Premiership to “follow government’s lead” on Thaksin

It’s being reported Monday that the Premiership will follow the UK government’s lead in determining whether Thaksin Shinawatra is a “fit and proper” person to run a league club. Unless or until he is convicted of a crime, or unless or until the league is informed by government that Thaksin should not be allowed to invest in the UK, Thaksin is in the clear.

Legally, it’s not clear how the league could follow any other course, and in my view this stance puts the onus where it properly belongs in this case–on the government. Government should assess Thaksin’s record and make a judgment; and government should also consider making human rights records an explicit criteria for evaluating football club owners, as proposed by one online petition in the UK. Currently, the “fit and proper person” test is focused on issues of financial wrongdoing, in keeping with its aim of preventing fraud-prone persons out of club ownership. Human rights issues of the kind being raised now have never come up before and are unanticipated by current policy.

The real question now then is, are the Brown government actively tracking this case? Is the government’s silence on the matter until now to be interpreted as de facto approval?

Interestingly, the reports Monday indicate that the Premier League will “monitor developments” in Thailand. This, at least, is a recognition that the Thaksin situation is unique and that the book may not quite yet be closed on Thaksin’s long-term ownership of Manchester City.

Finally, it should be noted that just because Thaksin is legally in the clear for now does not mean he is morally clear–in fact, that’s very much the question that’s up for debate that we’ll be taking a look at in the next few days.

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