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Are foreign investors helping our football teams?


May 4, 2017

One of the most incredible things about British football is the allure that it holds for people on the opposite side of the world. The high standards and star-studded squads naturally attract football fans on a global scale, whilst players all over the planet relish the opportunity to perform in front of British crowds on the biggest stages. However, most interestingly of all, foreign entrepreneurs and business owners have also become infatuated with British football, identifying club ownership as a fruitful endeavour with the capability to put their name and brand in the spotlight.

Almost one-third of all teams performing in the football league are now owned by an organisation that has a headquarters based overseas, with business owners from a variety of backgrounds electing to plough money into clubs as part of an ongoing venture that involves regular investment.

Of course, the risk that every foreign investor takes is that they will be transformed into a scapegoat by supporters when things are not going well on the pitch. If the manager is well-liked but the results aren’t arriving, attention invariably turns towards the owner, with fans raising questions about the scale of the investment and what the “real” intentions of the businessman are.

However, what a lot of supporters don’t realise or understand is that the handful of horror stories surrounding foreign investors are few and far between.

Investment from overseas has actually changed the face of football in Britain for the better in many ways, offering smaller clubs the funds they need to attract the best talent from around the world. This has subsequently prevented any one club from racing ahead of the pack in terms of accolades (no team has won the Premier League in concurrent seasons for seven years now), and in turn has helped to make British football even more competitive than it already was.

Manchester City and Chelsea are regarded as two of the major players in the Premier League in the modern era, but neither club had won the top trophy in England for over 40 years before they were taken over by foreign investors. Leicester City’s Thai chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha also helped to set up the springboard that propelled the Foxes to an unthinkable triumph in May 2016, whilst their midlands rivals Nottingham Forest are hoping for similar results when Evangelos Marinakis turns into the majority shareholder at the club later this year. With this Greek shipowner at the helm, Forest will have hundreds of millions of their disposal, and will hope to emulate Leicester in reaching the upper echelons of the football pyramid.

Clubs in Manchester, London and the Midlands have all experienced success thanks to the influx of big money from abroad, and it’s hard not to wonder whether teams closer to home would experience the same dizzying accomplishments if a foreign investor took over. Newcastle United have endured a tumultuous time under Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley, and Ellis Short has been unable to supply the funds to make Sunderland a competitive force in the Premier League in recent seasons. The North East of England has been starved of top silverware for too long, and some are wondering whether foreign investment might, in fact, be in the answer.

With over £5 billion in television rights secured for the Premier League up until 2019, the incentives are there for opportunistic, wealthy overseas businesses to continuing investing in the British game – be it in the North East or anywhere else across the country. It seems that foreign financing is destined to remain a part of British football for the foreseeable future – and that, for many reasons, can be seen as a very good thing.

By Emily