Liverpool deal: Thai PM scraps lottery plan

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Thailand's Prime Minister has scrapped a plan to use state lottery funds to buy a stake in Liverpool soccer club.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:07 IST
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Thailand's Prime Minister today scrapped a plan to use state lottery funds to buy a stake in Liverpool soccer club. Thaksin Shinawatra indicated the entire deal may have to be abandoned, after facing mounting opposition. "Taking money from the poor is not our aim," Shinawatra told reporters. "We have to scrap the lottery project." The government had proposed a one-off state lottery to fund the $115 million deal to purchase a 30 per cent stake in the widely popular but financially struggling English Premier league club. Intense opposition The lottery plan met intense opposition with critics saying it would promote gambling and force the poor to part with hard-earned money. After weeks of bargaining, Thailand's offer had reportedly been approved by Liverpool's board, and Thai negotiators have said the two sides were undertaking "due diligence" checks of the club's financial integrity. But Thaksin cast doubts on whether the deal would materialise. "At this moment, I am not certain that we can buy it or not," Thaksin said, refusing to elaborate. "Our financial experts and the legal team are performing the (due diligence). But nothing is certain. If it is affordable to buy we will buy, if not we will not," he said. Financial crunch The Reds, with an English record 18 titles, haven't lifted the league trophy since 1990 and sorely need the cash to buy new players and build a bigger stadium. Thaksin had originally indicated that he would buy the Liverpool stake with his own money. But the government later said it would be owned by a new company to be set up under the government's Sports Authority of Thailand. The company was to get its funds from a special one-time 10 billion baht state lottery. Half the money would have gone to purchase the stake and the rest into prizes and administration charges. Thaksin said the proposed 1 billion baht first prize "has inspired greedy people and would make the poor struggle to buy the lottery." Move criticised On Monday, Thaksin's political mentor, Chamlong Srimuang, joined the critics, saying in an open letter that it would further "blind" gambling-crazed Thais and amount to "open, official support for gambling." Thaksin said he respects Chamlong a lot. "So when he warned me that the lottery is a vice and a sin, I had to listen." "I don't care about losing face. But when I found that it is time to backtrack, I have to do it," Thaksin said. Hundreds of Thais launched a signature campaign yesterday against the lottery plan, saying if Thaksin is so desperate to buy a soccer team he should spend his own money rather than asking ordinary Thais to fund his personal ambitions. Besides the opposition to the lottery, critics say the purchase will bring neither economic benefits nor promote soccer in Thailand. In England, some have questioned whether Thaksin should acquire a piece of the team because of his poor human rights record in the war against drugs last year when more than 2,200 people died - many allegedly at the hands of police. (AP)

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