These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

FIT AND PROPER

Printed in the Ryman Premier League game v Horsham Monday 28th August (we lost 3-1 - but we are playing better away, honest).

In a few days time, after one hundred and ten years of history, Crawley Town Football Club could cease to exist. Just three seasons ago the club finally made it to the Conference Promised Land, had a great first season, built up good support and had a new council owned stadium. The future looked bright until a couple of bling-boys, Chas and Azwar Majeed, came along, giving it the large and promising league football and a whole lot more. They turned the club full time, splashed the cash, signing Daryl Clare for a small fortune and started paying silly wages to players.

After being sold to them with a zero balance sheet, the Majeed’s SA Group now claim the club, which has gone into administration with debts of £1.1m, owes them £750,000! Chas Majeed acted as chairman at first until the FA declared that, as an undischarged bankrupt, he was not a fit and proper person to hold such a position. Now fit and proper is certainly words you wouldn’t use to describe these jokers. In their short time in control, the Majeed’s have managed to sack the most successful manager in the club's history; sack dedicated office staff losing 4 employment tribunals because of their actions; slashed the wage budget in half and incurred a three-point deduction for bringing the Football Conference into disrepute. The brothers had stopped paying tax and National Insurance just two months after taking over the club, while Braintree and Boreham Wood officials complained to the FA that Crawley hadn’t paid their share of cup gate receipts on time and cheques had bounced. This season the club started with minus 10 points. Meanwhile with fan protests growing, known SA Group heavies attempted to threaten a teenage fan who was organising a protest against their regime, while Azwar himself is currently up on assault charges.

The Majeed’s even by their own admission haven’t a clue about football. And while selling beer in Brighton isn’t exactly taxing, running a Conference level club is another thing. Still, while the players and fans suffer, the Majeed’s have purchased a new sports car and announced plans for more nightclubs and restaurants.

You’ve got to ask yourself how these jokers ever got to run a football club? But then the list of dodgy owners is a long and illustrious one. Brighton, Wrexham, York, Doncaster, Kingstonian…the list goes on and on and on.

The FA’s ‘fit and proper’ rule for anyone who takes over a club is currently under review. It is also something the Independent European Sport Review have recommended become European wide, along with salary caps, home-grown player quotas, agent regulation and a legal obligation on clubs to release players for international team duty without compensation. Whether or not the footballing bodies will have the bottle to implement them all, well I wouldn’t hold your breath.

The issue about being fit and proper surfaced again recently when Alexandre Gaydamak emerged from anonymity to gain a 50% per cent stake in Portsmouth. Gaydamak's father is a Russian billionaire who is hiding in Israel and the subject of an international arrest warrant in connection with a 1994 arms-for-oil scandal in Angola. Alexandre denies business links with his father, which is obviously why they have a joint £5 million bank account (currently frozen by the authorities). But then of course we like dodgy Russian oligarchs being involved in the Premiership. In the aftermath of the Gaydamak deal the sports minister, Richard Caborn, reminded football of the European Sports Review which could mean that ruling bodies had a better legal leg to stand on if they ever decided to bar someone.

Until the legal minefield is made water-tight (and there’s a fit and proper test if you want to join the official England supporters club) clubs will always be willing to turn a blind eye if someone turns up with a big enough chequebook. But as the experience of Crawley supporters and countless others shows, turning a blind eye isn’t usually in the best interests in the long-term. The Majeeds said that buying Crawley was a business proposition rather than a footballing one, so does that matter? Well I reckon it does. The club has paid an important part of the community for 110 years, but thanks to the actions of a bankrupt and a thug they could lose their ground and have to start again from scratch in the Sussex County League. As for Majeed’s, well I reckon it would only be fit and proper for them to have to carry out some community service for the club like picking up litter after a game and having to clean the toilets, which would be poetic justice considering the crap the two have put the Crawley supporters through.

warren@brightonart.org

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