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Conte culpable in uneven season


Money matters: Surprise takeover for Spurs?

At first glance Tottenham Hotspur do not appear ripe for a £400million takeover.

Currently enduring their worst start to a season in 53 years, rock bottom of the Premier League with just two points from a possible 18, shorn of their two best strikers after a summer sale and followed by a group of disgruntled supporters losing faith in a highly-paid, under-performing manager; Spurs are perhaps last on the list of clubs you would expect to be attracting investors.

But despite their current malaise Tottenham have been linked with two potential bids, one from a Singapore-based billionaire and another from a UK consortium.

Although the White Hart Lane club insist they are not actively seeking a buyer a speculative approach could be viewed positively, particularly by Joe Lewis, the man who effectively owns the club.

ENIC, Lewis' sports and media company, holds an 82% stake in Spurs, which means that the Bahamas-based British businessman, the world's 369th richest person according to Forbes's 2007 rich list, controls the club's destiny.

And after losing an estimated £400million earlier this year following the collapse of investment bank Bear Stearns, Lewis could well be tempted to cash in an asset to offset his losses elsewhere.

The attractiveness of Spurs is not linked to current form; investors tend not to trouble themselves with short-term trends rather concentrating on the bottom line, and that is where Spurs comes into its own.

Despite the consternation of supporters over the miserable start to the season, the sale of Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane, the failure to sign Andrei Arshavin, the seemingly ill-considered flurry of late transfer dealings this summer, and media hectoring for their shoddy treatment of Martin Jol, Tottenham are actually a fairly well-run club.

Financial figures soon to be released are expected to show that for the year ending in June (therefore before the £50million accrued from sale of Keane and Berbatov) profits have climbed to £30million while turnover has increased to £130million. All of which means that from a balance sheet point of view Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is thought to have done a very good job.

That he is also responsible for putting in place a management team so far incapable of replicating off-field success on the pitch explains why supporters of the club view Levy, and his technical director Damien Comolli, with scepticism at best and contempt at worst.

With plans for the overdue redevelopment of White Hart Lane reported to be advancing and the club's proximity to central London added to its solid financial performance one can begin to understand why Spurs are regarded as an attractive and viable proposition.

Perhaps even more attractive than Chelsea, who we should remember were in dire financial straights in 2003 when self-styled 'super agent' Pini Zahavi helped broker Roman Abramovich's epoch-making takeover.

Why mention the controversial Israeli here? Because back in 2003 Zahavi first tried to tempt Abramovich to take control of Spurs, not Chelsea. And because Zahavi, a man loathe to wasting time, is representing the billionaire Singaporean interested in Tottenham.

Poor Mike Ashley. The prevailing financial climate has forced the Newcastle United owner to reassess his valuation of the club and reduce the asking price by £150million.

The fallen Geordie idol was initially hoping to lure bidders into parting with £450million for the Magpies, an enormous figure given the club's lack of success. But the ongoing financial meltdown has necessitated a re-think, but one which could yet see Ashley make a rather tidy £50million on a £300million sale.

So far Ashley, a billionaire who made his fortune through sports retail, has ploughed around £250 million into the club since his takeover in July 2007; £134 million to buy the club and an estimated £120million to clear loans and debts. £50million for 15-month's work? Not bad.

Mystery surrounds those reportedly interested in feathering Ashley's nest, with little known about the secretive Nigerian consortium which declared an interest in the club late last week, and even less about the five (or seven, depending what you read) other interested parties.

But there could be good news for fans of the crisis-torn club. Firstly, and just like Spurs, Newcastle might be in terrible shape on the pitch but off it they are in decent financial shape; Ashley will leave the club having cleared all its major debts. And secondly Newcastle messiah Kevin Keegan is reportedly ready to return to the club under new owners.

Sources close Keegan quoted in the Daily Telegraph say the former manager is happy his name has been linked prospective new owners and is awaiting developments.

That will be music to the ears of Magpies fans and the Nigerian group who have let it be known that Keegan would be central to the management structure they would like to put in place at the club.

Could UEFA and FIFA's statement of support for the suspended Polish Football Association (PZPN) actually prove to be a Machiavellian move designed to strip the country of its right to co-host the 2012 European Championships?

On Tuesday, football's European and World governing bodies backed PZPN after the Polish National Olympic Committee's arbitration court suspended the management of the PZPN at the behest of the Polish Sport Minister Miroslaw Drzewiecki over failures to address corruption in the domestic game.

Both FIFA and UEFA have said they refuse to acknowledge the administrator appointed by Polish authorities and continue to view the suspended PZPN chairman Michal Listkiewicz ''as the only legitimate authority to run football in Poland".

It's no secret that UEFA have been alarmed by a lack of progress in both Poland and Ukraine with doubts over both countries' ability to ready their stadia and infrastructure in time for Euro 2012.

It now it seems UEFA could have found the perfect excuse to strip Poland - and almost certainly Ukraine as a consequence - of their status as Euro 2012 co-hosts over government interference and the involvement of politicians in the sport, a big no-no as far as both UEFA and FIFA are concerned.

As UEFA's William Galliard said: ''The European Championships are administrated through the Polish and Ukrainian FAs, not their governments. If there is no legitimate Polish FA then we will not have a Euro in Poland.''

This leaves the ball in the hands of the Polish government. Unless they stand by the PZPN's plans to hold board elections on October 31 or reinstate the previous regime plans for Euro 2012 could begin to unravel.


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