Foreign owners in the Premier League: be careful what you wish for

Foreigners. They just don’t get it. Put simply, football is a concept too complex and mind-blowingly intricate for any feeble Johnny-come-lately interloper to even think about getting involved in. We need more British owners in the British game, like Ken Bates, or Peter Ridsdale.

Of course, many people who don’t read The Daily Mail might disagree with that statement. Ask a Manchester City fan of forty years what they think about Sheikh Mansour, and they’ll doubtless give you a glowing reference concerning the sizeable benefits of oil-rich ownership. As an Everton fan myself, I am familiar with the frequent demands for the weathered, local (but ultimately – by Premier League terms – broke) owner to be deposed, for a richer and more ambitious replacement. But the events at Fulham this season have taught me more than ever to be careful what you wish for. Because, in many ways, Shahid Khan is the theoretical perfect owner. With a reported worth of $3.8 billion, and a history in sports ownership (with NFL side Jacksonville Jaguars), Shahid Khan has always seemed a very prudent, patient and intelligent man. Take his November interview with BBC’s Football Focus, for instance (when Martin Jol was still manager), where he stated, “One thing I’ve learned, it’s not the right thing to be impetuous. As times are getting hard, I don’t think the solution is to be doing something rash.” Well then, what changed Shahid?

I don’t believe many people were too surprised when Venky’s made an unmitigated mess of Blackburn Rovers. For many, Vincent Tan is an undisputed comedy figure. But Shahid Khan isn’t. His model of ownership (if he genuinely applies his self-proclaimed values) should be working. Even for success stories – Manchester City, or particularly Chelsea – is your decade in decadence really worth the cost? Even refraining from formulating a viewpoint on an ideological level (I’m looking at you, Roman), what happens when Sheikh Mansour or Abramovich decides they have had enough? Surely Manchester City and Chelsea will suddenly become massively financially unviable, and fall into an extremely dark and possibly permanent abyss?

There are, undeniably, a multitude of cases where foreign ownership is working well, and,  to an extent, I am an advocate of it. In my eyes, it is a good thing to bring multiculturalism and diversity in football in as many aspects as possible. But where foreign ownership is working, for example at Liverpool, the success is often seemingly being founded on patience and relative stability. Fulham are working through managers and staff at a rapid rate, and will probably be relegated. Cardiff have acted similarly, and will probably share an identical fate. Gold and Sullivan, despite being contemptible, have taken a different approach, and it seems as if it will pay off. I know Everton need an ownership change, but I am preparing myself for the price we might unfortunately have to pay.


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