Football Supporters Should Be Careful What You Wish For Regarding New Owners

The last few years in the Premier League has seen a new type of character emerge, one that at times has seemingly overtaken the players in terms of importance to the story of the game. It appears that wherever you turn within soccer you are presented with the smiling face of a billionaire promising another club the world. Unfortunately like most of the best things in life, there is quite some risk to this indulgence.

As we head towards a weekend where most expect to see Manchester City crowned champions of England, thanks in no small part to the riches of Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour, it can become all too tempting for the modern football fan to dream of a billionaire riding in to lift their club from mid-table obscurity to the Champions League and beyond. But it can all easily go so very, very wrong.

Staying topical, lets look at Blackburn. When Venky’s, an Indian chicken company, took over the club in the summer of 2010 Rovers had just finished the season in 10th place. When they decided to sack Sam Allardyce midway through the following season they were sitting in 13th. Now, barely 18 months later they are heading to the Championship for the first time in 11 years. That was not the plan.

In that time there have been a number of incidents that have highlighted the damage that can be caused by an ownership that has more money than sense. First there were the attempts to sign Beckham and Ronaldinho, soon followed by the announcement that the club was aiming for Champions League football and that if it took £5 million “then we would spend £5million.” There is plenty of evidence to suggest that there is a distinct gap between the reality of football and the world in which Venky’s exist.

Admittedly it would appear that there is a world of difference between the people behind Venky’s and say, Roman Abramovich, but the lesson here is something along the lines of all that glitters is not gold. Just head north of the border and find a Rangers fan.

At Ibrox the Glasgow club spent most of the late 90’s and early 2000’s waiting for their own knight in shining armour, just so they could try and keep up with their neighbours Celtic. When he arrived, first in the shape of David Murray, then as Craig Whyte,few questioned where the money was coming from or how the club was being run. As the events of the last few months have shown, this was probably one of the most monumental mistakes ever made within football administration.

Admittedly there are plenty of examples where owners have injected much needed cash and impetus to clubs. My own club, Sunderland, have benefitted from Ellis Short taking over at the Stadium of Light whilst few would have said with any confidence pre Abu Dhabi takeover that Manchester City would be about to claim their first league title in 44 years. At least not many sane people anyway.

The latest club to see the bad side of rich owners is Cardiff City. Recently taken over by Vincent Tan, a Malyasian businessman, the club knowns as The Bluebirds were going to be playing in red next season until the owner withdrew this suggestion after “vociferous” opposition. He was also suggesting that the club crest be changed to a dragon – all to increase the visibility of the club in the lucrative Asian markets. Such is football these days.

Despite the amount of clubs who have suffered at the hands of unscrupulous owners spiralling ever upwards, it has almost become second nature for fans to constantly look for rumours of the next Sheikh, oligarch or private equity fund heading their way with many briefcases full of cash, ready to lead them up the table. Recent history shows us that this is just about the only way for most clubs to reach the top level but the point remains that, as with most things in life, football fans really should be careful what they wish for.

10 thoughts on “Football Supporters Should Be Careful What You Wish For Regarding New Owners”

  1. Fair argument.

    However in the case of Portsmouth and now Blackburn, the Premier League has once again failed to protect two of it’s clubs from severe mismanagement. They are the people allowing this kind of situation to happen and have shown little to no due diligence with allowing the right kind of people to own football clubs.

    The NFL doesn’t let just any rich person own a team, the amount of research/investigation for a potential NFL owner is insane.The same cannot be said for the Richard Scudamore and the Premier League.

    1. It’s their own fault for their own demise though because of how the league is structured. There isn’t a governing body in effect that has any say over the day to day running because all 20 clubs are the shareholders each season and they vote between themselves on the running of the league. The FA is the only governing body above the 20 clubs but they only have veto power for things like rule changes and the approval of the Chief Exec etc, but it’s the clubs themselves that vote on these things first and foremost.

      1. That’s also fair to point out, a club executive has to do their part as well. However, the Premier League should be the ones making sure clubs are not being mislead in any way.

        Clearly whats happened at Portsmouth, West Ham and now Blackburn is not just one person’s fault, it’s the fault of the men running English football.

        Firing a respected manager like Sam Allardyce and putting Steve Kean in charge sums up the terrible situation at Ewood Park which next year will host Championship games.

        1. I agree with what you’re getting at. When you say that the Premier League should be the ones making sure the clubs aren’t misled though, the 20 member clubs are the Premier League. At the end of the season this weekend for example, Reading become a shareholder in the company because they’ll instantly become a member club and they’ll have equal say on par with the other 19 teams. They make their own rules and live or die by them. It would be better if there was a Premier League in an FA sense (i.e. a governing body) who presided over the 20 member clubs to keep the place in order but as it stands they only have themselves to answer to on a day-to-day basis.

          Under the old First Division system (pre-1992) everything was under the one banner of ‘The Football League’ and they were in control of proceedings. The whole reason the top tier broke away to form the Premier League was because they could look after their own interests and run their own show between themselves… in other words, they could make shed loads more money by breaking away and forming their own ‘corporation’ as we see now.

  2. “The latest club to see the bad side of rich owners is Cardiff City. Recently taken over by Vincent Tan, a Malyasian businessman, the club knowns as The Bluebirds were going to be playing in red next season until the owner withdrew this suggestion after “vociferous” opposition. He was also suggesting that the club crest be changed to a dragon – all to increase the visibility of the club in the lucrative Asian markets. Such is football these days.”

    Apparently, Mr. Tan wants to emulate the success of another club with red jersey and dragon crest called “Wrexham”

  3. Good points all. This is part of the reason why there are such things in American sports called salary caps.

    To a degree, it levels the playing field allowing all teams to compete but at the same time you still require the staff who KNOWS about the sport, trends and players to make sound decisions that benefit the team.

    No sense in spending tons of money on your team and they still suck.

    Right Jerry Jones?

  4. Everything everyone’s said about this is true. However, there seem to be a few differences in the Blackburn case. I’m a Rovers fan so I probably follow this closer than others.

    There is little doubt in my mind, after the shambolic and unfathomable running of the club that all is not right at Ewood. I’ve read the conspiracy theories and the longer that clown Kean stays on and continues to drag us down, the more I believe them to be true.

    Basically, the theorist claims: Jerome Anderson and his client Stevey Kean hatch a plan to buy Blackburn. The owners want to sell so all they need to do is get the cash together. Enter Venkeys. All the Indians need to do is stump up the cash, remove Big Sam, install Kean as manager and let Kean and Anderson run the club. Venkey’s are told they don’t need to do anything and the club will finance itself (which was wrong). With the trio in place, they would slowly start to dismantle the club, sell off all the assets (ie players etc) and then once they’ve sucked all the cash out of the club and taken them down they will sell the club.

    So, let’s look at a few numbers here. They buy the club for £26 million, and stick in another £10 mil or whatever to appease the bank. They sell Niko Kalinic, Phil Jones and Chris Samba for a combined £34 mil… = initial investment recouped plus more.

    With the club not making enough money, Venkey’s need to sell off or release the top earners in order for them not to have to put any of their own cash in so, they let Nelson, Samba, Jones, Roberts, Emerton, Andrews, Kalinic etc go, plus refuse to play Salgado because he would be eligible for a new contract and he’s a big earner at the club too.. Now, I’m estimating here, but I believe with all those players gone, they’ve pretty much cut maybe £200-250 thousand off of the weekly wage bill, thereby balancing the books somewhat.

    In the meantime, they go above the board’s head on signings which forces the Chief Executive and 2 other top execs out of the club. Another, Paul Hunt, was fired just days ago, due to the leaked letter calling for Kean’s head to roll back in December, all the while Steve Kean continues to relegate the club, without being fired. Fishy? Yup.

    Now with Blackburn down, we stand to receive a parachute payment of £16 mil this coming season. In addition to this, I hear Venkey’s want to sell off our youth academy to developers so they can build flats on the ground which would earn the owners another pretty penny. The youths would then operate out of the same building as the seniors. Wow, huh?… I’ve also heard that Venky’s have been touting the club as for sale in the Middle East and Asia but not in Europe, which is why there’s so much talk about whether or not Blackburn are for sale at the moment… Finally (for now) I’m expecting a busy summer of transfer activity at the club. I wouldn’t be surprised if most, if not all our best senior and youth players leave the club for decent fees. Once this happens and Venkey’s have the money in the bank, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Venky’s want to sell the club in ernest. Money in the bank for them. Job done.

    1. Chilling scenario. Sounds like an old-fashioned 1980’s style leveraged buyout ala Kirk Douglas in Wall Street. Borrow money (or not), buy club, sell off anything of value, get relegated, pocket parachute payments, sell the husk, pocket $$$ millions.

  5. As long as there is no salary cap and a draft-style system, there will be many more European soccer clubs that will struggle financially. It goes with the territory.

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