Arabs and soccerball
Posted by John Beech on July 8, 2009
It is reported that Charlton Athletic are possibly the subject, again, of a takeover bid from the UAE (1) and (2), this in the context of recent annual losses of £11.5m (3), the selling of fixed assets (4), and relegation to League 1. Less than a week ago Plymouth Argyle (Championship) were taken over by a consortium with Japanese investors (5), and just over a week ago Notts County (League 2) submitted to a takeover also backed by Arab finance (6). Foreign ownership is clearly on the drive down the football pyramid. Not that this is an entirely new phenomenon – for example, in 2007 Swindon Town with Portuguese investors, as far back as 1999 with Terry Smith’s (USA) unfortunate involvement with Chester City, and, over twenty years ago, with Jerry Sherman’s (USA) positively disastrous involvement with Newport County – but foreign ownership is clearly no longer a characteristic of just Premier League clubs.
In the PL foreign ownership or investment is common place – Aston Villa (USA), Chelsea (Russia), Fulham (Egypt), Liverpool (USA), Manchester City (Thailand, then UAE), Manchester United (USA), Portsmouth (USA, Israel and possibly next UAE), Sunderland (Ireland, then USA) and West Ham (Iceland).
To me, all benefaction is potentially dangerous to a club – wallets are not infinitely deep and commitment may waver over time.
If there is a distinction to be made between foreign and domestic benefaction it is perhaps in the propensity to waver. Recent UAE investment plans have switched somewhat arbitrarily, in terms of commitment to a particular club, which suggests that the the traditional bond between local backer and club is inherently less strong when the backer is not a local boy made good.
It worries me when I read that the imminent (?) takeover of Southampton by a Swiss consortium involving the Liebherr family is in some way connected to the fact that there are already local links – Liebherr cranes in Southampton Docks (9). Per-lease! On that basis, the family would have the same commitment, or lack of it, to virtually any port city club!!
[See also my posting of 5 June]