Wednesday 26th May 2004 


Thailand has secured two seats on Liverpool's board as part of its bid for a 30 percent stake in the premier league soccer club, the country's chief negotiator says.

On his return from talks in Liverpool, Deputy Commerce Minister Pongsak Raktapongpisal said Thailand was conducting 'due diligence' financial scrutiny of the club, and a deal would be signed within four to eight weeks if no problems arose.

He also said the two sides had resolved the thorny issue of how much control the Thai company managing the 4.6 billion baht (62 million pounds) investment would have over the 112-year-old club.

"I think the company will send two representatives to take the seats there," Pongsak told reporters at Bangkok airport.

"Two seats at least."

The club's website lists 12 people on its board, including chairman David Moores, chief executive Rick Parry, and the team manager, a post held until earlier this week by Frenchman Gerard Houllier.

Pongsak said Thailand's prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, for whom the Liverpool bid has provided a boost to political fortunes, would not be taking up either of the places.

The four times champions of Europe is 51 percent owned by Moores, whose family has had control for half a century, and 9.9 percent owned by television company Granada.

According to Thaksin, the deal will dilute Moores' holding to 35 percent.

Thaksin has said his offer, probably to be funded by a controversial one-off national lottery, would inject $81 million into Liverpool, which needs cash to buy new players and pay for a bigger stadium.

Ponsgsak said Thailand would certainly not seek to influence Liverpool's decision in picking a new manager following Houllier's sacking on Monday.

"That is an internal matter for the Liverpool club. We wouldn't intervene," he said.

Although the bid appears to have gone down well with the soccer-mad Thai public, the planned use of public or lottery money rather than Thaksin's vast personal fortune, has raised eyebrows and led to accusations of abuse of power.

A group of leading academics on Wednesday said the bid violated an article of the constitution which forbids the state from competing with the private sector unless in the interests of national security or to set up public utilities.

"To cite sport development is just a pretext to justify what is in fact a distortion in the exercise of state power," they said in a letter quoted on the front page of the Nation newspaper.


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