Bring it on? Zabeel Investments? Dubai? Pah. Just a wanabee Abu Dhabi. I mean, what’s the point of being in the Gulf if you don’t have substantial oil reserves? I don’t even remember anyone even wanting to invade Dubai. Lousy human rights record (see the piece in The Observer magazine of 5 October). The idea that our fine and noble club could end up being the plaything of a plaything state is just too much to bear and it’s time for the board to stand up for our values. But the prospect of being a fall-back plaything of a plaything state is even worse.
I’m seldom if ever first with the news and I have no insight into the intentions of Zabeel Investments or angle on whether the reports about them looking instead to buy West Ham are true. I was going to pen something highlighting the snippet in The Observer on Sunday suggesting that the Maktoums were still intent on buying Liverpool and the risks that this could entail, including us being bought by Zabeel, costs rising sharply in a promotion push, only for them to walk away not long down the line in pursuit of what others may consider to be a larger club. Sooner or later a foreign investment in a football club will go this way; I had been assuming it would be Manchester City as anyone taking a look at the club and the town would have to have second thoughts. Probably still will be.
So we have to wait and see for a while. The club was sensibly circumspect with its announcement, making it plain it was an indicative offer with no guarantee that a definite one will follow - which unfortunately would seem to rule out the possibility of a Citigroup-style suing of West Ham (or Liverpool, or anyone else). Oh what the hell, I think we should sue West Ham anyway. Everyone else is. For good reason. We can always fill in the details of the suit further down the line.
I’m sure other blogs have covered this ground, but just in case I thought I’d check out what a friend with Irish racing connections might think about the Maktoums. Reading between the lines and with no more guarantee of accuracy than a Palace programme match report, the general line seemed to be they are of the highest integrity and where they invest they do not leave enemies behind. Horses are tied up with the culture and sense of identity, which are behind the massive amounts spent on racing; investment in other sporting ventures are different in nature and geared around the main objective, selling Dubai as a sporting and leisure centre. That objective in turn means that whatever the Maktoums end up investing in becomes something of a flagship for Dubai, so they are not looking at a football team as a plaything, rather as something that they have more than a vested interest in ensuring it succeeds. This suggests the risk of them buying the club and then walking away further down the line to take on another is remote.
Why Charlton? This has to be the remaining worrying element. The real prize for them is Arsenal but they can’t get it. They do have the stadium name, however. The thing that West Ham and Charlton have in common is of course proximity to the 2012 Olympics venue. The Maktoums are heavily invested in the docklands in general and there must be some thought to a football club that could relocate to the Olympic stadium once it becomes a white elephant (personally I’m in full support for the proposal in a letter in the Financial Times recently that we should outsource the Olympics to Beijing).
There is no question that expansion of The Valley is by a distance the most desirable plan for Charlton. It is fundamental to any hope we have of truly establishing ourselves in the Premiership that we increase attendances. I was among the few (at least among people I know) who thought relocation to a new ground in the peninsula was not a complete no-no a few years back. I still consider it to be a price worth paying if increasing capacity at The Valley becomes impossible and if the end result is a realistic prospect of 40,000 watching Charlton in the top flight (no, I’m not suggesting there are any guarantees). However, relocation to a ground the other side of the river is, as far as I’m concerned, completely out of the question.
It’s all more than a little academic. At the moment we don’t know if a purchase of Charlton will go through and on what basis. Overall I think we are ready to accept the changes that this would imply, confident in both Richard Murray’s ability to ensure the club remains in good hands and in the Charlton fans’ ability to ensure that the characteristics of the club we truly value are preserved. But there are lines in the sand. If it were ever to become a choice between 20 years in the lowest division and relocation to the north side of The Thames for me there is no issue (provided in the bottom league we don’t have to play Millwall).
Talking of preserving qualities and double-standards, the best laugh I had over the weekend was the booing of Ashley Cole. As part of what I do I have recently had to plough through acres of sanctimonious twaddle by teenage scribblers overseen by idiots about the financial sector crisis; but I haven’t yet come across anything quite so daft as Rio Ferdinand suggesting that the fans who booed might be ashamed of themselves. This is Rio Ferdinand. The inarticulate, suspension-serving role model for the truly hopeless. Suggesting some other people should feel shame for their actions in expressing their derision for Ashley Cole. Please.
I regularly howl at the periodic booing of Charlton fans as being totally counter-productive. But surely nobody, not even Ferdinand and Rooney and any other representative of the collective brain cell of England footballers, could pretend that Cole was booed for having made a mistake. He was being booed for being Ashley Cole, with the mistake just the excuse. Let’s get this right. Wembley is just around the corner from ... Arsenal. This is the Ashley Cole who endeared himself to all football fans with his apparent reaction to the dreadful injustice of Arsenal’s new contract offer, one which had he accepted would have amounted to a revival of the slave trade. The Ashley Cole who cheated on a nation’s sweetheart. His terrific gaffe on Saturday gave Wembley’s fans the opportunity to send a message that, yes, we have to put up with the sort of characters that pull on an England football shirt, but don’t expect us to like them. And yes, Rio, just in case there’s any doubt that includes you too.