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Foreign owners benefit English soccer, says Arsenal’s Alisher Usmanov

Nov 29, 2013, 2:51 PM EST

RUSSIA-UAE Getty Images

Over the past decade in the Premier League a huge influx of foreign owners has helped transform many of England’s biggest clubs.

Some purists argue that foreign owners don’t understand the ethos of certain teams and are not sensitive to the needs of the fans, others believe the endless millions that wealthy benefactors, who hail from outside the UK, pour into the teams and the country itself is of huge benefit to the English people.

One of the largest shareholders in Arsenal Football Club, Alisher Usmanov, is of the latter opinion.

Mr. Usmanov has a personal wealth of over $20 billion and has tried to increase his 30 percent stake in Arsenal only for American majority shareholder Stan Kroenke to brush him aside. However, with the growing band of foreign owners in the PL set to increase in the future, Usmanov believes it is benefiting the league.

“Everyone who has legal right to buy something can perform this right,” Usmanov told BBC Sport. “We have Kroenke, [Aston Villa’s Randy] Lerner, many, many people and now many Asian owners. I think everyone is comfortable if the club are successful. If the club are not successful then, of course, everybody wants to find somebody guilty.”

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 and that started a wave of foreign investment in the PL as American Malcolm Glazer took over at Manchester United, Sheikh Mansour from Abu Dhabi bought Manchester City, Aston Villa were bought by American Randy Lerner and now the list goes on and on.

Usmanov wants that to continue and doesn’t think it’s doing anybody any harm as more money floods in from overseas.

source: Getty Images

Cardiff’s owner Vincent Tan changed the clubs color from blue to red to help sales in his homeland of Malaysia. Many loyal fans walked away.

“I’m sure it is good [for English football],” Usmanov said. “When investors come and invest in the economy, in British football, it is a big part of the entertainment economy in the United Kingdom. What’s bad?”

As it stands ten (Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Southampton, Cardiff City, Chelsea and Fulham) of the PL’s 20 teams are owned by non-British companies or individuals. Many fans of those clubs have claimed struggles with their identity as new owners try new ideas, re-brand the team in different ways and try to make their new ‘business’ as profitable as possible.

But can fans really complain about changes in color or traditions? After all, these wealthy individuals are allowing the side they support to thrive and compete in the most lucrative and most watched league in the world.

Something has to give and ultimately, money talks.

Whether that’s with finances from England or finances from foreign countries, the Premier League clubs involved are benefiting tremendously.

As Usmanov said, ‘What’s bad about that?’

  1. Matthew - Nov 29, 2013 at 4:34 PM

    Reblogged this on Carolina Mountain Blue and commented:
    I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, having foreign owners can be a good thing as it can inject a healthy dose of additional funding that teams can use to their benefit. On the other hand, it can also alienate fans, especially when said owners (such as Cardiff’s Vincent Tan) try to rebrand the team to their own liking rather than to the fans’ liking.

  2. talgrath - Nov 29, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    The fact of the matter is the EPL wouldn’t be as huge as it is right now if it weren’t for the fact that foreign investors are pumping millions of pounds into the clubs. Bigger clubs, more profit with better marketing have made the EPL what it is today; take away investors like Vincent Tan and you’re left with clubs lacking the same international profile. The question for English soccer fans is this: do you want your traditions more than you want your league to be the biggest in the world?

  3. footballer4ever - Nov 29, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    This is a double edge sword thing. Noone in their right mind can dispute foreign billionaires pumping money into the league is not only good for the Premier League and the country overall. The main question who these billionaires are? Are they businessmen only or are they Football fans/Billionaire owners too?

    Personally, I don’t like the Glazers owning Manchester United because nfl owner’s who become part of the Premier League is more to expand their international reach to try to expand nfl internationally in and increase their revenues.

    John Henry, Liverpool’s owner, is a baseball guy, but in the time he has owned that team, he’s reached out to Liverpool fans and shown his interest in them and has genuinely learned the sport.

    The Glazers are hated in Tampa Bay and in England too. The Glazers can care less about British football fans let alone about Football. They are only fans of $$$$$/Euros and it shows. Owner’s who are not fan of the sport will bail out and abandon ship the moment the tide rises and starts to sink the ship.

    • joeyt360 - Nov 30, 2013 at 9:57 AM

      “Personally, I don’t like the Glazers owning Manchester United because nfl owner’s who become part of the Premier League is more to expand their international reach to try to expand nfl internationally in and increase their revenues.”

      You don’t buy a >$1Billion product to ‘expand the reach’ of your $600 million product.

      The Glazers bought Utd to make a profit. They are not well thought of because they loaded their new company with debt and collected large management fees for it. But they seem to have pulled it off, going public and making enough profit that they are able to make large annual debt payments, while having remained competitive for titles. We’ll see if that can continue in the post-Ferguson era, as he was able to on more than one occasion beat out teams that had outspent him, not an easy thing.

  4. delboy0 - Nov 30, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    It is a double edge sword as someone mentioned. Foreigner owners have come in because British Billionaires don’t invest in sports teams. The global money coming into the EPL is part of the reason the EPL is the strongest of all the leagues, but there is different types of foreign ownership.

    American ownership brings a professional off-field operation in marketing and revenue generation. American owned clubs like Arsenal, Man Utd, Liverpool & Aston Villa have seen their sponsorship revenue increase under American owners, but the negatives of American ownership is Americans put personal profit before performance so American owners tend to under-invest in the team. An example is Man Utd who is the most popular team in the world, but their team is weaker than many of the European giants and the other EPL teams because the Glazers have taken $800 million out of the club profits for their personal fortune.

    Oil Barrons owners like Chelsea’s Roman Abramovic and Man City’s owners tend to put all the money in the playing talent and hope the rest of the operation catches up with the success they have. The pros is the teams become very strong with top players in the team. The negatives is the club becomes a play thing for one man and the club becomes totally indebted to this one man, so if something happens to that man, the team could go bankrupt over night. Plus you tend to attract mercenary players in the initial years until you are a proven success.

    The megalomaniac citizen kane owners aren’t as rich as the Oil Barrons but have bigger egos. Think Vincent Tan and Hull City owner. Rich people like to own EPL teams because nothing makes you more famous around the world than being an owner of an EPL team. No one outside of the USA knew who John Henry was until he became owner of Liverpool and now he is known across the world. This fame attracts a certain kinda of owner, who wants to use the team as an extension of their ego and change everything in their imagine. Vincent Tan changed the Cardiff jersey from the traditional Blue to Red and change the team logo from a bird to dragon because this deemed lucky in Malaysia where tan is from. Imagine the riots if a British person took control of the Boston Red Sox and change their jersey to blue and white and changed the team logo a British bulldog.

    The irony is the owner most disliked by the fans is Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, one of the few English billionaires that own an EPL team. He tends to sack people coaches and officials that are doing well at the Northern English team and replace them with has-beens from London, where Ashley is from. The locals accuse him of cronyism and illogical behavior and they refer to him and the people he appoints as the cockney mafia.

  5. footballer4ever - Nov 30, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    @Joeyt360

    A worldwide football club from a worlwide popular sport like Manchester United gives any owner the reach/power/contacts to expand their portofolio or else why would eggball owners now are out there buying football clubs? I doubt it’s because they are fans of the sport. If that was the case, they would invest in MLS at a low price with plenty of room for profit, but we know where MLS still stands vs the older and bigger football leagues.

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