Another leading Premiership club moved closer to foreign ownership, with David Dein today announcing he’d sold his 14.5% share to “a firm co-owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov for 75 million pounds”. Dein himself will be chairman of the outfit, “Red and White Holdings”, with another investor, Farhad Moshiri, also involved. This is clearly a prelude to a takeover bid, despite denials for now.
Speaking on the BBC’s Sportsweek programme only last Sunday, Arsenal’s Managing Director Keith Edelman spoke out against foreigners, who were not ‘fans’ of the club, investing in the Premier League.
One of my concerns about foreign investment is that you’ve got to ask yourself why are people investing in a Premier League club. I think it’s very difficult to put a tick against their name and say they’re doing it because they love the game and love their club. I think most of the foreign investment is being made because they want to earn some capital, they want to make some money.
These comments come on top of Michel Platini’s diatribe against foreign ownership.
I can’t understand how so many English clubs are owned by foreign people. I think we can do something. I don’t know why Americans come to buy some clubs. You need your identity.
I can’t understand why some English clubs are owned by Americans because they do not come for the beauty of the game, for the romance of the football in England. They come because they want to make money. We need to defend that.
If you have Manchester against Liverpool it is part of the population of the cities. But now if you have an owner from America against an owner from Russia, I don’t like it.
The problem is that all these anti-foreigner complaints do not get to the heart of the issue at all. There are plenty of British owners, as this Liverpool blogger points out, who are clearly not fans of their teams, and clearly are out to do nothing but make money.
I’d much rather have Gillett and Hicks own Liverpool, than, say, Steve Morgan, Doug Ellis, David Sullivan/David Gold, or Ken Bates, just to name a few. Actions are what matters, not nationality.
This is true, though there do have to be concerns that the more distant from the locality and identity of a club’s home an owner is, the less likely they are to understand the concerns of local supporters.
The bigger problem is simply that the Premiership is ever further detached from supporters, and this might only be remedied at this stage by drastic actions such as those taken with the formation of AFC Wimbledon or FC United.
UPDATE: Here’s a Forbes profile of Usmanov. Arsenal fans will be delighted to learn that “his first love was his stock, or shares, in his metals plants.”