The recent fiasco involving the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo from Chelsea was a great example of the power an owner now has over the chairman and the manager. Fans’ opinions were pretty much ignored as the job-hunting Rafa Benitez came in. The growth in power ultimately comes down to the wave of overseas ownership by multi-billionaire Russian oligarchs and Middle-Eastern sheiks.
Has the time come to now limit the number of overseas investors in European clubs for the best interests of the game?
Think of international investment, like TV rights. Spain is self-governing, the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid control their own broadcast rights.
A less successful team like Oviedo suffers as fewer spectators want to watch their televised games. Their earnings on TV rights then impacts their buying power, player wages, transfers options and in turn the pitch action. This almost returns the game to its grass roots, where the team has to play better when their options are fewer, if they want to achieve something. This is a undeniably a good thing for the sport.
If a foreign investor then comes in with an untapped financial resource, a lower-performing club can suddenly enter contention with others major European ones to wins leagues and tournaments. This, in my view, goes against the notion of true sportsmanship. Success should be rated on gradual progression, not leap-frogging to the top due to a sudden influx of cash. However, such as in many other sports, this is an unavoidable element of the modern game.
First up Abramovich. Roman, taking over from Ken Bates, at the time was the 9th richest Russian and 68th wealthiest businessman in the world. He self-made his millions from toy importing and purchasing oil shares, becoming one of the most powerful men in football. It would be no surprise if he one days gets a position at senior UEFA or FIFA. He took Chelsea to a staggering 3 x Premier League, 4 x FA Cup, 1 x Champions League and 2 x League Cup wins.
Next Suleyman Kerimov, who bought Russian team Anzhi Makhachkala in January 2011. He was number #146 on the World Rich List and the 19th wealthiest Russian, having made his money from public and private interests including oil-trading, blue-chip companies and Gold/Silver mining. Immediately we saw some incredible, high-profile names appear at the club; Director of Football Roberto Carlos, Lassana Diarra from Madrid, Christopher Samba from Blackburn and current top goal scorer with 13 this season, Samuel Eto’o from Milan. Investment is clearly paying off as they are currently second in the Russian League.