The Premier League chairman, Sir Dave Richards, has warned the impending takeover of Portsmouth will fail if the former Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra is involved. Richards also dismissed suggestions he has had direct involvement in the deal which will see UAE businessman Dr Sulaiman al Fahim take over at Fratton Park. Al Fahim, who heads a property company, is close to buying Pompey from Sacha Gaydamak, with due diligence set to be completed next month.
Yesterday, the English newspaper The Sun claimed that former Thai prime minister Thaksin and Premier League supremo Richards have had a role to play in the deal - allegations denied by the club Richards told BBC Radio Five Live: "At this stage the Premier League don't know if he [Thaksin] is involved. "The Premier League have met the advisors to Dr Sulaiman this week and we have made it very clear that we want to know who are the shareholders in the possible takeover of Portsmouth.
"Before it can be taken over, the people who are involved have to meet the fit and proper persons test. "There has been a suggestion that possibly Dr Thaksin is involved. If that is the case that takeover will not be allowed to go ahead." Thaksin, who was ousted as Thailand's prime minister in 2006, had his British visa revoked last November after being convicted of corruption in his homeland. He was sentenced to two years in jail and the Thai authorities have since been attempting to extradite him, recently tracking him down to Germany where he has been forced to give up his residence permit.
Asked if he himself had direct involvement in the takeover, Richards added: "Absolutely none at all. I did meet Dr Sulaiman in Rome [at the Champions League final]. He phoned me up and asked me if I would meet him. He wanted to make it plain to me that he was trying to buy Portsmouth and I did meet him in Rome." Richards distanced himself from Shinawatra and his advisor Pairoj Piempongsat, claiming it was stretching the truth to call them his friends.
"I knew the doctor before he became chairman of Manchester City," he said. "The Premier League did a tournament in Asia, and I met him. While he was chairman he did come and see me and I talked to him. When you talk about friendship it's chairman to chairman, that's all." pPortsmouth released a statement yesterday morning which read: "Portsmouth FC would like to confirm that neither Dr Thaksin Shinawatra nor his advisor Pairoj Piempongsat are involved in funding Dr Sulaiman al Fahim's bid to buy the club. A representative for Dr Sulaiman al Fahim met with Premier League officials last week and confirmed that he is the sole purchaser of the football club and this will be verified by his lawyers."
Meanwhile, it is reported that AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini could be poised to join the backroom staff at Chelsea. The veteran Italian recently retired after a glittering 25-year career at the San Siro and a move would see him teaming up again with coach Carlo Ancelotti, who left Milan for the London club. The 40-year-old left-back won seven Serie A titles and five Champions League trophies.
* With agencies