Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

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).

I don’t share the views of Phil ‘Let’s stick to good old English benefactors’ Gartside (7) though. His views are not in fact consistently hardline anti-foreign (8).

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]

One Response to “Arabs and soccerball”

  1. John Beech said

    Imminent the Swiss takeover of Southampton indeed proved (1).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: