Owners – continuing to break your hearts

Written by Henry Clark

After defeats fans are generally very quick to get on the back of their managers and players; not so quick to blame the owner. ‘But they’re the people that have put money into the club’ and ‘Without them you may not even have a football club’ I hear you say.

Running a football club is no easier than running a business – both have clear directions and plans that they hope to build upon, with dreams of expansion and success a mere epiphany for most. People or investment groups do not put their money into football clubs for ‘the love of the game’. They are there to make money and earn a living, a living that most fans inside their stadium dream of having.

Foreign owners have been a hot topic in England over the last 5 years or so, with more and more clubs seeking wider global investment to not just create a football club but a brand as well. These professionals offer lucrative marketing and sponsorship deals across the world that can raise the profile of the club exponentially.

Do they care?

Sadly, not everyone has the ‘right’ intentions when buying a football club. Their motivation is likely not going to be to ‘keep the spirit of football alive’. Processes are now in place to make sure the right sort of people are entering football, not just ones that will turn the TV on in their penthouse in Los Angeles to find out their team has been battered 4-0 away from home whilst they’re sitting there with a glass of chardonnay. Such processes are particularly scrutinising in England, with the FA fit and proper owners test a compulsory test that must be taken by all individuals wishing to own a football club.

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credit dom fellowes

Fans don’t expect clubs to be pumping any profits straight back into the club – they understand business does not work this way. The relationship between the fans and owners is one that requires some serious counselling and regular communication. With many Premier League clubs being owned by controversial foreign owners, fans are beginning to turn against the appointment of foreign owners. And that’s not because all fans are racist – far from it. In fact, with Britain being one of the most diverse countries in the world fan bases continue to grow for all sides with people of all genders, ethnicities and races becoming part of the football community, one that cherishes 3 o’clock on a Saturday more than any other group.

There’s a fine line between owning a football club and running it like a business and buying a football club as a business. Owners in the first category are the type that value communication with fans – that doesn’t mean that they have to be like the new Aston Villa owner Dr Tony Xia and tweet every single movement in their club. And this doesn’t have to be even direct communication with the fans. The realisation that season tickets don’t have to be £400 for children shows an understanding with fans, one that is greatly appreciated.

Not all tweeting and cash…

Don’t get me wrong, not every foreign owner is this pantomime villain character that I seem to be suggesting. Look at Manchester United. After a shaky start, the American Glazier family have turned United into a highly profitable business that is successful on and off the pitch. Sponsorship deals with Adidas in the region of £750 million have allowed them to go out and get the big names in world football like Paul Pogba and compete at the top of football, allow their fans to watch some of the world’s best week in, week out.

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credit Fimb

But other owners do play up to this stereotype. If someone in high power at your club such as Charlton’s chief executive Katrien Meire can laugh on national television directly at their own fans, who are protesting against their role in the ownership of the club, would this be regarded as acceptable behaviour? This is just one example of a club being deteriorated by foreign owners, owners that have now given foreign investors a bad name in English football. Charlton fans have been particularly vocal of their displeasure at their owner, Roland Duchatelet, and have even held phoney funerals for ‘the death of their club’.

 

Rule number one…

Many more clubs such as Blackburn Rovers and Leeds United are suffering the same fate. And it’s not just foreign owners – Hull City fans have been locked in a ‘war’ with locally born owner Assem Allam over his running of the Tigers.

I’m of the belief that when you buy a football club, whether you’re from the country that team is or not, the early days are pivotal as an owner. Your very first priority should be getting the fans on side; because whether you like it or not, they’ll be the first to turn on you and won’t turn quietly about the club they love.

What is your opinion on your clubs owners? Let us know in the comments below!

featured image by Fimb