The Antagonist - The mystery of club ownership in the Premier League
Published: 16 Oct 2009 - 15:13:20
This week, the Antagonist uses his always-controversial Friday column to delve into the murky waters of club ownership in the Premier League.
'Who owns what club?' seems to be the big issue of the moment in the football world.
In the dim distant days when I was a scabby-kneed, snotty-nosed strip of a lad, the ownership of my football club was of no concern to me whatsoever.
In those days, the focus was completely on the team and the manager and, I suppose, we all just took it for granted that someone in a dingy, back room, club office somewhere would take care of all the 'boring bits' and allow us to salivate over the football on match days.
Today, however, the owners frequently take the headlines. In a recent Times article, for example, five out of the nine pages dedicated to football were occupied by stories about the ownership of clubs.
Granted, most of this space concerned the recent merry-go-round at Portsmouth, but it does seem to indicate a shift of emphasis that I find increasingly worrying.
These days the proprietors of football clubs fall into several different categories.
1. The Abramovichesque owner (e.g Chelski)
This owner has more money than you can shake a stick at. Football has provided a convenient vehicle to get their name up on the World stage where they can be the centre of attraction. Money is no object so they can operate at a massive loss and indulge themselves in their fantasy. Football just happens to be the convenient vehicle to achieve their narcissistic objective. The problem with this type of owner is that they have probably got all their money by being ruthless in the first place so are likely to 'jump ship' as soon as boredom sets in or sack the manager if he doesn't exactly fulfil the owners fantasy (bye bye Jose!)
2. The Glazieresque owner (eg Moneychester United)
This owner uses the reputation and potential earnings of a big club to bankroll their enormous debts. This is basically the same principle that has led to the latest World credit crunch. Fine when things are 'hunky dory', but watch out if things start going wrong. It's a long slippery slope to the Blue Square Premier League.
3. The Arabesque owner (eg Man Chitty)
Not easy to define this one. Some like to take a front seat, promoting themselves and their vast lakes of oil- earned riches whilst others like to blend in seamlessly with the crowd on match days and maintain their anonymity.
4. The Syndicate owner (eg Funderland)
Here we have a model that appears to have the club's best interests at heart. Niall Quinn appears to have found a workable system in his north east club where he has garnered investment mainly from like-minded, football loving acquaintances. It's difficult to see them, however, breaking into the top 4 and, if they do, staying there.
5. Local 'minted' businessman(eg Bolt on, Middleoftheroadsborough)
No real complaints with this type of 'set up' but, like the four above, it cannot hope to compete with the 'bottomless pit' scenario that characterises the first three types. If the backing business takes a down turn, it could drag the club down with it.
6. The 'Whoareyaesque' owner (eg Bleedsyoudry United, Notts Countyourmoney)
The name says it all. How odd to play, work for or support a club and not have a clue whether you are owned by Ali Al Fatwallet or Ant and Dec. Complicated isn't it? Unfortunately, it is becoming a matter of fact that how your club is owned is ultimately likely to determine where they finish in the league. If, on a whim, the richest man in the World suddenly decided to buy Grimsby Town (no, come on..use your imagination here!), the likelihood is (if he stayed 'on board' for long enough) that Grimsby would, sooner or later, rise to the top echelons of the game, sign on Ronaldo and Kaka and go on pre season tours to the Far East to promote their wares.
So, what I suggest, is do away with the grind and hassle of playing 50-odd league and cup games and formulate the final league table based on the wealth of each club because that's, more or less, how it all ends up anyway.
Cup competitions could be resolved in the same way but with the occasional 'shock' result drawn out of the hat to appease the English passion for the hapless underdog.
There are several benefits of this proposal. The players with the top clubs would go into European competition as 'fresh as daisies', untainted by a gruelling English season, and probably be able to continue playing well into their forties due to lack of wear and tear on their highly tuned, expensively insured bodies.
Those with clubs not qualifying for European competitions could learn a new skill for when their non-playing days are over and we supporters could all cancel our season tickets and Sky Sports subscriptions and get back into the garden.
Alternatively, we could turn all the clubs into fan-owned syndicates, reintroduce the maximum wage for players (£250 per week seems reasonable), impose a strict limit on overseas players (which would probably be unnecessary as no foreign player would want to come here anyway) and see how we get on.
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