Football in England: The Premier League and its Investors

Status: 07.03.2023 8:40 a.m

In no other football league sums flow like in the Premier League. Now Manchester United is for sale – the next billion dollar deal. But high investments do not automatically mean sporting success, as Chelsea FC shows.

By Imke Köhler, ARD Studio London

It was a must-win for Chelsea at the weekend: The Blues took three points against Leeds, but the win didn’t really help. Chelsea remain tenth in the table, despite leading the way in spending. In the vein of previous owner Roman Abramovich, Chelsea made large-scale purchases over the winter.

The new owners, the private equity company Clearlake eCapital and the US billionaire Todd Boehly, made it possible, among other things, to buy world champion Enzo Fernandez – for a record sum of 121 million euros. That’s almost twice as much as the entire Bundesliga paid for transfers in winter. Overall, Chelsea has spent around 320 million euros on numerous new players, so far it has not paid off in sporting terms.

Glazer family wants to sell Manchester United

Huge sums of money are also at stake elsewhere: Manchester United is for sale, and not just since the club suffered a 7-0 defeat in the game against Liverpool on Sunday.

Manchester United is currently owned by the US Glazer family who are considering divesting the club. Talks are said to be held in the next few days with two prospective buyers: British entrepreneur and billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani, brother of the Emir of Qatar. The Glazers are aiming for a sales price of almost seven billion euros, the bids have so far been around five billion.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe: Like the brother of the Emir of Qatar, he is interested in Manchester United and would like to buy the club from the Glazer family.

Image: AFP

It’s about more than just an investment

Simon Chadwick, who studies the connection between sport and geopolitical business interests, explains why buying a football club is about more than just an investment: “There is political capital to be gained from owning a football club. Football is a great opportunity to network to build and access key decision makers, but it’s also about soft power, nation branding and positioning yourself strategically.”

If the Qatari Sheikh al-Thani were to win the bid, the influence of the Gulf states in northern England would continue to grow, with Newcastle United already in Saudi hands and Manchester City owned by investors from the United Arab Emirates.

Control of club football is to be reformed

The British government presented a white paper last week on how to reform club football control. Among other things, it is also about the acquisition and ownership of the clubs.

Football expert and ex-pro Gary Neville can’t wait for the reform: “My priority at the moment is to ensure that English football is overseen so that there is a certain level of control. […] To become a football club owner in this country, there should be a license and clear criteria that everyone knows. That has to be implemented.”

With regard to Qatar, Manchester United fans have called for a new club owner to respect the rights of everyone, including women and members of the LGBTQ community.

There are also concerns from a sporting point of view. Because according to UEFA regulations, football clubs that have the same owner are not allowed to compete against each other. However, since Qatar Sports Investment already owns Paris Saint-German, it would first have to be ensured that the investors who may be buying Manchester United are not the same. There is a similar problem with the potential buyer Sir Ratcliffe, because he already owns the French first division club Nice.

Billion dollar game – The Premier League and its investors

Imke Koehler, ARD London, March 7, 2023 7:45 a.m

source site