Every time the subject of foreign ownership comes up in the Premier League, the term xenophobia comes up. As an Indian-American who has spent much time in the UK, I have used the term myself, something I now am ashamed of. I am not against foreign ownership in the Football League and Premier League unlike some who have advocated the implementation of a “German” model where all majority owners must be German nationals and the vast majority of clubs are community based. However, many in the United States and Asia who have blindly praised the majority of foreign owners for the positive financial impact they have made on the English game are as excessive and skewed in their view as those supporting the German model being implemented in England.
In the wake of the mistreatment of Malky Mackay at Cardiff, some realizations need to dawn on foreign fans of the Premier League. While many Americans or those in the Far East may think they are bonded to the club they support, in almost every case they are not as invested emotionally, financially or personally as those British fans living and working in the towns of the clubs they support. These fans are not spending the bulk of their disposable income each year to buy tickets, merchandise and travel with the club to away matches. The foreign supporters can escape to other pursuits such as American football, basketball, local community events, etc. For supporters based in England and Wales, no such escape exists. You live and work in the communities impacted.
In short, in many cases foreign ownership rips the soul out of local clubs and local supporters. This isn’t the case everywhere as the big money takeover of Manchester City and Chelsea demonstrate that sometimes foreign ownership can be more community oriented than the predecessors even if the new owners are not local. But in many cases, critical decisions about football clubs are being made by eccentric Malaysian money men and in American board rooms far removed from the people impacted by these decisions.
Cardiff City, specifically, was a club preyed upon by irresponsible British businessmen and rescued from potential liquidation by Vincent Tan. However, in hindsight, given Tan’s lack of respect for the club’s history or institutional value to the Welsh capital, it can be argued Cardiff City Football Club going out of business and restarted as a supporters run club attempting to make its way up the football ladder from the bottom would have been a better move. Sure Tan saved Cardiff City, but he also ripped the soul out of the club, a soul which may never return.
Certainly some Cardiff supporters must feel Tan saved them as beginning a new life in the tenth flight of English football and working the way up may not be something that appeals to everyone. However as organic clubs like FC United and AFC Wimbledon demonstrate, lots of fans in English football are willing to forgo the glories of foreign induced spending to support a locally run and oriented football club that honors traditions.