What is the lot of a football club owner in the English Premier League in this day and age?
Well, if you are Abu Dhabi United or Roman Abramovich, then you are in it for the fun and kudos of owning a football club.
Neither of these two owners are in the game to try to make money. They are already richer than normal people can even imagine and they know that they are unlikely to make a profit from football.
For them, it is a toy, a game, a bit of fun.
The club he loves
For the likes of Bill Kenwright at Everton it is a labour of love and a desire to help the club he loves to remain at the top. He doesn’t have the type of fortune that the previously mentioned owners have, but he has to try to keep up with them, even though he has to ensure that he doesn’t lose money in the way that Abu Dhabi United or Roman Abramovich wouldn’t even notice if they did.
It is the same with Dave Whelan at Wigan. He wants to run the club that he loves in a way that sees them achieving a reasonable level of success, but that does see them going into so much debt that danger signals would be going off all around them.
For the Glazers at Manchester United and the Chuckle Brothers at Liverpool, it is an investment from which they want to make money. They have no love for the club they have invested in, it is simply a financial adventure that they have embarked upon because they can and because they want to make even more.
It can work. Look at the allegedly, and definitely, dodgy, Thaksin Shinawatra. He has made about one hundred million pounds out of owning Manchester City for just over a year. Nice work if you can get it.
So where does Mike Ashley sit in this list of owners? He is a bit of all of the above really. He is clearly a football fan, but he isn’t a Newcastle fan. That is a small detail in itself but a massive one in the overall picture. If people who don’t understand football get involved with clubs it is a recipe for disaster. If they have the money of an Abramovich or Abu Dhabi United, that fact can be covered, but if they are merely rich, then an understanding of football, the club and its place in the community, is absolutely essential.
Ashley thought he knew Newcastle and the Toon Army but he didn’t. It was that lack of knowledge that has caused him so many problems. The appointment of Dennis Wise’s mate as the interim manager until he manages to sell the club almost looks like a deliberate attempt to get back at the very people he said he wanted to help.
No business could survive
The weekend saw reports that both Portsmouth and Tottenham are also looking for new investors. You can rest assures that neither club is looking for a Bill Kenwright or a Dave Whelan. They are looking for a multi-billionaire overseas investor to make a fast buck. The figures announced at the weekend make for interesting and frightening reading. Portsmouth pay 90% of their income on player wages. That is ridiculous and frightening. No business could survive being run along those lines.
Just what were the owners thinking when Harry Redknapp said he wanted to buy Peter Crouch and pay him fifty thousand a week for them to reply that it was a good idea. I’m not questioning the wisdom of wanting Peter Crouch, I am simply saying that to buy him was financially irresponsible and putting the club, and indeed the whole English game, in jeopardy.
Football in England is being run by a mixture of the incredibly rich on one hand and the quite rich, who love their clubs on the other. The amount of debt in the game is a truly astonishing statistic and one that could easily blow up in the faces of the authorities who have allowed it to happen.
Just to give you an idea of how much money we are talking about, it is reported that the Abu Dhabi United group have a fortune of around five hundred billion pounds. The USA has been looking for seven hundred billion dollars to rescue their economy. In other words, Manchester City’s new owners could help to solve the world’s current financial crisis and still have over a hundred billion pounds left. Is the world going mad, or is it just me?
Football has always been a wonderful game but it took a turn for the worse when money men got involved and decided that clubs needed to be run like businesses. The simple joy of the game and its success and popularity with the public revolved around the position and importance the club held within the local community. Once people started to try to make fortunes from the game the very essence of why it was so popular started being whittled away.
Kudos and glamour
Ten of the twenty Premier League clubs are now in the hands of overseas investors. It is very likely that the likes of Bill Kenwright and Dave Whelan will be gradually eased out of the game and all of the top clubs will be run by people who know little and care less about the club and are only interested in the kudos and the glamour that being associated with Premier League football affords at the moment.
If things continue as they are, that kudos and glamour could easily disappear and the big money overseas investors could look elsewhere to find a toy to play with. If that happens, where would that leave the game in England?