting down is it? I'll just tick 'No major criminal offences', we can hardly call that a major offence can we?!
Next question, is the money legally verifiable? By that I mean, and I'm really sorry to ask this but it wasnt procured through criminal methods?
Im so sorry to ask about this but we have to ask these questions, hope you dont mind.
It wasn't? Nice and simple. That's good enough for me, I'll just put a nice tick in that box.
Now then, 'Do you consider yourself or the persons you are acting for fit and proper for the running of a football club?
I know that sounds a little official Sir but all it really means is do you trust yourself or the people you may be acting for? Yes? You do? I mean, of course you do, why wouldn't you? Your hardly likely to say you dont trust yourself are you!! What a silly question?!!
Ok, little tick there, ok that's fine. Are there any human rights issues we should be aware of? We know about the little people smuggling charge, don't need to mention that again, it's not that we're really bothered, its just administration and all these new regulations, I wouldnt be surprised if most of them come from Brussels and what a mess that is!!!
As far as I'm concerned what you do in your own spare time is up to you, I'll just tick the NO box to save time and we can get the form sent off. Right then that's all sorted oh yes, just one more question on the finances, this is a very direct question so please dont take offence Sir, you do have the money don't you?
So if I understand it correctly, the Company is registered in a small office above a shoe shop in Larnaca, Cyprus?
'Oh, nice place Cyprus, been there a couple of times myself' And this is a subsidiary of a parent company held under the major holding company located in the same office above the shoe shop?
Next question Sir, Is there a guarantor?
Yes he's the owner of the shoe shop? well you can't go wrong with that can you? Even if the economy is struggling peope will always need shoes won't they?
Sounds reasonable enough to me Sir. Little tick.
Well that should be about it, oh, nearly forgot to ask, presume the answer is No but you haven't got any close friends that are brutal dictators have you?
Again like I said before I have no problem if you do, it's your free time, in fact some of my best friends are brutal dictators, actually they're not but if they were it wouldn't bother me.
Good, good, didn't think so, it's a stupid question.
We'll just tick the NO box, soon be done Sir, sorry to keep you so long.
Now then, one final question, this is a new section of the fit and proper test, so we can test new owners knowledge of the English game, after all we wouldn't want anybody coming in not knowing anything about it would we?
That would look like they are only here for the money.
So there are several questions on the club your buying - Everchester Utd, now Sir can you show me where it is on a map of England?
I'll give you a little clue, it's in the north-west of the country near Manchester and Liverpool. No sir, that's London, little further north, No that's Watford, a little further up? No, that's Luton (between you and me you dont want to go there)
Actually I've just had a thought, I suppose Sir will be commuting by private plane from your home land or London because that's really where it's all at, you are hardly going to live in Everchester are you!!!
So you'll be commuting then?
Ah, that puts a different light on it, I suppose technically it's not important then.
I'll put a little note here 'displayed sufficient knowledge of area concerned to confirm local knowledge and honourable intentions'.
Does the applicant have any business history or any previous sports club ownership? 'Sir used to be a member of the local chamber of commerce and was also on the committee of the Larnaca regional squash association for 25 years?
Very impressive Sir, 25 years!! That must have given you a great insight into the running of a sports organisation.
Well then that looks like everything is in order, just one last thing, then we can go for a drink.
With your office being in Cyprus you wouldn't be able to sort me out for a nice couple of weeks in the sun would you?