Americans actually dominate the EPL. Here’s how




Middle Eastern and Russian billionaires grab the lion’s share of the headlines when it comes to English Premier League.

But when it comes to influence across the top teams and the breadth of league as a whole, the Americans have amassed far more influence. But who are the better owners? And why?

The Americanification (yes, I know that’s not a word) of the English Premier League began slowly. A family owned real estate business based in historic Rochester, New York, quietly bought just over 3 percent of the Newton Heath Football Club.

Just two years later, the family business had put together 29 percent of the ownership, launching a full takeover bid not long after.

Sound familiar? Unless you’re a fan who has been traumatised by the Glazer family’s ownership of Manchester United, then probably not. But that’s what you’ve just read about.

The billionaire US family first popped up as part-owners of Manchester United (named Newton Heath back in the early days) in 2003, and by 2006 were in full control after outlaying a tidy 800 million pounds for the privilege.

The most recent sale of an EPL club makes those valuations look quaint. Another American, Todd Boehly (along with a private equity firm), was recently approved as owner of Chelsea after paying an eye-watering 4.25 billion pounds. That’s about $7.4 billion Australian dollars.

Numbers like that are kind of hard to wrap our heads around. So, how about this for context? $7.4 billion is more than what the Australian Government spent in 2022 on air force or army capabilities ($7b spent on each in 2021).

The staggering amount of cash outlaid was the end result of the same dynamics as any good auction result: a motivated seller (Roman Abramovich was forced to sell the club after the UK government slapped sanctions on it after the Russian invasion of Ukraine) and 250 expressions of interest from deep-pocketed suitors.

Oh and of course, the key ingredient of an incredibly scarce and valuable asset in the form of the right to own and operate a successful top-flight Premier League club.

Roman Abramovich (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Joining the club

But those two investments are just the bookends to a bigger story. Over the years there have been plenty more beachheads established in the EPL by American investors. And they tend to go for the top end of town.

Liverpool was purchased by Fenway Sports Group in 2010 for 300 million pounds. Fenway is also the owner of the Boston Red Sox (MLB) and Fenway Park is their home ground. No prizes for guessing where they’re from.

Meanwhile, since 2018 American businessman Stan Kroenke has been the owner of Arsenal. A football purist, he is not. His ownership of interests include professional teams in the NBA and NFL, as well as ice hockey and lacrosse teams with a couple of e-sports teamsd (yes, really) thrown in for good measure.

Less high-profile minority investments by American individuals or firms are also present in the ownership structures of Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Leeds United and Manchester City.

The American ethos

But why do billionaire American owners end up riling up the rank and file Premier League supporters of clubs more than, say, Middle Eastern sheikhs or Russian billionaires?

In a word: profit.

As in, the Americans expect to make one. The petrodollar-funded billionaires of the Middle East or Russia? Not so much.

For the latter group, prestige from rising to the top of leagues and collecting trophies matter far more than dull expense spreadsheets.

Must be nice. But perspective matters. For those owners enriched by the sale of the compressed organic remains of dead dinosaurs and plants (oil and gas) a single dollar bump in the oil price adds more to their overall wealth than the prize money from all the trophies in Europe.

In contrast, American owners have a clear profit motive. And they typically aren’t as enamoured with the history and prestige of the game and its clubs as other owners.

For example, the Glazers already owned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL) when they made their grab for Man United.

And Boehly is a co-owner of the LA Dodgers (MLB), though at least he had the good sense to not immediately irritate the faithful by calling the game ‘soccer’ or admitting that ‘it took me two years to learn the offside rule’ as Joel Glazer did.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on March 12, 2022 in Manchester, England. (Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)

(Photo by James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)

That profit motive has historically meant that spending on things like youth academies and player transfers that contribute to the long-term success of a club on the pitch come a distant second to the decidedly less interesting business of cash flow and profit and loss statements.

Not all billionaire owners are created equal

So, if you’re a fan of a club that’s up for sale and has billionaires circling, who do you want to run the show? Well, if it’s a strong bottom line and fiscal discipline, you’ll be wanting the Americans to get the keys.

But if you’re hoping to see some more shelves of the trophy cabinet occupied? Bring on the petrodollars.





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