26 March 2022

Unfit and Improper

One of the collateral consequences of Shirtless Vlad's Big Adventure has been a passel of directives from various governments to oligarchs to divest themselves of sport teams and facilities. (Apparently, this is far more of a threat than, say, substantial interests in avionics firms. But who am I to prioritize matters for foreign governments? I'm only here to laugh at them.) One of the biggest, headliniest of these concerns the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovitch, the owner of Chelsea FC. Now, on the one hand, Abramovitch is actively cooperating, and pretty much supposed to be a nice-guy oligarch. (There's a decent argument that "nice-guy oligarch" is quite comparable to "honorable organized-crime paterfamilia.") So there's an active bid process…

And thus far, the bidding fun makes one think that only nationality will change. Leaving aside that England's rules, requiring that ownership of a football club must be only by a "fit and proper person," aren't equitably enforced — and fans of Newcastle United, Derby County, Notts (Nottinghamshire) County, and Portsmouth would wonder aloud (profanely and with good reason) about ownership groups connected to each of those clubs/bids for those clubs, and that's before getting into the question of utter incompetence — there's a common problem with all four identified bids for Chelsea, one of the biggest clubs in both English and world football: All four of them include persons who are unfit and improper.

Don't pretend that it's an improvement to throw out dubious Russian oligarchs in favor of dubious oligarchs from elsewhere. For example, no hedge-fund manager (I won't name the one I'm thinking of; you'll have to guess, since there's more than one, and I might actually consider all of them) is anything but an oligarch whose money comes from dubious sources — often just as questionable as ex-Soviet kleptocracy. This is just another variety of "sure he's a bastard, but he's our bastard"… which gave us Pinochet, Noriega, Nguyễn Khánh, and Pahlevi (to name a few examples). How'd that work out? Admittedly, ownership of a football club isn't control of a nation, but there's a slippery slope greased with expedient exceptions to principal in there. Somewhere. Under the mud (or, perhaps, the end zone).