Pompey change owners, a real bid for Newcastle & “only one in 20 England football fans will get to see Saturday’s match with Ukraine”

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “He is very similar to (former owner) Alexandre Gaydamak in many ways in that he owns the club but he wants to sit in the background and let the officials of the club run it. He is not going to be one of those that’s going to be out front… He passed it a month or so ago when we first looked to put this deal together. The Premier League were very happy with him then, they did their checks on him and everything I know about the guy – he seems a fit and proper person.” – Peter Storrie.

Runner-up: “We have invested more money than our competitors, in keeping with the history of the club. In the last 18 months, we have invested £128m on top of what has come in. That means it should be getting better. Now if it’s not getting better, it’s not Gillett and Hicks; it’s the manager; it’s the scouting. You have to make sure you balance out your analysis. There was plenty of money, so if you have any complaints, take a look at the ins and outs… [Liverpool are] in an extraordinarily good financial position. Far better than Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal.” – George Gillett.


Today’s overview: Do. Do. Do… Another one bites the dust.

As reported by Jamie Jackson, “Sulaiman al-Fahim’s disastrous spell as Portsmouth owner ended last night after only six weeks when he completed a deal to sell 90% of the club to the Saudi Arabian businessman Ali al-Faraj.”

But who is Al-Faraj? Nick Harris explains that while “the new owner of Portsmouth, has been variously described as a ‘Saudi property tycoon’, a ‘Middle East billionaire’ and a ‘mega-wealthy oil magnate’. Yet during a day-long search yesterday from Hampshire to Riyadh via Redditch and many points in between, The Independent found it impossible to substantiate very much about him at all.” Slightly more details are provided by Nick “as well as property, al-Faraj is believed to have holdings in petrochemicals, including the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation. However, he and his family are as publicity-shy as al-Fahim is fond of the spotlight.”

With Fahim now firmly in the background, the fourth estate go about assessing his period of ownership over the South Coasters.

Plain-spoken, Jamie Jackson chugged “Sulaiman al-Fahim’s six-week ownership of Portsmouth must rate as not only the shortest but surely the most ill-fated tenure in Premier League history.” Surprisingly though Simon Cass finds another fall-guy for Fahim’s failed tenure at Fratton Park. “Many Portsmouth fans are already blaming Gaydamak for the financial meltdown at the club and were unhappy with his surprise decision to sell to Al Fahim rather than the al Faraj consortium, which was brought to the table by chief executive Peter Storrie.”

Could Newcastle finally be about to be bought? Michael Walker reports that “Barry Moat submitted a formal bid for Newcastle United on Monday, a positive development in the Tyneside businessman’s attempt to purchase the club from owner Mike Ashley.” George Caulkin reveals more about the approach, writing “Barry Moat, the Tyneside-based businessman, hopes to push through a takeover after receiving guarantees from Barclays that he will be provided with working capital to run the club. His intention is still to appoint Alan Shearer as manager.”

With ownership of football clubs very much on today’s agenda, Richard Williams laments the Premier League’s universal perchance to “lift their skirts to rich men.” “The top tier of English football presents a gruesome spectacle in which clubs who should be leading prosperous existences find themselves lured by financial promiscuity to the brink of disaster… Skirts are lifted to any passing oil sheikh, while more and more clubs are willing to tie their destinies to a web of holding companies with tax-haven addresses, behind which the ‘ultimate beneficial owners’ can safely preserve their anonymity, like the customers of exclusive brothels.”

As international week takes hold of the football schedule, Daniel Taylor begins by putting the boot into Ben Foster. “There is an authentic sense that Edwin van der Sar’s understudy at Manchester United has blown it for this season… there is no escaping the fact that Foster’s form has become a source of intense disappointment for Ferguson and Capello.” Ian Ladyman also jumps on the goalie’s back shouting “Foster’s failure to take the opportunity handed him by a pre-season injury to Edwin van der Sar has been as hard to watch as it has been complete.”

Focus also remains on the fact that the England game will only be available on the internet.

According to Clinton Manning, “only one in 20 England football fans will get to see Saturday’s match with Ukraine – and they’ll be forced to shell out up to £12 for the privilege.” Gary Jacob adds “fans’ groups united to express dismay when no broadcaster was willing to pay the £2 million demanded by Kentaro, the sports marketing company that owns the rights, to screen the match live. For terrestrial broadcasters, the 5.15pm kick-off appears to have been a significant stumbling block given the fierce battle for the prime-time audience on Saturday.”

The Independent’s Nick Harris and Katie Nixon use the streaming of the England match to look at wider issues of football piracy online. “Football fans who regularly swap URLs for new, free sites, delight in it. But the Premier League insisted yesterday that it needs to protect its lucrative rights, and it is doing all in its power to stop illegal net broadcasts.”

Diving back into domestic matters, Kevin McCarra makes the case that there is a levelling down of the Premier League’s dominant clubs but that does not mean they are spent forces in Europe.”

Elsewhere, Tony Cascarino makes chopped liver out of Liverpool. “Liverpool are again relying far too much on a couple of top-class players because of a dearth of quality in their squad; second, there have been far too many players signed who are not of the required standard for a club of Liverpool’s stature and aspirations; third, they have developed a habit of conceding bad goals; and, finally, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer to put all of these problems right.”

Tucking into the Guardian’s European round-up, Sid Lowe celebrates Sevilla’s defeat of Real Madrid  for doing away with “the fear was that when it came to teams La Liga had become a page three dolly bird boasting two fantastic assets but precious little else.” Paolo Bandini investigates Juve’s defeat at Palermo, while Raphael Honigstein waxes lyrical over Bayer Leverkusen captain Simon Rolfes who “exemplifies a new generation of German footballers: thoughtful, agreeable young men who make up for a lack of god-given genius with extra effort on and off the pitch.”

Waiting for their first carcass to chew over, the fourth estate continue to suggest candidates for the sack race.

Andrew Dillion pretends that West Ham could actually get rid of Gianfranco Zola, claiming “Zola has been hauled in for crisis talks over West Ham’s current plight… Pressure is now growing on the Hammers’ Italian boss to dig them out of a rut, as they struggle second from bottom in the Premier League.”

Hyped-up transfers are also flying across the backpages, The Sun trying to convince readers that “Chelsea want Patrick Vieira – if an appeal against their transfer ban is a success. Manager Carlo Ancelotti sees Vieira as a perfect replacement for Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel when the pair go to the African Nations in January.”

Staying in Britain’s best-selling red-top we learn “Arsenal are poised to move for Standard Liege midfielder Steven Defour,” that “Manchester City are chasing Lyon teenager Miralem Pjanic – and are not put off by the £5million price tag,” and finally that “Fulham boss Roy Hodgson is trying to wrap up a deal for American Brek Shea.”

And the deals keep flowing, Alan Nixon tooting “Fulham boss Roy Hodgson is ready to make a cut-price move for Middlesbrough’s midfield star Gary O’Neil,” while the Daily Mail announce “Sunderland boss Steve Bruce is reportedly tracking Rapid Vienna duo Yasin Pehlivan and Nikica Jelavic.”