AN UNDERCOVER investigation has revealed that Sheffield’s big two football clubs were touted for sale in the back room of a Bangkok bar.
A group posing as Indian and Chinese businessmen were reportedly offered the ownership of Sheffield United AND Wednesday by Thailand-based football investment fund London Nominees.
The secretly-filmed meeting was set up by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme in Bangkok’s Manchester United bar and involved former Blades manager Bryan Robson who was seen as advising the London Nominees representative.
United were revealed as the £15 million plum deal at the climax of the one-hour programme and were said to be open to a takeover which was being offered by the Bangkok Manchester United bar owner Joe Sim to the undercover team.
Sheffield United Chairman Kevin McCabe’s son Scott McCabe was pictured with Sim and members of the consortium on the pitch at Bramall Lane.
United confirmed they had met Joe Sim of London Nominees Football Fund as a potential buyer but insisted: “We can only strongly repeat what was said by director Scott McCabe in the Dispatches programme. The potential for any deal died a death.
“Our owners, as good custodians of the Blades, would always insist that any potential sale of the of club would be the subject of full due diligence checks. They are as concerned as anyone about the concealment of football club ownership and the issues of dual ownership. The McCabe family have a great love and affection for the Blades and will always have the long-term interests of the club at heart.”
A Wednesday spokesman said: “As far as Wednesday is concerned the content of the programme is irrelevant. The timeline of the investigation was March this year. Wednesday was taken over by Milan Mandaric in December last year.”
The programme revealed Sim as reportedly the real power behind the fund and an alleged close contact of Sir Alex Ferguson and Mohamed bin Hammam the man who tried to go for FIFA’s top job but was suspended pending an investigation into alleged violation of FIFA financial regulations.
At one point the investigative team also proposed that Robson would have to be manager of Sheffield Wednesday for any deal to go through.
Although one voice said off camera ‘no problem’, Robson said: ‘That would be difficult, I’m now working as a global ambassador for Manchester United”.
Later Robson and his associate said ‘Sheffield Wednesday has gone now, they were taken over six months ago’.
Robson also said: “Build a club up from nothing and say it was worth three million when you bought it and now you can sell it for £150million - that’s great business by you.”
Later the London Nominees group denied it was offering ownership of two clubs - against Football League rules - but said it was offering an investment in a group that would put funds into the clubs.
Barnsley FC were also mentioned in the programme when an investigator discovered the club was registered to Oakwell Holdings but all shares are registered to a Manchester solicitor who said he did not own the club but could put the investigators in touch with the people who were.
Greg Clarke, Chairman of the Football League admitted he is not confident that he knows who the owners are of every club in the Football League and said the complex ownership structures of many clubs made that virtually impossible.