Bid for Reds stake splits Thai nation

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bq.. Bid for Reds stake splits Thai nation May 21 2004 Jane Woodhead on the politics behind the Thai Premier’s bid for Liverpool FC

IT IS a move which has divided a country.

Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra wants to buy a 30% stake in Liverpool Football Club. His is one of two bids on the table.

But exactly how the PM, who is worth £560m, will buy the club remains the centre of much controversy.

Will he use public or private money? This is the question which his people are now asking.

And while many footballing fans on both sides of the world welcome this major investment from such a prominent figure, others claim the PM’s motives are purely political.

One such person is Somyok Pruksakasemsuk, President of the Democratic Trade Union Alliance in Thailand.

He claims that with a general election looming, the prime minister is looking to score political points.

Speaking exclusively to the ECHO, Mr Pruksakasemsuk, 42, explains: “There is a general election next year and many people believe there is a political agenda behind the prime minister’s motives.

“I also believe he is doing this in an attempt to increase his popularity worldwide.”

The prime minister will have served four years when the election takes place next year. If reelected, he will serve for a second four-year term.

Mr Pruksakasemsuk believes the prime minister will use public money to buy LFC and says this is something which is vehemently opposed by trade union and non government organisations across Thailand.

Spending public money on LFC is a move which “disgusts” many Thai people.

Mr Pruksakasemsuk believes the premier sees Liverpool as a great business opportunity.

“He justifies using money from the public purse by saying Liverpool would become a part of the Sport Authority of Thailand and there would be all-round benefits.

“But many people in Thailand are asking why this money is not being used to benefit a football team in Thailand and the Thai population.”

Mr Pruksakasemsuk says the premier, a successful businessman, does nothing for the poor people in his country.

He admits that people in Thailand are “crazy” about football.

“A large number of people in Thailand watch and support Liverpool. In the over-30 age group, there are more people supporting Liverpool than home Thai teams, but this still does not make it right for public money to be used in such a way.”

But his views are not shared by everyone.

Political journalist Pong Gekachote, from Thairath, a morning paper, says around 50% of Thai people support the prime minister.

And Pong says promises have been made that public money will not be used for the deal.

He explains: “In general, the Thai people are very happy with the prime minister. It is not yet known how the money will be raised and there appear to be two alternatives.

“One is that he will use his own funds or funds from himself and business people. The other is for the money to be raised through Thai people being given the chance to buy a share of Liverpool Football Club through the sale of lottery tickets.”

Pong says many people believe the deal would help to promote the professional game of football to the young Thai population and at the same time promote Thai products.

Let Mangarakelee, a sous chef originally from Bangkok but now living in Allerton, also supports the PM.

He believes he has a right to use public money if he chooses.

“Using public money will make Thailand more prosperous and more well known in Liverpool. It will help to encourage more people to visit our country.” Let does not believe the PM’s motives are political.

“I believe the PM just wants the best for Thailand and I think it is good news that he has the potential to buy such a large chunk in the club. There is no doubt a large number of Thai people are avid Liverpool supporters.”

Let’s views are shared by Thai Pinet Dhamdusdi, now living in Greasby, who has supported Liverpool for more than 20 years.

“If the prime minister decides to use public money, the Thai people will eventually benefit from the shares. This is an investment which will bring profitable returns for Thailand. It will have many benefits, including helping to make the UK more popular in the Far East.”

Meanwhile, as Thailand awaits confirmation from the prime minister of exactly how he will raise the funds, in Liverpool we await the decision of the club board as to which bid it will accept.

What Thaksin Shinawatra is offering

THE Thai PM is offering £60m, which would see him buying a 30% stake in the club. The deal would allow him to market the LFC brand in the Far East.

This deal could result in a potential change of power at LFC with current chairman David Moore’s 51% shareholding being watered down to the point where he would no longer have overall control.

What Steve Morgan is offering

THE other bid is from building magnate and former brickie Steve Morgan, from Garston, worth about £312m.

He has a 5% stake in the club and proposes to invest £73m - underwriting a new share scheme worth £61m and £12m of shares issued for fans to buy.

It would let David Moores buy new shares to stay in control, but allow Morgan on to the board.

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