Portsmouth Message Board
Is the takeover of English clubs by foreign investors good for the game and the fan on the street? If West Ham is brought out then 25% of EPL clubs will be in foreign hands. I write this as a serious question for research and would appreciate serious answers.
I am not a Portsmouth fan, but I intend to pose this question to all clubs, be it foreign owned or not on various websites.
There is a significant increase in stories of investors, particularly when it comes to foreign influences in UK clubs. The first example of this came back in 2003 when Abramovich, a Russian oil tycoon and one of the richest men on the planet, decided to save Chelsea from bankruptcy and, in the process, make it into his expensive personal plaything. Although estimates vary, it seems he has spent almost $1 billion on buying the club, clearing its debts and then investing in new players, coaching staff and facilities, causing obvious worries to the rest of the soccer world that things might now be a bit unfair. There has also been an American invasion into British soccer, with two US millionaires purchasing clubs over here, resulting in massively different reactions from the fans of the teams involved. First of all in the summer of 2005, Malcolm Glazer decided to aggressively buy out Manchester United, England’s most successful team over the last decade years and the richest, and best-supported, club in the world. This caused massive consternation amongst supporters of the club, who worried that Glazer, a man with no interest in soccer and who wasn’t even prepared to come to any of the team’s matches, would simply treat their beloved and historic team as just another business undertaking, resulting in the sale of their best players and a lack of investment in new blood. They were also concerned by the massive debts which Glazer incurred in financing the $1.8 billion deal for the team. When Glazers’ sons came to visit the club for the first time they were greeted by an angry mob of fans and needed a police escort to protect them from a barrage of missiles hurled at them. This situation contrasts hugely with what has happened this summer at another of England’s historic clubs, Aston Villa. Unlike Manchester United, this is a team which has seen almost no success in the last decade or two. When their unpopular octogenarian chairmen, Doug Ellis, announced that he was prepared to listen to offers for his share in the club the fans were ecstatic. While various consortia engaged in a bidding war, eventually an offer by Randy Lerner emerged as the winner. Lerner is, on the face of things, a very similar character to Glazer, being both American and the owner of an American football franchise, the Cleveland Browns. However, unlike Glazer he is, rightly or wrongly, perceived to be more interested in sport itself and the feelings of the fans, not just the financial side of things. He also attended university in England, and while making no false claims of being an Aston Villa fan, he understands what soccer means to English people and promises that he has the good of the club at heart. The real reasons behind the difference in reactions to Glazer and Lerner though are more likely to be due to the different situations at the two clubs involved: Manchester United were already successful both on the field and financially, so didn’t want or need a new owner who, in the fans eyes, could only make things worse; Aston Villa had been in a long period of stagnation and for the fans any new owner could only make things better.
While the new American owners at Manchester United and Aston Villa have generally played by the book and have not disturbed the status quo of English football too much, rich businessmen from the East have really been stirring things up. Abramovich at Chelsea has had a dramatic impact on the English league, with his team winning the title for the last two seasons running, but north of the border in Scotland another rich Russian has been making a name for himself.
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Vladimir Romanov, a controversial businessman who allegedly had links with the KGB, took control of Edinburgh-based Heart of Midlothian Football Club (Hearts) last year and has since set about breaking up the traditional duopoly of power held in Scottish football by the two Glasgow clubs, Rangers and Celtic. His methods though have made even Abramovich look conservative. After appointing his son, the cruelly named Roman Romanov, as chairman, he proceeded to sack two coaches within the first 7 months of the season, despite the fact they were doing rather well, and faced accusations that he, rather than the coaches, was calling the shots when it came to transfers and team selection. The financial dealings of the club are also rather murky, with many of the players officially owned by Kaunas, a team in Lithuania, where Romanov is based, and then loaned to Hearts. Romanov allegedly has financial control or a strong influence over half the teams in Lithuania, and suspicions have been raised about his business practices. This could all pale into insignificance though if the latest rumoured takeover eventually happens. Recently soccer’s ‘transfer window’, the period during which clubs are allowed to trade players, closed, and the biggest shock of the summer was that West Ham Football Club, a decent but relatively obscure side, managed to sign two of the most promising players in world football, the Argentines Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. If this has been a normal transaction these two players would have had a market value of maybe $114 million combined, but somehow West Ham managed to get the two for less than $2 million. There have since been all sorts of conspiracy theories and accusations speculated on by the media and the public, with West Ham fans, for obvious reasons, the only ones who don’t seem to be complaining. What has emerged though is that the players appeared to be ‘owned’ by a company run by Kia Joorabchian, an Iranian businessman. This has raised suspicions as Joorabchian was heavily linked with a bid to buy West Ham last year, and now the fact he has allowed two players he owns to join the club for next to nothing looks very much like a sweetener to any future deal for the club. The fact that the day after the players joined West Ham it was announced that the club were involved in discussions over a takeover simply confirmed these misgivings. Joorabchian is already financially involved with Corinthians, the club in Brazil which Tevez and Mascherano were previously playing for, and which is currently under investigation for money laundering. He has allegedly enlisted support in his bid to buy West Ham from Badri Patarkatsishvili, a Georgian-based billionaire who is wanted in Moscow for fraud and embezzlement and has been linked with football betting scandals.
Alan, difficult to answer as a Pompey fan for without Milan's millions we would have gone out of business long ago. Having seen how passionate and involved both Milan and Sacha have been in our club I would have to say it is a very good thing. They have both proved not just to be investors but in truth they are loyal and true fans of Pompey. Sacha is now taking us on another journey and to another level of football in the Premiership so I for one an in full support of foreign investors. Quite simply it seems British investment in football is a dying act so if people who are excited and passionate about football from other countries want to invest their hard earned cash then who am I to criticise? They have kept our club and dreams alive "Play up Pompey"!
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I honestly believe there are very few foreign investors who are true fans of the club they invest in, it's one hell of a tax dodge, look at Chelsea, it is no longer sport it is business. The EPL governing bodies will take action at some point or the European crowd will jump in before them.
Inside the next 10 years i can see European football being run along the same lines as an American football franchise, your going to have one franchise player (i.e steve Gerrard would be an obvious Liverpool choice)who gets the top dollar, and the rest of the squad will be salary capped, bit like reality fantasy football!
Is investment good for the game?, of course it is, but someone needs to get a grip on the reins of this before it runs wild, any club making money these days is doing it from merchandise, we all know that, look at Man U, apparently 92% of their supporters have never been to Old Trafford, and i dare say that's true for many a club.
Investment? yes, control needed?, definately.