Why re­spect is vi­tal to for­eign own­er­ship


The Football League Paper - - IAN RIDLEY - Ian Ri­d­ley

When Ro­man Abramovich took over Chelsea back in 2003, the land­scape of English foot­ball changed for ever. The world sud­denly saw the po­ten­tial to make money, with TV deals ris­ing and ris­ing, and we have wit­nessed a decade since of buy­ing and sell­ing.

Now the trend is for over­seas money to look beyond Premier League clubs, which have for many in­vestors be­come pro­hib­i­tively pricey to buy in the mod­ern mar­ket, and to dip into the Foot­ball League.

Why? Well, there is the fun of the English game, the sheer depth and colour of its di­vi­sions that no other coun­try can match – the Cham­pi­onship is of­ten cited as the fourth best sup­ported league in Europe after the Premier, La Liga and the Bun­desliga with around 10 mil­lion watch­ers a sea­son – but it is also, nat­u­rally, about money.

The hope is that by get­ting a club at a rea­son­able price, build­ing and tak­ing it into the Premier, there is a bun­dle to be made. Even bot­tom club Cardiff City re­ceived £62 mil­lion last sea­son and will bank almost as much in para­chute pay­ments over the next four years.

It comes from the cur­rent TV deal of £5bn that may well dou­ble, at least, due to ever bur­geon­ing in­ter­est abroad over the next con­tract, ne­go­ti­a­tions for which will be­gin late this year and take ef­fect in 18 months.

No won­der own­ers want a piece of it, and see the Cham­pi­onship as a cheaper way in. Sadly it also seems to mean that the ten­ure of man­agers is short due to the ex­pec­ta­tions, grow­ing more bru­tal by the year with that pot of gold in the dis­tance.

The lat­est club sold, this past week, is Read­ing, to a Thai con­sor­tium. Just a few months ago it was Leeds, des­per­ate for any kind of saviour, with Mas­simo Cellino tak­ing over, though that is back in doubt after an Ital­ian court rul­ing re­lat­ing to tax eva­sion.

It is even go­ing deeper, to League One, with Mid­dle East in­vest­ment shar­ing own­er­ship at Sh­effield United and the Ital­ian busi­ness­man Francesco Bec­chetti buy­ing

Barry Hearn’s 90 per cent stake in Ley­ton Ori­ent. Now, new own­ers usu­ally want their own choice of man­ager in place, which is one rea­son why Rus­sell Slade has jumped be­fore he was pushed at Bris­bane Road amid in­ter­est from Cardiff City. To many, it may look like a leap from fry­ing pan into fire, given he will be work­ing un­der the de­mand­ing, not slow to sack,Vincent Tan.

The un­der­min­ing at Ori­ent of Slade, well liked in the game for his as­tute­ness and bonhomie, is an ex­am­ple of why there is so much scep­ti­cism, some­times hos­til­ity, to­wards over­seas own­ers.

It should, how­ever, not be about over­seas ver­sus do­mes­tic. After all, English own­ers, after all, have proved them­selves per­fectly ca­pa­ble of sack­ing man­agers, up­set­ting sup­port­ers and say­ing daft things down the years. It is about good ver­sus bad


After all, Ro­man Abramovich has been hugely ben­e­fi­cial for Chelsea – though the wider ef­fect on English foot­ball is very much open to de­bate – and at Le­ices­ter, the Thai own­ers have taken the club into the Premier League, to the de­light of sup­port­ers and city. Given the ever in­creas­ing sums avail­able at the top level, the in­flux is un­likely to stop any time soon. All the English game can ask, there­fore, is that new own­ers and their cho­sen man­agers put their foot on the ball be­fore im­ple­ment­ing what could be dam­ag­ing mea­sures.

The Thais at Read­ing have made a good start by re­tain­ing Sir John Made­jski as co-chair­man and new Leeds man­ager Darko Mi­lanic has been smart in keep­ing Neil Red­fearn around the first team, even if Cellino has acted hastily again in sack­ing con­sul­tant Gra­ham Bean.

The ad­vice from this quar­ter to the new breed would be quite sim­ple: re­spect the club and the com­mu­nity, don’t change colours or names, and em­ploy lo­cal knowl­edge.

After all, why change what at­tracted you to the club and a won­der­ful sys­tem and set-up in the first place?

SAW a fair bit of Ravel Mor­ri­son in

the Cham­pi­onship last sea­son with Queens Park Rangers and you could

see how he would drive man­agers mad,

from Sir Alex Fer­gu­son via Harry Red­knapp Sam to

Al­lardyce. All that tal­ent on the ball, but of­ten one with

touch too many, slow­ing down at­tacks and then pick­ing the wrong op­tion

with an over-am­bi­tious pass and sur­ren­der­ing pos-se ssion, leav­ing a team vul­ner­a­ble to

a counter-at­tack. And that is with­out

the off-fie ld bag­gage that has bur­dened him. Now he is on loan at Cardiff fromWest Ham.Time is run­ning out to knuckle

down, lis­ten and learn. Hate see­ing great

tal­ents giv­ing in­ter­views ten years on blam­ing oth­ers for why they didn’t make it.

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