Football

Owner landscape transforming under American anger

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It is thought that the apologies from Liverpool’s Kenny Dalglish and Luis Suarez came about after intervention from the club’s American owners.

 

Fenway Sports Group did not exactly break their silence, but it has been widely accepted that the apologies from Suarez and Dalglish had the mark of Anfield’s owners on them.

 

It was typical of John W Henry to do his business behind closed doors, a hallmark of his ownership sine he purchased the club just over a year ago.

 

In fact, this hallmark is shared partially by a number of the American owners in the Premier League and it begs the question as to why.

 

The other Premier League clubs to have owners from across the pond are Aston Villa, Sunderland, Arsenal and Manchester United.

 

It is interesting to see that the style of leadership shown by Henry and chairman Tom Werner is shared by much of the American presence at boardroom level in the league.

 

The reasons for this could be something to do with the initial reception received by the Glazers at United and Liverpool’s previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

 

Both of those takeovers were adorned with protest and abuse from both clubs’ fans – disgruntled United supporters even set up a new club in response.

 

Both these sets of owners were quite visible in their early days after respective takeovers, but soon became less so as the protests from fans persisted.

 

This must have come as a shock, as they all have some role in running sports franchises in the States and the role of an owner can be very different to what is expected over here.

 

In America many owners are seen as figureheads of their clubs and must be visible and vocal quite a lot of the time – something like the way managers of clubs are seen here.

 

The people who pay the bills are often expected to speak publicly about matters on the field and most are willing to do so.

 

This could be given as a reason as to why the initial willingness to be seen and noticed by fans and media has subsided somewhat.

 

This model is similar to that in place at Sunderland, where billionaire Texan Ellis Short rarely comes out to speak to the press.

 

However, at Aston Villa Randy Lerner decided to take a more controlling role when he purchased a majority stake in the club and so is in the spotlight more often, which has recently seem him come under greater pressure form fans.

 

Although that will not have little to do with his decision to hire Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish in the summer.

 

Arsenal have an interesting majority shareholder in ‘Silent’ Stan Kroenke, who has only ever given one interview to press and rarely turns up to watch the team.

 

His reputation in American, where he owns a number of sporting franchises, including NFL’s St Louis Rams, is that of a back seat driver.

 

He does not do much in the way of day-to-day running of his teams and has a reputation for frugality when it comes to finances.

 

It would seem his style is perfectly matched to the self-sustaining ethos that runs through the entire club and manager Arsene Wenger is given free range to act as he thinks is suitable.

 

It could be that the press fervour surrounding football in this country was initially underestimated by those unfamiliar with the culture of the game at the top flight.

 

The pervading view of a chairman in Britain is that of a money man who should do little else other than sign the cheques, with the manager or coach facing the press and making all football related decisions.

 

The personable club leader visage, where an owner is seen as the embodiment of a franchise, favoured in the US does not really compute when translated to the British Isles.

 

The typical role of the person who owns the club is slowly transforming into the mould currently being set by Roman Abramovich at Chelsea and Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City, where an all-powerful figure almost hovers in the shadows, relaying messages via a number of boardroom representatives.

 

In many ways, the fan pressure that has increasingly forced chairmen and owners to sit behind closed doors, or the tinted glass of the executive box could attract greater investment from overseas.

 

It would be novel for a person who has previously been proprietor of an American sports franchise and its public gleaming necessities, to arrive on our shores and be expected to act in the opposite way.

 

In fact, as we have seen with John Henry and Stan Kroenke, it has become acceptable, maybe even favourable, for the moneymen to not actually even be in the same country as the clubs.

 

For so many fans who just want the person at the top of their club to care about its history and tradition, this will come as a disappointment but may help them to realise that owning a football club is more and more likely to become about improving a portfolio.

 

It would be a grand irony if fans ire at their club being bought by people from overseas actually creates the climate for them to proliferate.

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Topics:
Arsenal
Football
Premier League
Liverpool

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