Thursday 6 April 2023

Slap on the wrist for Southall

The English Football League is set to announce a set of mild sanctions for the three men who tried to buy Birmingham City last year.

Following a five-month investigation, the league charged former Barcelona striker Maxi Lopez, British businessman Paul Richardson and former Charlton Athletic chief executive Matt Southall with alleged breaches of its owners’ and directors’ test (ODT) in February.

The trio were the main drivers of Maxco, a company set up to buy the club, a company set up in early 2022 but their proposed, two-stage, £35million takeover collapsed in December. According to the league, however, they had already been effectively running the club, without formal approval, which is against the rules.

But, six weeks on, the matter will be closed this week, with Lopez accepting a one-month ban from involvement with an EFL club, suspended until the end of the 2023-24 season, with Richardson agreeing to a two-month period of ineligibility, also suspended until the end of next season.

Southall’s ban will be six months, with only three of them suspended, as the league considered his breaches of the ODT rules to be the most serious. The 38-year-old was Maxco’s nominated consultant at the club and made no secret of his close involvement in Birmingham City’s summer transfer window or their plans for the January window.

Even in Southall’s case the sanction is little more than a slap on the wrist as his three-month ban will start immediately, making him eligible for work in the football industry again this summer.

Given Southall’s previous involvement in the crises at Charlton Athletic and Rochdale, where he acted as a consultant for a group that attempted a hostile takeover of the League Two side, some fans will be surprised that his ban is not longer. He, however, denies any intentional wrongdoing at Charlton, Rochdale or Birmingham.

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