Friday, June 15, 2007

The soap opera continues

The soap opera that is Leeds United continues. I don't normally believe in politicians intervening in sporting matters and I would not normally be supportive of a Lib Dem MP who was critical of my own team. However, you can see here what I think of our insolvency laws and the current goings on at Elland Road.

Now Lib Dem MP Phil Willis has laid down an early day motion in the House of Commons which according to yesterdays Guardian "urges law-enforcement agencies to mount inquiries, calls for greater transparency in the ownership of football clubs and urges HM Revenue and Customs to challenge in court the conduct of the administrators of Leeds United."

Meanwhile according to the Guardian sportsblog "aggrieved creditors have 28 days to challenge a company voluntary arrangement which settles an administration, and several creditors of Leeds United are understood to be taking legal advice about whether to do so. Several avenues are being investigated, one of which is to contest the FA and League's football creditors policy, which requires all money owed to those in the game, including players and other clubs, to be paid in full, while at Leeds the other creditors, which include schools, hospitals, the police, ambulance service and St John Ambulance, are to be paid just 1p in the pound."

Leeds also escaped a potential 10 point deduction by going into administration before the final game of the season when it had become clear that they were almost certainly relegated in any case. The Football League has closed that particular loophole. From next season any club that goes into administration after the fourth Thursday in March will have their 10 point deduction suspended. If they are subsequently relegated then the points will be deducted from the start of next season. If they stay up then the 10 points will be taken off their final total for the current season as a consequence of which they may then be relegated.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thaksin update

The Thai authorities have frozen assets belonging to Thaksin Shinawatra. The committee which has been investigating claims of corruption has ordered accounts worth about £830m to be frozen.

It would appear from this report here that this action may have an impact on the proposed takeover of Manchester City. Thaksin's people were supposed to be performing due diligence on the proposed takeover but now Man City are asking questions about the impact of his assets in Thailand being frozen.

Now the military government have stated that Thaksin Shinawatra is free to return to Thailand in order to pursue a legal challenge against the freezing of his assets. Indeed the current Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has said that he would personally guarantee Thaksin Shinawatra's safety if he did return to Thailand. Apparently he has been given sixty days in which to return and make a legal challenge for the return of his assets

This is an interesting development. He has been banned from all political activity for five years and his political party Thai Rak Thai has been dissolved. Until now the line taken by the military government is that they do not want him to return until after elections (originally scheduled for October) which are supposedly going to take place in December.

Now the government appears to be backing Thaksin Shinawatra into a corner – effectively forcing him to return to reclaim his assets. There are already demonstrations against the military government in general and the dissolution of Thai Rak Thai in particular. Thaksin’s presence in the country would seem to be likely to add to such demonstrations and increase the potential for serious civil disorder.

Being cynical one might think that the military government would have encouraged him to withdraw his assets from Thailand and then claimed this as evidence of “guilt”. Maybe they attempted to do this and he refused to be drawn into acting in this way.

Either way one has to conclude that the military government is deliberately attempting to bring matters to a head. Sadly I suspect that this means that the government feels that it now has sufficient control over the military units to ensure that it can crack down hard on demonstrations if it feels the need to do so!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Zero emission homes

According to the BBC the first zero emission home has been unveiled. This two bedroom house (see above) is insulated to lose 60% less heat than a normal home. It also features solar panels, a biomass boiler and water efficiency devices such as rainwater harvesting.
According to the report "The home generates all its own energy - and when you're away on holiday can send electricity back to the National Grid. The company says its annual energy bill would be £31, as compared to £500 for the standard new home of this size."
This is all great news but I guess the important thing is how quickly this sort of design and technology get incorporated into all new homes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A new twist to blue on blue

According to The Guardian the US is currently arming Sunni dissidents in Iraq. Apparently "Arms, ammunition, body armour and other equipment, as well as cash, pick-up trucks and fuel, have already been handed over in return for promises to turn on al-Qaida and not attack US troops". Whether or not such promises extend to British troops is not clear and frankly from the tone of the article there seems to be a fair amount of scepticism as to whether or not the Sunni dissidents can be relied upon to hold to their promise. American forces already have quite a reputation for so called "Blue on Blue" incidents otherwise known as friendly fire - blue being the friendly forces and red being the enemy forces. I guess this will lead to cases of purple on blue where US forces will be killed and injured by enemy combatants firing bullets supplied by the US. And we wonder why we are so mired in Iraq!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ban on political activities partially lifted

According to the BBC the ban on political activities by parties in Thailand has been lifted.

Obviously this will not include Thai Rak Thai which has been dissolved by order of the Constitutional Tribunal.

However, according to the Bangkok Post this is only a partial lifting of the restrictions stating that "the cabinet agreed to partially lift the Council for Democratic Reform's Announcement No 15 and allow political parties to be meet and act, with immediate effect"

This addresses section 1 of Announcement number 15. However it does not address the issue of the setting up and registration of new political parties (section 2 of Announcement number 15) and given the dissolution of Thai Rak Thai there is likely to be significant demand for at least one new party. Apparently this will be addressed by the Council of State who are to look at a a bill to "modify section 2 of the announcement". The critical word here would seem to be modify. If there were to be no ban on new political parties then section 2 could just be lifted and the implication of the need to modify it is that this is not to be the case!

Monday, June 04, 2007

The madness of our insolvency laws

So Ken Bates rules supreme at Elland Road once again. According to the BBC Ken Bates put the club into administration with debts of £35m. He needed 75% of creditors votes to buy the club back and after a recount got 75.2% of the creditors to back his plan which gives them just 1p in the £1. Superficially one might say all well and good but there are a lot of other factors at play here.

At the creditors meeting there were 6 bids in total 5 from UK bidders and one from the USA.

However two of the creditors (Astor Group and Krato Trust) would only support the Bates bid and held enough votes to defeat any other bid. Neither the administrators nor the solicitors know the identities of the beneficial owners of the Astor Group. Apparently Astor loaned the club £12.1m less than a couple of months ago shortly after they had served a final demand for £5m. This increased the debt and (coincidentally) increased their share in the voting process to such an extent that they would be in a position to dictate the eventual outcome

One of the bids would have returned 18p in the £ to creditors and yet a deal which returned only 1p in the £ was pushed through by groups which (allegedly) have no links to Bates!!

The law needs reforming so that the administrators make the decision about what represents the best deal for the creditors. It looks as if the system has been abused here and a lot of creditors are considerably worse off as a result.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Vote for sex

I guess this is one of my favourite political slogans ever. I would not normally promote a campaign by a Tory candidate but this one by Mr Forse who is standing for a seat on New Forest District Council is certainly causing a stir Apparently this is a delayed poll from the May elections caused by the death of one of the candidates. The strap line across the bottom of his leaflets as shown in the picture above (VOTE FORSE X) has and probably will continue to be misinterpreted! Full story here on Sky News.