Money Matter$

How has foreign ownership affected the Premier League?

Forty per cent of the top flight now owned by overseas investors

Sulaiman Al-Fahim, Demi Moore and Kutch

For a team like Chelsea, foreign investment has proven the difference between success and slightly more success, but not every club benefits. Now that Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim (pictured above with a Hollywood star and her grandson) has waded in with daddy’s oil cash, eight current Premier League clubs are owned by out-of-towners. Accordingly, The Spoiler has looked at the fortunes of each of foreign-owned club to find out if overseas money has helped or hindered the league…

Aston Villa
Owner: Randy Lerner

So far everything seems great. Martin O’Neill and Lerner get on well, money is readily being made available to sign players and Lerner was willing to support whatever action his manager chose to take in the Gareth Barry saga. Other factors that make Aston Villa an attractive model to follow are that they target English talent and although they occasionally pay over the odds, there isn’t the “we must finish in the top four or else sack the manager” mentality.

Owner: Roman Abramovich

Abramovich had an advantage over the likes of Lerner in that the club he bought were already a top four team, however, he still delivered a title in his second season. Wikipedia claim that “as of May 2008, Abramovich has spent approximately £600 million on the club since arriving in 2003.” Things have taken a turn for the worse recently, with Abramovich rarely turning up for games towards the end of last season and Manchester City beating them to the signing of Robinho on deadline day.

Owner: Mohamed Al-Fayed

Al-Fayed is the longest serving of the foreign legion, having taken over Fulham when they were a Second Division (League One) side in 1997. Jean Tigana, Lawrie Sanchez and now Roy Hodgson have all been backed heavily in the transfer market but an arguable mistake was to not giving the club’s most successful Premier League manager Chris Coleman the same level of financial support. However, his decision to appoint Hodgson last December kept the club in the top-flight and things are looking good right now.

Owners: Tom Hicks and George Gillett

When David Moores sold his controlling stake in the club to the Americans he was confident the club had found buyers who had the best interests of the club at heart. However, since their arrival last February they have fallen out with one another as well as having a stormy relationship with manager Rafael Benitez over their reluctance to back him in the transfer market. They also vowed to have work started on the new Stanley Park stadium within 60 days of taking over, but last week announced a further delay because of lack of funds, which was blamed on the credit crunch.

Manchester City
Owner: Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim

Just a few days ago it looked like the club could have been in real trouble with Thaksin Shinawatra still at the helm, but now there are new owners who are reportedly ten times richer than Roman Abramovich, and they have merked Peter Kenyon by snaring Robinho. It looks like exciting days lie ahead for City fans but the major worry is that they have set their sights even higher than Shinawatra did and if they expect too much, too soon, Mark Hughes could be harshly sacked like Sven Goran Eriksson.

Manchester United
Owners: The Glazer Family

There was a massive uproar when the Glazer family seized control at Old Trafford and ironically Liverpool fans were excitedly mocking their rivals with chants of ‘sold to the USA’. But three years on, the club have won two Premier League titles and the Champions League and the Glazers seem happy to let David Gill and Sir Alex Ferguson spend whatever they deem necessary, as demonstrated by the £30.75 million signing of Dimitar Berbatov.

Owner: Alexandre Gaydamak

Pompey were languishing in the relegation zone when Gaydamak took over in January 2006 but the businessman gave returning manager Harry Redknapp the funds to keep the club in the top-flight. They haven’t looked back since, securing consecutive top-half finishes and winning last year’s FA Cup. However, the big spending stopped last month when chief executive Peter Storrie admitted the credit crunch meant Portsmouth couldn’t afford to bring anyone else in. Whether this situation will improve in the coming months remains to be seen.

West Ham
Owner: Björgólfur Guðmundsson

A reasonable amount was spent in January 2007 to keep the club up and last summer to push the club on but the departure of Eggert Magnusson in December showed he had spent more than the board were happy with. Assurances were made this summer that while the squad needed trimming, first-team players wouldn’t be sold but the sale of Anton Ferdinand made light of that. George McCartney, voted West Ham’s best outfield player by fans last season, was sold hours before the window shut with the relatively unknown Herita Ilunga replacing him on loan.

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