What’s it with rich owners buying Football clubs, one may ask? Well, if the recent flourishes in the transfer market is anything to go by, Football is fast becoming a business opportunity for those who can afford to be in the mix.
The amount of money involved in the game is crazy. The sources of income are vast. Starting from the crazy ad deals that clubs sign, the umpteen sponsorship deals, the money received from selling merchandise, the high season ticket prices right up to the TV and Broadcasting revenues, there sure is a hell lot of money.
The first and most high profile take over in recent times was that of Manchester United in 2006. The Glazer family recognized the brand value of Manchester United and cashed in on it. 11 years later, given that Manchester United are the most valuable and profitable football club in the world, one can call that as a masterstroke of sorts.
And here we are today. With almost 7 of the top 20 football clubs being owned by a Middle-Eastern company, we truly may be witnessing the commercialization of the game we all love.
But, what is the motive of these owners? Do they buy stakes with just the motive of churning profits, or do they have a vision for the future of the football club?
Are they in the business of overall development, or do they just invest money in football clubs as a safety deposit, knowing that the money can be recovered given the high spending nature of the sport?
The answer is ambiguous. While Manchester City and Chelsea’s take over has turned the tables for the clubs, who now are serious title contenders for the top prize in England; there have been other takeovers that didn’t really materialize in the same manner.
The purchase of Cardiff City by the Malaysian tycoon, Vincent Tan brought hope to the fans who dreamt of better days; but they were treated to a horror show as Tan proceeded to change the club’s identity with daft decisions such as changing the club’s traditional blue-striped kit into completely red, and replacing the emblem from a bluebird to a dragon; with the sole purpose of selling the club’s image to a larger fan base in Asia. Other instances involve the renaming of legendary stadiums to the name of the highest bidder; the most famous one being that of St. James’ Park, that was renamed to Sports Direct Arena. Fans were unhappy and were successful in the reverting the name.
Stan Kronke, a shareholder at Arsenal has received a lot of stick for refusing to delve into the club’s cash reserve and free up funds for Arsene Wenger in the transfer window.
That’s where the main question comes up. Where do businessmen draw a line between commercial gains and development of the football club?
Whatever be the answer, it shouldn’t affect the proceedings on the pitch.