THE BIL­LION­AIRES CLUB

Inside Sport - - INSIDER - THE UN­STOP­PABLE RISE OF FOOT­BALL’ S SU­PERRICHOWNERS BY JAMES MONTAGUE, BLOOMS BURY ,†‡ˆ.ŠŠ – JC

Thanks to mod­ern foot­ball, the word “oli­garch” has passed into more gen­eral us­age. It’s un­avoid­able if you fol­low the game – so many of the world’s big­gest teams owe their sta­tus to ob­scenely wealthy bene­fac­tors. When we talk about there be­ing too much money in foot­ball, in what the play­ers make and the clubs gen­er­ate, we only need to keep in per­spec­tive that the sport is a rel­a­tive play­thing com­pared to the as­sets of its own­ers.

This is a tale, and a good one at that, of just how far fi­nance flows in a global mar­ket. James Montague made his name as the most in­trepid of foot­ball writ­ers – his pre­vi­ous books in­clude the en­ter­tain­ing Thirty-One Nil, an ac­count of var­i­ous min­nows’ attempts to qual­ify for the World Cup. The Bil­lion­aires Club sim­i­larly takes him places, start­ing with the Rus­sia that pro­duced the orig­i­nal foot­ball oli­garch, Chelsea’s Ro­man Abramovich, to the cor­po­rate types of the US, and finally the nou­veau riche of Asia and the Mid­dle East. The bot­tom line of all the money spent and du­bi­ous deal­ing in­volved is rather chill­ing – fans don’t al­to­gether care too much who’s pay­ing the big bucks at their club, as long as the wins keep com­ing.

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