The investment bank Seymour Pierce has effectively taken control of Birmingham City and could put it up for sale after Carson Yeung, the club owner, failed to pay a £2.2 million (Dh12.5m) fee to the bank. Last month, Seymour Pierce, the company chaired by Keith Harris, sued to recover the fee it said it was owed for laying the groundwork for Yeung's takeover of the club.
The company won a court order requiring Yeung to pay by Monday, but as the money was not received Seymour Pierce can now gain a charge of the shares held by Yeung's company, Birmingham International Holdings. "Seymour Pierce can take a charge over the shares of Birmingham City and do what they need to do with them to recover the money it is owed, so that means they could potentially sell them to another owner," Seymour Pierce spokesman Neil Bennett said on Sky Sports News.
Seymour Pierce had advised Yeung prior to the takeover of Birmingham, but Yeung then appointed a different company to complete the deal. However, Seymour Pierce successfully argued its contract remained valid and it was owed the money. Bennett explained: "They didn't pay it [the £2.2m]. Seymour Pierce has gone to court, and won the High Court case. The Hong Kong company was given 14 days to pay the money. They haven't paid so in effect they are in contempt of court and Seymour Pierce has taken the necessary steps to effectively take control of Birmingham City to recover the debt.
"It is very regrettable, very regrettable indeed, that Seymour Pierce has had to go to these lengths to get the fee." Birmingham are yet to comment, but a statement issued by Birmingham International Holdings said they intended to appeal. However, Bennett added: "They're on fairly thin ice." A hearing is now due on May 27 when Seymour Pierce could formally take control of the club. Bennett said there was still time for Yeung to solve the problem.
"This can be resolved very quickly by Carson Yeung and his company sending their cheque for two and a half million pounds to Seymour Pierce," he said. "Otherwise the process will proceed rather remorsefully, and during the summer break there could be a change of owner at Birmingham City which I don't think would be in anyone's interests." Elsewhere, Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Tottenham practically ended their title hopes and also cost them the services of Thomas Vermaelen for the rest of the season with a calf injury. With William Gallas and Johan Djourou also out, Arsenal may have to rely on veterans Sol Campbell and Mikael Silvestre for their last four games.
Stiliyan Petrov, the Aston Villa captain, has urged Uefa to make a decision soon on whether Portsmouth will be allowed to compete in next season's Europa League. Pompey, who entertain Martin O'Neill's side on Sunday, would normally be able to participate even if they lose the FA Cup final to double-chasing Chelsea, but their financial situation could count against them - and then an extra Europa League spot could be available via the league, with seventh-placed Villa in contention.
Petrov said: "We hope that justice will be right in the end. I think if would be wrong for things to drag on until the end of season with teams not knowing if in they are in Europe or not." * PA