The double edged sword of Foreign Ownership in English football

With over half of England's top flight teams belonging to foreign owners, a fire of controversial debate has been lit. The prospect of the club you support being bought by wealthy businessmen who will invest millions, attract stars, plan promotion and or success in cups and leagues is one that is very tempting. Who would say no to billionaires? The problem is that football has become a business in itself and it is in a sector of its own. Potential buyers may have the money but are they trustworthy?

One side of this double edged sword brackets the likes of Sheikh Mansour, Malcolm Glazer and Ellis Short. These owners represent the positive aspects of foreign ownership. Sheikh Mansour, the king of expenditure (injecting over £481.3 million into his club since 2008) lead Manchester City to the Barclays Premier League Title following Sergio Aguero's unforgettable winner against QPR. Foreign ownership for City fans meant a huge economic boost in the club attracting reputable international stars, allowing for success.

 Manchester United were already a popular club before Glazer invested. Although United have suffered financial problems and huge debts, there have been major developments such as new commercial revenues and TV deals which could soon end the debts.  Also, successful globalisation of Manchester United through efficient and effective running has been achieved under Glazer. This also means that deals with Nike are likely to be renewed and Premier League rights may also boost revenue. Manchester United's commercial plans in continents such as Asia, now means that around 10% of the world are fans of the club. Although a number of fans do not appear to be fond of the Glazers, from an objective and neutral point of view Manchester United have benefited from the foreign ownership as globalisation has occurred increasing popularity of the club leading to economic growth. The debt is likely to be resolved in a few years and despite suffering financial problems the Glazers have ensured efficient management of the club and have not let the financial aspects affect the running of the club and performance of the players which is a key component of the success of the club.

Ellis Short (Irish American owner of Sunderland as of 2008) has shown that effective foreign ownership does not require enormous injection of wealth. Good business strategy and knowledge of English football allows for consistently decent results and the ability to finish comfortably in the table.

The other side of the sword however pierces clubs such as Blackburn Rovers, Portsmouth, Birmingham City, Nottingham Forest, Cardiff City, Watford and Leeds United. Fans of the afore mentioned clubs suffer continual frustration as their foreign owners persist to make bad decisions, strip the club of assets, or want to change the traditions and values of the much loved clubs.

 Venkateshwara Hatcheries completed the purchase of Blackburn Rovers in November 2010. Almost immediately, Sam Allardyce who had Rovers sitting comfortably in mid table was sacked and replaced with Steve Kean. Rovers plummeted down to the championship with Kean, ending an 11 year run in the top flight. It emerged that Venky's believed they were investing into a franchise when they bought the club, and the family were also unaware of the relegation aspect of English football. Kentaro and Jerome Anderson's SEM agency group signed a corporate deal in 2009 and involvement with Blackburn Rovers caused some frustration amongst fans, especially when Steve Kean signed Myles Anderson (you can make the connection...) Venky's have also publicly made outlandish statements such as the hope to sign Ronaldinho. Kean resigned in September 2012 after months of continual and justifiable protests from fans and a huge decrease in attendances at Ewood Park. He was replaced by ex player and renowned legend Henning Berg, who after just one win in ten was also sacked. Ex Blackpool man Michael Appleton now manages the squad. In defence of Venky's, they have proven themselves to be committed by providing huge investments in the championship this season including a club record purchase of Jordan Rhodes for £8 million.

A club that have previously won the Premier League under fan and businessman Jack Walker has been made a mockery of, after the Venky's who don't quite know what their doing have involved themselves with the beloved Lancashire club.

Other clubs such as Nottingham Forest have also endured extreme anguish after the Al-Hasawi family based in Kuwait bought the club in July 2012. Sean O'Driscoll, known for playing an attractive style of passing football which appealed to the fans, was appointed on the 19th of July. On boxing day 2012, the Al-Hawasi family sacked O'Driscoll after a 4-2 victory over Leeds United. The justification for this decision was that it was deemed important for a manager with Premier League experience to step up to the job. Football fans alike were shocked at the decision, especially when Alex McLiesh (who had previously at Aston Villa won only four of nineteen home games) was the man to replace O'Driscoll. Just 40 days after McCliesh and Notts Forest agreed terms, McCliesh was on his way out by mutual agreement. Supporters and and other football fans registered their concern for the way the club was being run. On the 7th February 2013, Billy Davies was appointed manager.

Again, it appears foreign owners lacking knowledge in the football sector made detrimental decisions when dealing with a club loved by many.

Cardiff City was taken over by Datuk Chan Tien Ghee on the 27th of May 2010. However Vincent Tan, a Malaysian businessman is the man with the money worth around £800 million. Tan made the decision in 2012 to change the traditional home colours of blue, to red and black. He also changed the club logo. The change provoked disappointment and anger amongst a majority of fans, who are traditionally nicknamed the 'Bluebirds.' Vincent Tan recently announced he was considering changing the name of the club to "Cardiff Dragons." Fans were furious and devastated with the proposed change and Tan was forced into reconsidering and announced there would be no name change. However Tan's apparent indifference to the fans opinions leaves many fans concerned for what lies in the future of the rebranding process. 

Tan has shown a lack of interest in the fans opinions, and appears to have no problem with stripping the club of their traditions and values.

There may be some advantages that come with foreign ownership (if you're lucky) such as injection of wealth which can provide instant success for clubs, especially those under economic strain but the disadvantages of foreign ownership outweigh the potential positives. The dismantling of a club can occur in an extremely short amount of time, and can then take decades to rebuild. Blackburn Rovers, a club built on foundations of community, passion and love has been treated appallingly by owners with a lack of knowledge and interest. Nottingham Forest have recently been exposed to the dangers of foreign ownership after the unexplained sacking of O'Driscoll and the replacement being a manager who may be deemed as incompetent after failing to achieve with Aston Villa. Arguably, the worst side effect of foreign ownership has developed with Cardiff City, who have witnessed the stripping of tradition and values at their club.

Whilst foreign ownership may be beneficial to the lucky clubs, like Manchester United and Manchester City, looking at the bigger picture it may have devastating effects on the already controversial modernisation of football.