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Kroenke and other American owners plan Premier League revolution, and its going to be big.

 

by Tony Attwood

How many Premier League teams are under American control?   Come to that how mean English league teams are under American control?

It’s an interesting question, because despite all the mega power that exists in being sponsored by a country, as Manchester City is, it doesn’t really give the club that much power to change the rules of football for the the benefit of that club.  Man City is part of a franchise – but that franchise means one club in each country.   They can’t bind together to create a power base – it is a weakness in the model.

But when a group of people all from the same country, and all used to seeing the sport run in a particular way, get together and start chattering with each other at high powered functions sponsored by their country’s ambassador, then it might be time to take note.

The Premier League teams with American ownership or at least strong American influence are Arsenal (obviously), Crystal Palace, Manchester United, Swansea and Liverpool with Bournemouth partly US owned.   Beyond the PL there are Sunderland, Fulham, Millwall, Portsmouth and Derby County.    Barnsley is said to be about to fall next.

Now the first thing to note is that there is a fair amount of dislike over American owners.  The Glazers are a by word for removing money from the club.   Korenke’s sports franchises don’t win anything.  Henry at Liverpool became an international laughing stock when he was caught boasting at a sporting conference how despite his endless denials, a certain player of his did have a £40m buyout clause in his contract.  Lots of people in business lie of course, but it is not always considered the best policy to boast about it in an open meeting.

But the Americans are not, by and large, very successful.  However the argument being put forward is that the way football works in the US is different from here, so they don’t quite understand what’s what and how to act. In which case the solution is easy: change the system to make it like the American system.

With a lot of people talking gibberish, and a media that doesn’t really have a clue, and is certainly not willing to provide evidence or do any research before they stick the word Exclusive in front of a story, football in England is just plain odd.    As John Henry said in his early days running the “Liverpool franchise”, football is “like the Wild West.”

But the USA tamed the Wild West.  They put in lawmen.  Football has lawmen such as PGMO (quiet please at the back), the FA (stop laughing), Uefa (I told you to stop laughing) and Fifa (right one more snigger and I won’t let you read the rest of this article – it’s serious).

That’s the point: the whole regulation of football is in the hands of crooks and idiots.  A perfect set up for a total take over.

But we must note that what the Americans do not want is to be a Roman Abramovich.  They want to have success, financially and on the pitch.   So they think logically, coolly and calmly.  And then find they are dealing with the media, incompetents, liars and crooks, plus a set of organisations that are both bent and utterly resistant to change.

However the Americans do see a model that works: the world wide marketing model that Manchester United and Real Madrid have followed since devising it in the late 1950s.  Build that into the model and then bolt on a system in which all the coaches and advisers and managers all work as a team with none of them being a total supremo, and you have a model that they can now understand.

It doesn’t mean one team has to win all the time, because these American guys are not after success, as such, but an ever increasing income (and ultimately profit) combined with a promise of success.   And then…

And then we will more than likely wake up one day and find that over 50% of the PL clubs are owned by Americans who all know each other, who meet together (as they did just recently at the residency of the American ambassador in London – a meeting that Arsene Wenger was at as a speaker), and who share a mutual ideal: their clubs in the Premier League, constantly.

At which point, those clubs who are outside of the American Owners Club, those clubs now in the minority of being Not American, start to have a problem.   As the non-American minority their control over the rules and regulations of football starts to slip out of their hands, and they find themselves in a self-perpetuating Soccer Super League but unable to affect any of the rule changes because they are… not American.

If you think this is fanciful, do follow the story of the American clubs’ get together at the ambassador’s home in Regents Park, which has appeared in the American press, (but curiously not in the English media), and consider the language being used.

OK maybe I am quite wrong but remember there are seven out of 20 PL clubs owned by Americans.  Four more, and they have a majority.

And with the majority comes the rule changes: an FFP for English clubs that actually works, salary controls, transfer limitations, everything to keep the system under control and make money.

OK, maybe I’m wrong, in which case, nothing to worry about.  But over the years Untold have got one or two predictions right.

Recent Boasts

20 comments to Kroenke and other American owners plan Premier League revolution, and its going to be big.

  • Jay

    The point of this article should be that things need to change with the business structure of all European football. If it takes American owners to do this then so be it.

  • EAC3

    I didnt snigger so I did read the rest of your interesting article. Whilst the Premiership has and still does enjoy the riches of SKY and BT largesse the system is starting to show signs of fragementation.
    The use of gizmos to get illegal streaming of major sporting events is now commonplace. The American market has already realised you dont want to pay c £80/100 per month for an all events subscription and increasingly you can pay per game/event as and when. So Koronkees ownership of AFC is for the long term….using our own TV platform to broadcast all the Arsenal matches to the new worldwide fanbase…do the maths ..say 20% of a 2million fanbase paying £10 to watch AFCv Spurs live …riches beyond etc…
    Interesting times ahead ….see you in the Swimmer

  • Laos gooner

    “But they tamed the wild west.” Pure comedy genius Tony, thank you so much for that paragraph. I shall chuckle for days.

  • jw1

    “But the USA tamed the Wild West. They put in lawmen. Football has lawmen such as PGMO (quiet please at the back), the FA (stop laughing), Uefa (I told you to stop laughing) and Fifa (right one more snigger and I won’t let you read the rest of this article – it’s serious).”

    I’m still laughing.
    (And I’m American.)

    Since having been conscripted into socc… er, football fandom in 2005 while watching endless replays of the Invincibles successes on our ESPN sports network (mostly from the enthrallment of one watching one T.Henry)? I’ve had to develop a long-distance understanding of what it means to be a fan of English football. There is a derivative– in having been a fan of American High School football– and small followed small college teams– to understand what it’s like to be involved at a local-level– away from the big-money/bright-lights of the PL (and our NFL).

    Don’t get me wrong with this next part. I’m not a big fan of Stan Kroenke– nor of any of his other sports franchises.
    But IMHO– there would be an upside to an American-majority ownership Tony. One that would likely please you. We don’t muck around with poor refereeing over here. The bad ones get demoted (or fired) and the good ones from lower leagues get promoted quickly.

    And– goal-line technology would be expanded (within reason) quickly. An analogous situation would be the NHL. Ice hockey was a Canadian sport until it started gaining franchises in the US. It carries a similar flow to it where there are few stoppages in play– and a nearly-always running clock. The NHL was the first to use video replay and goal-line technology. Stoppages in NFL/NBA/MLB games for video replay are a bit long for most American fans’ tastes– but then these sports have regular stoppages. And they always seem to get the call right– or corrected on-the-spot.

    The one thing that would change– again IMO? Is how freely payers move between teams. The players of talent usually control their own destinies.
    Not so much in US sports. Yes, the mega-stars do. But the level just below– their movement is usually controlled by a system that is borderline collusory.

    @EAC3
    While everything is trending toward a ‘cafeteria-style’ entertainment platform in the US– there are still cable packages within which I can bundle certain sports– and I do see every Arsenal game ‘for free’ presently. Most on regular (Comcast) cable channels– some, like the Doncaster match tomorrow online on a streaming feed live on Comcast’s website– ‘for free’ since I’m a cable subscriber.

    jw1

  • Mark overmoon

    I’d be interested to know the relative differences in profit between finishing in each of the places in the premier league at the end of the season. If there were only a 5% difference in profit between 1st and 5th, for example, the relative financial outlay in players (and other investments) to get from 5th to 1st may well in fact be greater than 5% profit, which begs the question: why would these American businessmen care?

  • Mark overmoon

    Obviously the figures I mention are arbitrary but I can’t help but wonder if there is a golden formula in terms of investment and relative success, which doesn’t necessarily require winning the league.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    A full American takeover of the Premier League will not be good as true competitiveness in the Premier League to win titles will become compromised for monetary profit marking at the expense of passion to win the PL title and others as presently the case in my opinion.

    Man Utd success in title winnings in the recent past seasons was not totally down to the club’s worldwide mammoth franchise power base currently been enjoyed by the club. But the title wins the club had had in the recent past is more or less partly down to Sir Alex Ferguson’s technical know how and his astute managerial acumen at the height of his reign that beat his other rival managers to unprecedented title wins success for the club.

    I think the Premier League will be better off if it’s ownership is not monopolised by the passionless American financial investors, whose sole aims is profit making and not necessarily to win titles, save by chance at random. This will kill the global football fans interest to watch the PL I would imagine. To keep the competitiveness win edge currently on going in the PL which attracts football fans worldwide to the Premier League in particular, I think diversification in foreign ownership of the Premier League in the likes of Abram Abtomovich and the Qatar family ownerships of Chelsea FC and Man City FC where showing passion for these 2 clubs to win titles by their foreign owners is of Paramount to them than using the clubs as machine making money in the manner which Stan Kroenke has been using Arsenal to make money since he became the majority shareholder at the club

    I think the owner or owners of the remaining PL clubs which the American moneybags business investors are yet to buy should forbid greediness to have plenty of money after selling their clubs to the Americans. Which could consequently give them majority ownership of the PL clubs. This will be dangerous! But choose other foreign football investors who have passion to see the clubs they’ll buy win titles like the Chinese, Russian and Arab investors.

  • KR

    Samuel great article response, absolutely spot on.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Interesting concept, but does make sense.
    The Americans certainly couldn’t do any worse than the buffoons that currently run the game here.
    Unless maybe Trump gets in on the act.

  • Gord

    OT: Corruption News

    The NY Times has a new article on a new source of investigating into potential FIFA corruption.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/sports/soccer/fifa-princess-haya-prince-ali.html

    Princess Haya is Prince Ali’s sister.

  • Akan

    Now is time the for those who love the true game to get scared… It smacks of freemasonry systematic control over every aspect of the game for optimising profit overseen by a faceless elite who’s interest and those of the fans are most definitely not compatible. It is already being trialled and taking shape at Arsenal football club. The objective is to brand it as a product similarly to what happens in basketball baseball and ice hockey where even the fights are choreographed to add some spice because the games are so fucking boring you fall asleep,, Packaged football? As Margaret Thatcher said “No No No” We don’t want that shit here

  • Dr Duh

    There are all different kinds of American owners…
    The deeply committed/competitive kind like George Steinbrenner (Yankees baseball) who willingly pour their own money in.
    The uber smart kind like Joseph Lacob (Golden State Warriors basketball) who find a way to win by exploiting inefficiencies.
    The old school traditionalists like Wellington Mara (NY Giants football) who love their teams and are loyal and classy to the end.
    The strip miners like Jeffrey Loria (Marlins baseball) who under-invest and reap profits from revenue sharing.
    The bumbling interferers like James Dolan (Knicks basketball) who try to starf*ck their way to championships while driving their team into the ground.

    The one thing they all have in common is a triple monopoly position.

    First once you join the club of major franchise ownership you it’s almost impossible to get kicked out. There is no promotion-relegation in American sports for obvious reasons. While there have been recent instances of owners being forced to sell teams (Sterling and Levenson) over racists comments, this is a new phenomenon. Marge Schott, praised Hitler, referred to African Americans and Japanese people with racial slurs and was merely suspended. Steinbrenner was suspended for hiring a gambler to spy on a player he deemed uppity.

    Second there are no competing professional leagues. They were either merged into one league (BAA and NBL to form NBA, the AFL-NFL to form modern NFL, the NL and AL to form MLB) or run out of business like the USFL. To the extent that other leagues exist they are so small as to not be real competitors. The exception is college basketball and football whose products are legitimate competitors, but are tolerated because they provide free development of talent.

    This leads to the third monopoly, opportunities for talent. There is nowhere else for talented baseball, basketball or American football players to ply their trade and reap anywhere near the same rewards. Even Euroleague basketball’s highest paid player would be the 230th highest paid player in the NBA. Put another way the worst 3rd year NBA player paid higher than all but the top 20 highest paid players in Euroleague. This monopoly on opportunity gives the owners the best talent and hence the best product, but more importantly it allows the owners to dictate terms to the talent. Although there are player unions they typically bend to the owners when push comes to shove, and the owners have successfully limited salaries in all the sports.

    Taking this into account an American majority in the Premier League would be constrained by the tremendous competition both within the league to avoid relegation, with other leagues especially La Liga and the Bundesliga for product and with the elite of the same leagues for talent. The first order of business would be to try to ‘manage’ competition.

    Promotion relegation within the Prem is probably never going away, but as the Prem gets richer and richer their teams should be so much better than newly promoted Championship teams that the latter would almost always get relegated the following year, while the formerly relegated Prem team would likely come right back up. This would be facilitated by allowing the Prem teams to field second teams in the Championship, not because they could be promoted, but rather to deny Championship teams talent. It would also serve their interest to keep Championship teams poor and on the brink of insolvency so that their best talent could be prised away on the cheap.

    The real competition are the foreign leagues and they are not going to go away. I suppose the Prem teams could try to price them out of talent, this might work against the mid-level teams, but the giants, PSG, Real, Barca and Bayern will probably continue to prosper.

    Probably the most effective way to limit competition and secure monopoly profits would be to form a pan-european Super-League that encompassed all the big teams. This has the potential to cripple the left behinds in the national leagues. Particularly if the Super-League instituted some sort of salary cap based on revenue. No one who violated it could be promoted to the Super-League, no one outside of the Super-League would have enough revenue to be competitive. Though if you made the Super-League international you could have national champion teams from all sorts of countries. I wonder if Qatar wouldn’t rather use their money to fill one of their own teams with worldies instead of City.

  • Chris

    Dr Duh,

    you forget one type : fan owned club. In the NFL there is just one : Green Bay Packers. And they are a very stable one in terms of coach rotation and results.
    They choose to draft and develop and spend wisely.
    And it the cut-throat business of the NFL they are the living proof this can work.

  • Harry Barracuda

    Gord, I wonder if that’s the UAE trying to screw up Qatar’s World Cup? After all, they’ve spent the last three months in a massive shit throwing contest.

  • Gooner S

    Fascinating. This is why I read Untold…

  • Flares

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but nobody has yet touched on the obvious: American investors using the Premier League as a springboard to firm up interest in the American soccer league. Let’s face it, nobody really thought the game would take off in the States, but it has to a reasonable extent.
    The interesting part about this article is the timing; the snowball effect of the Kaepernick scandal is creating unprecedented levels of public ill-feeling against the NFL. Do investors see a way to capitalise and pull fans across to a rapidly expanding MLS brand?

    More and more well-known European players are finding their way over there to see out their careers; it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for an Mbappe or Neymar of the future to make their first big move to a major American team and blow the whole thing wide open. Players who star for PL teams could be ‘bought’ by MLS clubs who are owned by the same investor. Sound familiar? It’s basically what Untold have been telling us about Manchester City for months. It’s real and it’s happening. Don’t think the Yanks haven’t got their ears to the ground also. If the Arabs are doing it, they’ll know about it and they’ll want a piece of the action.

  • Chris

    Flares,

    in theory I believe you may be right.
    But I do remember reading an article outlining how the MLS has organised itself, and I doubt a team could outspend all others the way City or Mu have done. Not sure I am 100% correct, but I believe they have some restrictions in place.

    The thing is in the US, the owners have handled under the motto : let’s share the pie so all of us are fine rather then the UK motto where each tries to grab a piece of pie from the other…. Again, the US may not be the most capitalistic country in the world….

  • Mike T

    No rule change allowed on a simple majority in the PL any rule change has to have a 2/3 majority.

  • HenryB

    You did not say what model Real and Manure have been working on since the 1950’s.

    I seem to recall that Manure were on the verge of being sold to the ill-fated Robert Maxwell in 1984 for all of £10m.

    A subsequently deal to sell out to Michael Knighton for £20m, by the then owner Martin Edwards in 1990, only fell through after the fans raged at Knighton’s clownish ‘warm up’ with the Manure team before they beat Arsenal 4:1 forced his backers to pull out of the deal — what a mistake.

    No sign of Manure and Real (who have always been backed by generous financial local and national government politics} have much in common , and certainly no discernible ‘model’.

    Barca and Real, on the other hand, have carved up the Spanish TV rights between them (see local and national government politics above) giving them a disproportionately huge slice of the TV deal, and making it possible to buy galacticos and all the rest, and enabling them to win pretty much every competition between them ever since.

    Now that’s a successful model — get politics involved — NOT.

  • HenryB

    Actually, the real dark horses in football are likely to be the Chinese.

    They have been quietly nibbling away at ownership of premier League and Football league clubs – and with their money that will only increase over time.

    I say bollocks to all the ‘models’ of these money flushed, power hungry interlopers!!

    Where do the needs of the fans appear in all these machinations? Just poor saps lined up to be fleeced of their money for daring to care passionately about their clubs and their teams, instead of this stomach turning dash for profit at their expense!

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