Abramovich And His Successors
Roman Abramovich has had a profound impact on English football, changing the face of the game since he bought Chelsea five years ago for £140 million (€176.7 million). He became the first of a series of billionaires to take control of English Premier League clubs and has spent in the region of £650 million (€820.4 million) on the Stamford Bridge club, which has consequently become known as “Chelski”. Not only did Abramovich’s money invigorate England’s transfer market and enable players to earn mega-wages, it also sparked a trend in foreign ownership of English Premier League clubs and saw several billionaires grab a stake in the game as the money from broadcasting rights spiralled.
The Premier League’s rich list features club owners such as Malcolm Glazer at Manchester United, Thaksin Shinawatra at Manchester City, Tom Hicks and George Giliett at Liverpool, Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson at West Ham United, Mike Ashley at Newcastle United and Randy Lerner at Aston Villa. Plus, there are major stakeholders in the shape of Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov at Arsenal and Joe Lewis at Tottenham who have ploughed money into clubs desperate to compete with Abramovich’s spending spree.
Despite their status as the second richest club in the world behind Real Madrid, Manchester United have not appeared to be ostentatious big spenders since the Glazer family took control of Old Trafford in May 2005 following a £790-million (€997-miliion) takeover. Payments for new players have been relatively modest, although since the Glazers’ arrival the club has still gone on to dominate English football and won the European Cup for a third time in May.
Carlos Tevez’s services were secured in a two-year loan deal worth a reported £30 million (€37.9 million), but otherwise just £75.4 million (€95.2 million) has been spent on fresh talent. However at the time of writing, Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov allegedly on his way to Old Trafford from Tottenham in a £20-million (€25.2-million) deal. Elsewhere, American duo Hicks and Giliett have resisted the temptation to sell the club to the Dubai Investment Consortium and have sanctioned the spending of some £60 million (€75.7 million) on transfer fees for new players, such as the club’s record signing Fernando Torres for £26.5 million (€33 million), since taking over the Anfield club in a £218.9-miliion (€276.3 million) deal in February 2007.
Down the M6 at Villa Park, fellow American Lerner has spent £40 million (€50.4 million) on transfers since his £ 63-million (€79.5 million) takeover in September 2006 and splashed out more on Blackburn’s Brad Friedei.
Former Thai Prime Minister Shinawatra has been in charge of Manchester City since his £82-million (€103.5-million) purchase of the club in June 2007, but has already spent millions hiring and firing manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, now Mexico’s national team coach.
There is more to taking over a Premier League club than meets the eye, however, as sports retail tycoon Ashley discovered at Newcastle, where he paid out £134 million (€169.1 million) to buy the club before clearing its debts of £80 million (€101 million). It is little wonder, therefore, that Ashley wants players such as Michael Owen to take pay cuts as he attempts to reduce the turnover-to-wages ratio, having sanctioned the spending of £30 million (€37.9 million) on new faces and wages in the region of £80,000 (€101,000) per week for free agent Mark Viduka and £60,000 (€75,700) per week and £5.8 million (€7.3 million) for Joey Barton.
At West Ham, Gudmundsson authorised a £34-miliion (€42.9-mi!lion) outlay on transfer fees alone in the summer after his June 2006 takeover, followed by another £16 million (€20.2 million) the next year after a nerve-jangling escape from relegation.