American values governing Premier League sackings
For the second time in a week, American owners of a Premier League club have acted swiftly to protect their investment by sacking a manager. While some observers questioned the strategy of firing Bob Bradley, whom the club had hired just 85 days earlier, co-owner Jason Levien got on with the brutal business of directing the search for the club’s third manager of a troubled season. Wales boss Chris Coleman, former Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs and ex-Birmingham City manager Gary Rowett, himself surprisingly sacked by the club’s Chinese owners this month, are among the favourites.
Managerial departures ahead of January’s transfer window have become familiar. Crystal Palace sit just two places above Swansea in the table and acted decisively last week to bring in Sam Allardyce as their new manager, after British media said Swansea expressed interest in hiring the former England boss who has become a specialist in extracting clubs from relegation trouble.
Palace also have American co-owners in Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who helped provide the finance for a £50 million ($61 million) injection into the club last December, after being linked with another corporate raid to secure Aston Villa, who were then owned by yet another American, Randy Lerner.
Harris and Blitzer know Swansea’s Levien well, having all been part of the same investment group, along with the actor Will Smith, that paid $280 million for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011.
Levien subsequently sold his stake in the basketball team, moving more heavily into football as managing general partner of Major League Soccer team DC United before forming part of the consortium that paid £110 million with partner Steve Kaplan for a 68 percent controlling interest in Swansea City last July.
WORLD RICHEST LEAGUE
Investment from across the Atlantic has flowed steadily into British football of late with six of the Premier League’s 20 clubs now listed as having at least one American owner, with Manchester United (the Glazer family), Liverpool (John Henry), Arsenal (Stan Kroenke) and Sunderland (Ellis Short) forming an elite sub-group inside the world’s richest league. They are all chasing the huge rewards available to winners, with accountancy firm Deloitte forecasting that last season’s surprise champions Leicester City, owned by Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, will enjoy revenues of at least £155m in the 2016-17 financial year, regardless of this season’s performances.
With such sums on offer, it is no surprise that English football has become such a managerial killing field. Its latest casualty, Bradley, took to the airwaves on Wednesday to vent his frustration at being sacked after just 11 games in charge. “I thought discussions were going in the right direction. I think that Jason and Steve understand the team needs to be improved and that will include spending money in January to make it happen,” he told TalkSport.
Former Palace manager Pardew had also expressed his satisfaction with the result of a “productive meeting” with his former owners, Harris and Blitzer, in New York last month before his own sacking.
Those talks had been triggered by a 5-4 defeat at Swansea, which had granted Bradley temporary relief at Pardew’s expense. But little more than a month later, both managers are gone. As they search for a new miracle worker, Swansea’s owners know they cannot afford to make another wrong decision because English football is now governed by the bottom line. Millions of dollars are riding on it.