This is a guest contribution from Matt Cohen, who recently completed an internship with Max Eppel Soccer Agency LLC and is currently engaged by Cassius Management’s Sports Division (www.cassiusmanagement.com) as a US intern. He lives in Southern California and has experience in the soccer market securing playing contracts and endorsement deals for players.
As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, English Premier League team Liverpool Football Club, aka, “The Reds,” were sold to New England Sports Ventures under the ownership of Americans John W. Henry and Tom Werner on 15 October 2010 for £300m.
I know this is tough for all you Liverpool fans to see another foreign owner take charge of your beloved club. And I’m sure it is more frustrating to see Americans running the show, especially with the different level of play between the two countries. You’re probably asking yourselves what true experience they have for this beautiful game of soccer and if they know the proper way to create a winning squad.
However fans, I have some news for you.
What do English Premier League Football teams Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Fulham, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and now Liverpool, all have in common?
Super wealthy foreign investors own them all!
Let’s review: Malcolm Glazer owns Manchester United, Randy Lerner owns Aston Villa, Stan Kroenke is a significant shareholder with Arsenal, and all are from The USA. Roman Abramovich from Russia owns Chelsea and Alisher Usmanov, another significant shareholder with Arsenal, is from Uzbekistan. Carson Yeung, a Hong Kong businessman owns Birmingham City and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, from the United Arab Emirates, owns Manchester City. These are just a few.
Now, add two very successful Americans, John W. Henry and Thomas C. Werner to this list. They are the current owners of the Boston Red Sox (and newly acquired Liverpool F.C.), an American Major League Baseball franchise, who transformed this once mediocre team, to being crowned World Champions in 2004 and 2007.
As an American, and someone who works in the soccer industry, I feel it is great to see foreign owners getting involved in the game. Whether it’s for the glory on the field, or for financial gain only, it brings a greater awareness to the game in general. After all, fans only want to see one thing and one thing only on the result sheet every week. Win.
Here in the USA, we too are being infused with players and coaches with Premiership and International experience. It all lends itself ultimately to a better soccer experience for the fan, a greater level of competitiveness and, a better product.
Back to Liverpool and those fiercely loyal English fans. Let’s not forget they were once the dominant team in England. They won league titles virtually every year between 1973 and 1984 along with three European Cups, three FA Cups and four League Cups. Since then, success at this level has been hard to come by, and the team has disappointed fans looking to repeat those golden years. Henry and Werner offer the monetary infusion and management skills necessary to reinvigorate this once dominant team. And that is my very point. Do the loyal fans of these English clubs really care about who owns and manages their beloved team? Is it really about winning and restoring the lost pride and quality of player that it takes to compete for the very top honor at this level?
Just look at what some players are earning these days. Recently Manchester United secured a 5-year contract with striker Wayne Rooney that will give him roughly £200,000 per week! Look what it takes to put together a top-level competitive team. The game has changed and continues to become even more expensive. Someone must ultimately pay bigger player compensation packages.
Luckily, Henry and Werner bring a new sense of excitement to this aspect of the game. With their understanding that Liverpool is in need of significant change, this could potentially be the beginning of signing more high-end players. For them to compete with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, Liverpool needs the funds to do so. This is where Henry and Werner can be of substantial assistance.
If a fan can watch his team earn 3 points every match and be in the top end of the table why would he care about who owns the club? As long as his club is producing positive results, the ownership will not be criticized.
So it comes down to who can afford to run and manage these clubs. The combination of superb management skills and massive amounts of wealth is the key to a dominating club. The old days of owners seeking pride of ownership alone, is grimly faced with the stark realization of being able to support these teams, all chasing for the top spot. Let’s face it, success brings glory and financial return. Every year starts the same way. Each team begins with zero wins and zero losses but the dream to win it all.