Why respect is vital to foreign ownership
NEW BREED MUSTN’T DESTROY TRADITION
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.