Television Review: How to Buy a Football Club
Dispatches: How to Buy a Football Club
July 8, 2011 (Channel 4, 8pm)
Tonight’s Channel 4 episode of Dispatches promised much but ultimately proved to be a disappointment, subtitled as it could have been, “How to pretend to buy a football club from some dodgy geezers in a theme pub”.
That’s not to say the whole concept of club ownership in England isn’t rotten to its core of course, but the overwhelming feeling as Bryan Robson abused his role as Global Ambassador for Manchester United was one of weary sadness rather than outrage.
I for one didn’t really take seriously the claims of shady consortium London Nominees Ltd to have the wherewithal to broker deals to buy clubs – 9 in all were mentioned and the business that eventually came “closest” to falling into the hands of the investigative journalists, Sheffield United, remained unprocured at the end of the hour long show (this after their cross city neighbours Wednesday had been discussed as a proposition earlier in the piece).
Of course that may be because Channel 4 and their own almost equally shadowy front man Mr. Gupta were never going to stump up the cash, but as the hour wore on, the programme’s makers became increasingly sidetracked by an attempt to pin something – anything – horrible on Sir Alex Ferguson.
But it’s no surprise that Fergie must be subject to the attentions of the odd hanger on and the programme’s chief villain: businessman and advisor to the Thai FA Joe Sim became steadily and increasingly desperate in his claims to be a mate of the Scotsman. Minutes were devoted to exploring the relationship between the men and fleeting references to Sim’s “friendships” with others within the Aberdonian-Red Devils Complex (plus Kenny Dalglish) – all vigorously denied.
That time might have been better spent analyzing Leicester City owner Vichai Raksriaksorn’s relationship with Sim (if indeed they exist at all in reality) as well as his links to the likes of Peter Lim, the Singaporean who made an attempt to buy Liverpool in 2010, but these were mentioned all too briefly.
What we were left with was the sad tarnishing of a legend in Robson – his reputation already embattled after a spell managing the aforementioned Blades a couple of years back – and yet more certainty that fan ownership is the way forward wherever possible – but Channel 4 should have eschewed the hunt for viewing figures and left the Fergie sub-narrative alone.