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Should a criminal record bar someone from owning a football club?

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It seems that Manchester City changed into Manchester Dhabi in the nick of time – today’s news from Thailand tells us that the ex-Thailand Prime Minister and former owner of Manchester City FC Thaksin Shinawatra has been found guilty of corruption by the Thai Supreme Court and sentenced to two years in jail.

On the surface, it’s not much. He misused his connections as a government official so that his wife could buy government land at a knockdown price. Compare this to, say, the accusations against the Russian oligarchs and Shinawatra comes out looking clean.

And this raises an interesting question – where are you going to draw the line on football club ownership? If the owner (or prospective owner) has a criminal record, is that grounds for being barred? What if his country doesn’t consider him a criminal? Would, for argument’s sake, Pakistan’s new President Asif Zardari be an eligible candidate for owning a Premier League club? He’s spent years in jail on corruption charges and his now running the country (lucky us, eh?).

When criminal records have no bearing on a more responsible office (I hope you’ll allow for the assumption that running a country, however small and impoverished it might be, is a bigger responsibility than running a football club), why should they have any bearing on football?

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Ahmed Bilal created Sportslens in 2006. He is a business consultant and entrepreneur who helps businesses identify and overcome their biggest challenges. He’s also the founder of Football Media, an online advertising agency that specialises in sports and male audience targeting, with a monthly reach of 100m+ sports fans in the UK and US. He’s also the previous owner of Soccerlens.com – a sports news site that reaches 3m+ readers / month.