Are Foreign Owners Ruining the English Game?

Another day another managerial casualty. That’s just the way modern football operates.

The most shocking news about Alex McLeish leaving Nottingham Forest is he was only in the job six weeks. The reason for his departure; a falling out with the powers above him.

Such is the state if modern day football that the “results driven business” is so intense that managers must deliver almost immediately or they are axed.

This is due to the influx of foreign investment into the English game, who invest into clubs they know little or nothing about hoping to bankroll them to success and line their own pockets.

Although not the first foreign benefactor Roman Abramovich is most certainly seen as the catalyst of where this began buying Chelsea Football Club in the summer of 2003.

Since his arrival the club have won three Premier League titles, ending a 49 year barren spell in doing so, won four FA Cups, had two League Cup triumphs and became the first London club to win the European Cup.

However everything is not as rosy as it seems.

Abramovich is approaching his ten year anniversary in charge of the club he saved from possible bankruptcy in which time nine men have held the role of manager or interim manager.

Even Roberto Di Matteo, the man who delivered the one trophy Abramovich craved more than any, the European Cup was dismissed within six months after doing so.

The next notable foreign investor in the Premier League was Alexandre “Sacha” Gaydamak.

Gaydamak invested into Portsmouth to whom he bankrolled to European football.

Portsmouth were a club going places under his ownership signing various players with calibre and from other leagues, Sol Campbell and Sulley Muntari were two notable signings.

A year after winning the 2008 FA Cup Gaydamak decided his love affair with the English game was over.

He sold the club to Sulaiman Al Fahim and allegedly stripped Portsmouth F.C. of their assets.

Within five years the club have entered administration three times, had two relegations and are set for a third with their former benefactor still an outstanding creditor.

Another success though has been the Abu-Dhabi take over at Manchester City who have been bankrolled to the FA Cup and Premier League titles.

However it can also go wrong when false promises are given.

When the Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett took over at Liverpool in early 2007 they promised to build the club new stadium it had craved since the turn of the millennium and help the side reclaim the English champions crown.

After spending money they didn’t have on drawing up plans for the new stadium it was announced the club were in a dire financial state and were unable to compete on the field.

Liverpool had finished the 2008/09 season second in the league, recording a then record highest points for the runners-up. When manager Rafael Benitez sat to discuss transfer funds it was made clear the club could not strengthen and finished seventh the following season, costing Benitez his job.

There are currently sides who are also under foreign ownership who have had their identity stolen. Cardiff City have had their club colours changed due to their Thai owners wanting to target an Asian market.

Leicester City it could be argued have had their progress halted by changing managers frequently only to bring back Nigel Pearson the man who win them promotion to the Championship and got them in the play-offs in 2009.

Blackburn Rovers have been bought by an Indian group, The Venkys, who promised much investment and to bankroll the side only for them to sack a fans’ favourite and employ someone without pedigree, which resulted in a relegation which since has seen the managerial merry-go-round include the once Premier League champions.

Club benefactors are not just foreign investors and have not just happened since 2003.

Jack Walker, a lifelong Blackburn Rovers fan bought the club himself in 1991 and bankrolled his beloved club to the summit of English football in 1995.

In his time Walker broke the British transfer record twice to bring in Alan Shearer in 1992 and Chris Sutton in 1994, he also appointed the former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish to steer the club to the top.

In the modern day there is Mike Ashley who bought Newcastle United in 2007 and may not have bankrolled the club to any silverware, in fact the side have been relegated and sold key players, but he has kept the club going.

Ashley has never been popular with the supporters at Newcastle but he has been wise with his dealings in the transfer window unlike previous owners and now after almost six years of ownership he is starting to win some over and the club is moving forward with a long term vision in place, without having to splash out on the superstars of today, instead their scouting team are working on a youthful side that can develop together.

The example of Mike Ashley at Newcastle proves that benefactors can take time to win people over and that perhaps it is best to set long term targets without just chasing the here and now.

If clubs such as Chelsea and the others with their foreign benefactors keep acting as they are the clubs will become unsustainable as will the state of English football, as can be seen with the amount of sides that go into administration lower down in the Football League.

Were Abramovich or any of the others to pull the plug on their investment sides would deteriorate and go out of business, as what may happen with Portsmouth and Aston Villa to a lesser scale who have seen their own American investor become reluctant to invest as he once did and are sliding down the Premier League table.

Clubs must stick by plans they set up, money does not always guarantee success as seen with QPR who since winning the championship emphatically in 2011 have struggle to consolidate as a Premier League club whilst still splashing out.


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