Friday 25 September ~
Over the past couple of days most of the national papers have carried pictures of Notts County's directors and advisors watching a recent game. Sitting unidentified among the rather bored-looking throng is the Sky Sports presenter Matthew Lorenzo, who was appointed as the club's "communications director" on the day that Sol Campbell walked out. "These are exciting times and I can't wait to get started," Lorenzo told the club website. Quite how exciting they are will be clearer on October 8, when a Football League board meeting will decide whether to ratify the summer takeover of the club by person or persons unknown.
Notts County fans will have been hoping to see their newly enriched club make headlines this season but not in the way that it's happened this week. No sooner had Sol Campbell departed – "He didn't like the training pitch and dressing rooms, things like that," said director of football Sven-Goran Eriksson – then it was revealed that Russell King, a consultant to the club who negotiated the contracts of Campbell and Sven, is a convicted fraudster who has recently had assets frozen by courts in Jersey over an unpaid debt. King works for Qadbak, the Switzerland-based company that owns County through its investment vehicle, the splendidly named Munto Finance.
Today's Guardian has a nice big diagram explaining how Qadbak are linked to the BMW Sauber Formula One team and the Belgravia Group who failed in a bid to take over Newcastle three years ago. As is de rigueur for issues relating to offshore companies, it's all very difficult to follow, and there is no guarantee that the Football League's investigation will clarify matters given the identity of Qadbak's owners is protected under Swiss law. Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe wants the Treasury to provide help in investigations into offshore trusts like Qadbak but in the meantime it's quite likely that County’s owners will pass the "fit and proper persons test" as it currently stands.
There are far easier ways to make money than buying a football team. The game's recent history strongly suggests that anyone with no previous connection to a club who pitches up as an owner must be either recklessly stupid or intent on using their ownership to drive other projects, such as property development. In the meantime, Sven will be concerned about County's dipping form – they have lost three successive away games and currently sit eighth – but he seems to be very relaxed about who he's working for. "I don't know where the money comes from," he said yesterday. "I think it’s the job of the chairman to find out." In fact, it would be reasonable to suppose that the chairman knows exactly where the money is coming from but is not inclined to discuss it much outside a circle of close friends. Carl Hawkins