The Impact of Wealthy Businessmen at Football Clubs
Posted on January 20, 2024
The ongoing chaos at Reading FC has had me thinking about the intersection of business and sport. In the last two decades it has become increasingly prominent, with wealthy businessmen frequently taking ownership of football clubs. While this infusion of capital can bring about positive changes, it also raises concerns about the potential downsides. So, what are the pros and cons of a wealthy businessman taking over your football club?
Financial Stability and Investment
Wealthy owners can provide financial stability, ensuring the club’s ability to invest in top-tier players, state-of-the-art facilities, and advanced training programs. This of course, will (hopefully) elevate the team’s competitiveness and attract top talent.
A reputable wealthy businessman can offer a successful track record in business, allowing the football club to benefit from enhanced global branding and exposure. This can attract sponsors, investors, and a broader fanbase.
infrastructure and Strategy
With substantial financial resources, good owners invest in upgrading or constructing new stadiums, training facilities, and youth academies. This long-term infrastructure development contributes to the club’s overall growth and success (see Manchester City).
If their investment is long-term they will also be keen to introduce innovative strategies to boost revenue, such as leveraging technology for fan engagement, creating merchandise lines, or exploring new revenue streams. These strategies will ultimately enhance the club’s financial health.
Many football club owners driven by immediate returns on investment may prioritise short-term success over long-term sustainability. This often leads to impulsive decisions, such as poor transfer dealings and changing managers frequently, damaging cohesion within the playing squad.
Wealthy owners might face challenges in connecting with a suspicious local fan base. This is especially the case if they are perceived as distant or disconnected from the community (See Reading FC). This can have a damaging impact the club’s identity and fan loyalty. At Reading, many fans have felt disconnected since the departure of local businessman, John Madejski.
While the financial power of wealthy owners can elevate their club, it may also contribute to financial imbalances within the league. Smaller clubs with less financial backing may struggle to compete, potentially impacting the overall competitiveness of the league. Worse still, if millions of pounds are chucked at the Premier League and status is not achieved, things can go out of control and fast.
The involvement of wealthy businessmen in football clubs brings both positive and negative aspects. Striking a balance between financial stability, innovative business practices, and a genuine understanding of football dynamics is crucial for the success and sustainability of the club. As football continues to evolve as a business, finding this equilibrium becomes paramount for the long-term health of the sport.
To achieve this, relevant leagues need thorough checks and balances to weed out dodgy owners. Reading FC have found themselves in a unique situation where the league body that has been perpetually punishing them for poor trading, is made up of the same board of members that allowed a crook to take them over.
There is an argument that wealthy benefactors should not be allowed to own football clubs. The argument being that money for players and infrastructure should come from commercial revenue. However, if that was the case, Manchester United would have won around 25 of the last 30 Premier League titles.
Manchester City would still be a yo yo club. Leicester and Blackburn wouldn’t have lived the impossible dream, and Chelsea fans would still be longing for the glory days of the early seventies.
Balance is the essential ingredient but for the likes of Reading FC, that balancing act went horribly wrong.