THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Birmingham chief executive Karren Brady has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons this month

Supporters have always made up songs about rival clubs but Birmingham City, owned by pornographers, give opposing fans more opportunities than most. Plenty of new material has been provided by the arrest on April 9 of the club’s chief executive, Karren Brady, and owner David Sullivan as part of a City of London police inquiry. Both were released on bail, as were the seven others (including Harry Redknapp and Milan Mandaric) arrested last November in an investigation that appears to centre on a few deals involving players represented by the agent Willie McKay.

There were several supportive profiles of Karren Brady in the wake of the arrests. The Daily Express and Daily Telegraph both referred to her “remarkable career path” and the Daily Mail’s Richard Pendlebury suggested that, before recent events at least, Brady “could have walked into a job at any of the FTSE 100 companies” while Sunday Express columnist Neil Hamilton, the former MP, admiringly cited her remark that “I could really kick ass in politics”.

But one paper entirely ignored the story. There was not so much as a paragraph in the Sun, for whom City’s chief executive is a regular columnist. As befitting someone voted Business Woman of 2007, Brady has offered sober commentaries on office management in a Guardian supplement and an online advice column. However, even allowing for the fact that it appears in the Sun, the weekly My Brum Diary is often startlingly crude. In February, an EGM called by Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung, who failed in a takeover bid for City, was greeted with the complaint that “We’re in a right old chow mein with the Chinese”; after a road accident involving those monitoring the shareholders’ vote at the EGM, “I received an email joking that it was probably a ballot-box hijack organised by the Triad.”

The column also spreads regular rumours about the sexual indiscretions of football people. Readers have been told about the fashion model who is “taking the rhubarb – as Kelvin MacKenzie describes it – from a high-profile Premier League director as well as his team’s centre-forward”. There was another such revelation in the column published four days before Brady’s arrest, when she asked: “Which well-known Premier League director has holidayed for years with his mistress staying in one hotel and his wife, unknowing, in another?”

This all suits the paper’s prurient outlook, but it is also a guaranteed way to make enemies. Brady’s Sun column returned on April 19 with an expression of understanding for “Harry Redknapp’s frustration and his wife’s tears” at having their house raided at 6am. But you sense that she may not be receiving the same sort of sympathy. If the column is ever in need of material, readers should be asked to guess how many Premier League directors, well known or otherwise, enjoyed reading about “football’s first lady” helping police with their inquiries. Ed Upright

From WSC 256 June 2008

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