While the English press seems focused on Cristiano Ronaldo's partying habits -- and really, who wouldn't want to know more about a poolside orgy with hookers from Leeds -- a former ambassador is focusing on a very different matter: Alisher Usmanov, the Russian steel magnate who's attempting to purchase Arsenal.
Craig Murray, who served as the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004, says that Usmanov's lawyers have written a letter to British newspapers that might be misleading. The letter reads:"Mr Usmanov was imprisoned for various offences under the old Soviet regime. We wish to make it clear our client did not commit any of the offences with which he was charged. He was fully pardoned after President Mikhail Gorbachev took office. All references to these matters have now been expunged from police records . . . Mr Usmanov does not have any criminal record."Murray, however, plainly disputes this.Let me make it quite clear that Alisher Usmanov is a criminal. He was in no sense a political prisoner, but a gangster and racketeer who rightly did six years in jail. The lawyers cunningly evoke "Gorbachev", a name respected in the West, to make us think that justice prevailed. That is completely untrue.After detailing some of Usmanov's alleged atrocities, he suggests that if Arsenal supporters allow Usmanov's purchase to happen, they're making a deal with the devil.Football now is about nothing but money, and even Arsenal supporters - as tight-knit and homespun a football community as any - can be heard saying they don't care where the money comes from as long as they can compete with Chelsea.Foreign ownership in the Premier League has been a controversial issue during this decade. UEFA president Michel Platini brought it back to the forefront by blasting the Premier League for allowing so many foreign owners to buy English clubs. The controversy swelled after former Thailand Prime Minister and current Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra became a wanted man in his own country. Should the Usmanov takeover of Arsenal happen, voices speaking out against foreign owners will only get louder.
I fear that is very wrong. Letting as diseased a figure as Alisher Usmanov into your club can only do harm in the long term.
(H/T: Pitch Invasion)
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Arsenal to be owned by Russian gangster?
Another excellent piece from David Warner at AOL: