Does the sale of United and Liverpool mean that nation states have finally monopolized football's ownership models?

Gandalf Greyhame

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A question hinted at by Barney Ronay in his Guardian article.

Because something does seem to be happening here, and it’s not just a Manchester story.
The wider note in this story, a little overlooked to now, is the fact Liverpool are also up for sale. Is this starting to seem strange yet? Are the rabbits rustling in the treeline? The two most valuable privately owned properties in English football are put up for sale within a month of one another. The key US billionaires, boarding group one, are cashing out simultaneously. This is significant enough as a standalone event. But there are no coincidences. And as ever, always follow the money.

It is hard not to conclude that this is related to the failure of the Super League. The prospect of fresh growth under that model was clearly a major part of the strategy. Many people think it will still happen in some form, but perhaps not in that same blunt and brutal way the Glazers and Fenway Sports Group had aggressively championed.
The real driver behind the ESL was the prospect of capping the power of nation-state clubs, of finding a way to compete with an entity that has no commercial jeopardy, where simply keeping up – and most football clubs are horribly reckless – means killing yourself. Its collapse, and the likely departures of FSG and the Glazers, are all signs that the nation-state clubs are winning this. The cartel is, frankly, in disarray. Barcelona have sold their future in return for a wonky version of the present. Juventus Ronaldo’d themselves in search of an illusory next level.
Is this exodus a white flag of sorts against the might of the oil clubs? An indication that ownership models in the football world can no longer compete against nation-states?
 

antohan

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Probably. Problem is, what are our options then? Another state, a future as plucky also rans, or...?
 

acolyte

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Is this exodus a white flag of sorts against the might of the oil clubs? An indication that ownership models in the football world can no longer compete against nation-states?
Yes. It's bleak and defeatist, but it seems clear that owners who are merely rich people can't compete against rivals who have the wealth of nations behind them. You can maintain competitiveness for a few years but the oil clubs can outlast you financially--you will run out of money before they do. This also explains why the Spanish and Italian clubs in particular, coming from poorer domestic leagues, were so desperate to form the Super League with its guaranteed incomes.
 
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njred

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My worry is the Glazers not giving a feck about who they sell the club to which means the highest bidder which could be a state owned bid. If either Liverpool or United go that route it’s game over. If they both go that way it would be great for young supporters with no sense of history since both clubs would explode in terms of popularity and success but for me it would be pretty much over as a supporter.
 

Gandalf Greyhame

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Probably. Problem is, what are our options then? Another state, a future as plucky also rans, or...?
Well, I don't know who will buy United next, of course, or if it can even be sold in this market.

What does seem to be apparent is that the price of competing at the very top is something only nation states can pay, it is simply not sustainable for anyone else the way the transfer market is evolving.

Football ownership, in the PL at least, seems to be a business model that can no longer do both
1. Run profitably and
2. Compete with clubs who don't have to stick to 1.

If Jim Ratcliffe were to take over, even with United's brand value (now on the wane), he will have the inevitable task of choosing what to choose and what to let go among financial priorities (infra, transfers, wages, fees) and will face flak for the same. I would say a similar problem is waiting for Liverpool's owners.

In principle, Real and City come from the same place. Nation states who distort the market with each mega sale and mega wage, transforming the structure of football without constraints. Some (like United) kept up, others collapsed. With each distortion, the entire market moves, and some clubs are left behind. This breaking point for Glazers and FSG has been coming a little closer with each distorting - from Neymar's transfer to Haaland's wages.

The Super League was meant to break this cycle of distortions in its own grotesque way. Now that it has failed, they see no return and are finally cutting losses.
 

GazTheLegend

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It's absolutely ridiculous really, but as said if you're going to operate a free market system in football, then what can you do?

I hate the very idea of state entities controlling clubs but then the reality is - Real Madrid have benefitted hugely from perks granted by the Spanish government, AC Milan benefitted hugely from Silvio Berlusconi (and thus the Italian govt) in the 90's, Jack Walker pumped millions into Blackburn around then too... It's not something new, exactly, it's just progressed to a global extent.

The German model for football should be the standard for everyone, it's unfortunate it isn't.
 

I’m loving my life

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Well FIFA, UFEA, the FA et al. You should have got rid of the oil clubs at the start because this is where it has been heading overall
 

Oranges038

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The royal family has about 28bn in assets knocking about. Surely they could scrape enough together to buy Utd.

Aside from the nonces, would anyone be able to complain about that?
 

Slysi17

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My worry is the Glazers not giving a feck about who they sell the club to which means the highest bidder which could be a state owned bid. If either Liverpool or United go that route it’s game over. If they both go that way it would be great for young supporters with no sense of history since both clubs would explode in terms of popularity and success but for me it would be pretty much over as a supporter.
Thing is the Glazers will sell to the highest bidder. Rumoured Dubai will bid 10.6 billion us dollars. Can't see anyone matching that. The Glazers are not that stupid. When people like them sell something, they always choose the highest bidder. I don't buy the it will most likely be a US investor from Sky. They are just speculating. The Glazers don't care where the bid comes from whether its from the US or middle east. They will choose the highest bid.
 

ariveded

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These owners see the club, like their employees (players) as commodities. Nothing wrong with that, and they will always look to buy cheap, sell high. The fans are always pointless, irrelevant and meant for exploitation.

Then, their are super-owners, for whom ownership is about ego, power and influence. These are often backed by nations wealth. It’s unsustainable growth model and expenses, yet its all about power and influence. Mbappe and PSG was one key example, how the owners didnt want their ego to hurt, and went way over the top to win. Again, fans are pointless.

The onus is on fans to show their power
 
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L. Robert

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With the prospect of ESL seemingly wading, think the Yank owners of Man Utd and Liverpool have realised that these clubs are close to their peak market value and are ready to invest that money elsewhere. Sheikh Mansour paid less than £200m for Man City and despite all the money pumped to the club he has made a massive profit on his investment. NUFC were sold for ~300m and I honestly think it's a good investment in the long run no matter how much they'll use.

There's a lot more value for the investors in buying smaller clubs in the same league compared to the established giants which in my opinion makes the possible sellings of Man Utd and Liverpool really interesting. The pool of people willing to spend many billions on a football club isn't very big, especially when the competition for CL places is getting tougher and tougher.
 
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Someone

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I wouldn't say it's a defeat to state owned club, but rather the realization that future growth is highly unlikely for both clubs without significant investment. The value of both clubs could even decrease if they fail to compete and modernize, and both owners aren't the kind willing to put billions into football. The current Chelsea owners are happy to commit that investment for example, knowing that it's a long term one.
 

jm99

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I don't think that's necessarily true, real Madrid and bayern are still better than any of the oil clubs. I think what is happening though, with Newcastle having performed better than expected and being closer to becoming a CL club, its no longer going to be possible for the glazers to service their debt and take their dividends and stay as a CL club, within a season or two Newcastle will be a permanent top 4 fixture along with City, then it means competing with Liverpool, Chelsea, spurs and arsenal for 2 spots. We should be capable of doing that off our revenues (and I'm not just talking about investment in the team, but in the facilities, stadium, backroom staff etc) plus with Liverpool put up for sale, this might have forced the glazers hand, as an oil club buying them would mean 3 of the top 4 spots will be basically secured each year.

It's not that it's unviable to run a club any other way, but this is probably the moment of maximum value for the glazers, significant investment will be required to keep up, another oil state could purchase another club in the league if they wait, reducing our number of potential buyers and increasing competition. Over their tenure we've always been there or thereabouts in the CL spots, but we're at a point now where maintaining that will require significant annual investment
 

RedCurry

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In the last one year or so every asset class in the world has declined in value but oil has rallied. It’s just capitalism where the rich billionaire eats the peasant billionaire.
 

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Aren't half of the PL clubs currently owned by American oligarchs? I'd consider that far more unnatural. Liverpool and United are clubs that have owners taking far more than they've put in but maybe that's what the British want for their football clubs.
 

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Yeah you’d be blissfully ignorant if you didn’t realise something was afoot. The Glazers and FSG/Henry have a pretty good relationship by all accounts. I don’t doubt there’s been serious conversations behind the scenes between the two and both going up for sale within a month despite being adamant they weren’t selling previously is telling. Probably not something that’s happened out of the blue.

We’ve competed with an oil club for 5 years through a data driven model and having the best of the best in every other department to gain any small edge + Klopp.

Its clear the market has caught up and that edge which finds you a salah or a Robertson no longer exists. If we can’t supplement the VVD type players with the cheaper/free ones anymore then we cannot compete because we don’t have the money.

My feeling was also that the Liverpool fan base would kick up too much of a stink against any unsavoury owners. But the more I think on it, the more I believe that most people will just give up, apathy towards the game has been growing for a long time now. We’re in uncharted waters with football ownership. I’m not sure a H&G style protest happens anymore.
 

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I wouldn't say it's a defeat to state owned club, but rather the realization that future growth is highly unlikely for both clubs without significant investment. The value of both clubs could even decrease if they fail to compete and modernize, and both owners aren't the kind willing to put billions into football. The current Chelsea owners are happy to commit that investment for example, knowing that it's a long term one.
In the last one year or so every asset class in the world has declined in value but oil has rallied. It’s just capitalism where the rich billionaire eats the peasant billionaire.
Agree with the above. COVID and the current worldwide recession have taken their toll. Football does not exist in a bubble.


Aren't half of the PL clubs currently owned by American oligarchs? I'd consider that far more unnatural. Liverpool and United are clubs that have owners taking far more than they've put in but maybe that's what the British want for their football clubs.
America doesn't have oligarchs and I wasn't aware FSG issued cash dividends.
 

marktan

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That's a terrible written article, pointing out various things and making strenuous links between them.

The super league was not a response to the oil clubs. It was greed. For more money. The oil clubs would benefit regardless, super league or not.

Barcelona were run horribly under Bartemou.

Juventus have been signed terribly outside of Ronaldo, who was good for them until his final full season there. Where's the link to the oil clubs?

The main reason I suspect the Glazers and FSG are selling because they've seen the top of the market. Domestic TV rights have peaked and will likely trend downwards now that BT are divesting of sports. International rights have likely peaked for this cycle. Interest rates make debt piles harder to service. They both get a healthy return on £300m (Liverpool) and £700m minus loads of dividend and directors fees.

Nothing to do with the oil clubs really. If the question being asked is "Are oil clubs terrible for competion in football?" then the answer of course is yes. They win by virtue of being able to outspend everyone else. But the answer to whether oil clubs are the reason for Liverpool and United being sold then the answer is no.
 

GoonerInPeace

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Aren't half of the PL clubs currently owned by American oligarchs? I'd consider that far more unnatural. Liverpool and United are clubs that have owners taking far more than they've put in but maybe that's what the British want for their football clubs.
The issue is the gulf states that own football clubs are simply pumping money in the club to polish up their image to a western audience. Its soft diplomacy for them, not football. PSG are a diplomatic tool for Qatar, as are Man City for Abu Dhabi. How would you feel knowing Bin Salman is wiping the blood stain of that journalist using a Man United kit? Would you look the other way if be brought Mbappe to the club...if you do you have been sportswashed

State sponsorship of football clubs is the worst thing to happen to British football. Abramovich was politically connected. But Man City took it to a new level when they became a political tool of a gulf state dictatorship.

The German model must be adopted.
 

adexkola

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The issue is the gulf states that own football clubs are simply pumping money in the club to polish up their image to a western audience.
They are doing a shit job at it then

Has Qatar's reputation gone up since they've started hosting the WC? Did the Sauds become more popular in the UK after they bought Newcastle?
 

adexkola

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Qatar has been ingratiating itself with the West for decades and football is just part of that. It's not really about their "reputation" or being "popular" in the eyes of football fans, which is a bit of a naive//simplistic way of looking at it, more about them intertwining their interests with the UK's.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...and-arms-cementing-the-qatari-uk-relationship
They could have done all of this without sports. They have oil and they have money to spend. The West needs oil and investments. Perfect match. Was it harder for Abu Dhabi to buy properties in West London before they bought City?
 

Gazza

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It's a multi-pronged approach, which is channeled toward integrating with UK society at multiple levels, so whether it made it easier or harder for them to buy property in London is besides the point. They might have been able to do it without sports, but since they can with next-to-no downside then it makes sense to associate with one of the UK's most globally recognized sporting brands (the PL).
 

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Nothing to do with the oil clubs really. If the question being asked is "Are oil clubs terrible for competion in football?" then the answer of course is yes. They win by virtue of being able to outspend everyone else. But the answer to whether oil clubs are the reason for Liverpool and United being sold then the answer is no.
I wouldn't say it has 'nothing' to do with oil clubs. Obviously they aren't the only reason, but the fact that they exist and are making it increasingly expensive to run a football club (since they are driving up wages, transfer fees and agent fees) while also making it increasingly difficult to finish higher up the table or cups (which directly hurts finances and indirectly hurts them by limiting how much we can get from sponsors) will certainly have some contribution. Especially with the knowledge that it's only going to get worse in all those aspects.
 

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I don’t really think so. I think the collapse of the ESL plus Chelsea’s sales price are the major factors, and the constant mud slinging tarnishing their name a smaller factor, at least as to what caused it on the Glazers end. These are the same people who allowed Ed bloody Woodward to run the club into the ground and if it hadn’t been for the ESL feckup they probably would still keep him. However, I do agree, to a much smaller level of cause and effect, that the lack of success is slowly causing it to turn into a zero sum game, where the fans demand more and more investment to try and break the slump until it just doesn’t become feasible.
 

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Just a by product of unfettered captilaism, it's not just football that is impacted by this system but pretty much every aspect of life.
 

Demon Barber

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I would feel really uncomfortable if United was owned by a state/nation. It goes against my beliefs, principles and morals.

That said, I'd like the Labour Party to get into power immediately, scrap HS2 and buy us with the saved billions, appoint Mick Lynch as our Director of Communications, and we can return to our railway/working class roots!
 

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Clubs like Utd and Liverpool can 100% compete with the state backed clubs, and still make a profit. They are big enough brands to do so, they just need to be run extremely well, and have owners that aren't in it for absolute max profit. Liverpool have completely challenged City for the last 3/4 years, while operating on a far smaller budget than we have(with our owners literally taking money out of the club).

Will the state backed clubs win the majority of things? Probably, but a worldwide, successful club in the PL can still compete at the highest level, without a sugar daddy owner, it just needs to be the right owner(i.e. a fan/enthusiast).
 

SirReginald

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Clubs like Utd and Liverpool can 100% compete with the state backed clubs, and still make a profit. They are big enough brands to do so, they just need to be run extremely well, and have owners that aren't in it for absolute max profit. Liverpool have completely challenged City for the last 3/4 years, while operating on a far smaller budget than we have(with our owners literally taking money out of the club).

Will the state backed clubs win the majority of things? Probably, but a worldwide, successful club in the PL can still compete at the highest level, without a sugar daddy owner, it just needs to be the right owner(i.e. a fan/enthusiast).
In terms of an income Utd easily compete, Liverpool? I honestly don’t know. But in terms of power in football, Liverpool are just about keeping up and Utd have all but drowned. No player will choose Utd now like they would have done 20 years ago. Players go where the money is and that’s where they have gotten themselves into the worst situation out of all PL teams with their outrageous salaries. If it was not for the money in the league, their sponsorships and Utds vast fan base they would have sunk like Barcelona.
 

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Agree with the above. COVID and the current worldwide recession have taken their toll. Football does not exist in a bubble.



America doesn't have oligarchs and I wasn't aware FSG issued cash dividends.
Was going to say, people misuse the word "oligarch" as meaning "very rich". Which is wrong.
 

stoinz

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Not necessary. The folks looking to purchase football clubs may just end up buying up smaller clubs and using the extra money to invest in them. Say they have 2 billion to spend, they can just splunk it on a smaller for club for say 100million, spent another 500million on a new stadium and 1billion to invest in new players or other infrastructure.

For clubs like ours, I cannot see beyond state owns funds buying us.

There are not many billionaires around that is willing to throw 5-6billion on a football club and not expecting any ROI. Say someone buy us for 5billion and even if we make more than 100million a year, it would take more than 50 years (not withstanding inflation, interest rates etc) for an return in investment.
 
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