Sports FOOTBALL Multi-club model thrives despite mixed results

Multi-club model thrives despite mixed results

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“OThe lesson from all this is that it’s hard to be in two clubs,” said Nancy president Gauthier Ganaye after they were relegated to the French third division last month. Hailed as the youngest chief executive of English football after joining Barnsley briefly in 2018 at the age of 30, Ganaj spent last season combining his role at Nancy with that of executive president of Belgian club KV Oostende.

Barnsley, who were eliminated in April despite reaching the playoffs last year, is partly owned, like Nancy and Oostende, by New City Capital, an investment group that also includes American investors Pacific Media Group. “The initial assignment was never that I would be there 100% of the time,” Ganaya said of his dual roles. “Discussions are currently underway to determine a structure that will allow all clubs in the group to function.”

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On the pitch, things didn’t fare much better for the rest of the clubs in New City Capital’s ever-growing portfolio. Thun, who won the national title as recently as 2010, barely made it to the middle of the Swiss second division table, Esbjerg fans endured another disappointing season in the Danish second division, and FC Den Bosch remained in the Dutch second division.

At the very least, investors had something to celebrate at the end of May, when Kaiserslautern – four-time German champions, who sold a 10% stake in March to an American consortium consisting of Chien Li from New City Capital and Paul Conway from Pacific Media Group – beat Dynamo “. Dresden in the promotion play-offs will return to Germany’s second tier for the first time since 2018.

Joy for Kaiserslautern after their promotion to the second tier of Germany. Photo: Oliver Hardt/Bundesliga Collection/Getty Images

From New City Capital and 777 Partners LLC to City Football Group (CFG), Bolt Football Holdings, Redbird Capital and Red Bull, owning one football club seems not enough these days. Even the Saudi Arabian State Investment Fund, which has just completed its controversial takeover of Newcastle, seems to be trying to get in on the action as rumors that it is bidding to buy Polish club Slask Wroclaw are trying to buy Polish club Slask Wroclaw. despite strong local opposition.

“Silesia is ancestral silver,” Wojciech Kerber, a spokesman for the Wrocław local government, said last week. “The history of this city cannot be sold for a few zlotys. This is not only a business project, but also a social one.”

Meanwhile, Qatar Sports Investments, which turned Paris Saint-Germain into a European superpower thanks to its endless financial reserves, is rumored to be trying to build a portfolio of clubs after watching Abu Dhabi-owned CFG take over its expanding empire. in double digits with the acquisition of French club Troyes in 2020. CFG failed in an attempt to buy Breda in April after a furious backlash from the Dutch club’s supporters.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if QSI buys a club in Portugal soon,” says one source. “They have seen how successful CFG is in managing so many different clubs around the world that they all want to do the same. The system was perfected by CFG, but Pozzo came up with the idea.”

Paris Saint-Germain Stadium
Could QSI, which owns Paris Saint-Germain, buy another club soon, perhaps in Portugal? Photo: Johannes Simon/UEFA/Getty Images

Pozzos – the Italian owners of Udinese and Watford – relinquished control of their stake in Granada in 2016 after seven years at the helm of the Spanish side. The multi-club phenomenon can actually be traced back much further, to a landmark sporting arbitration case in 2000 regarding two blocks of shares owned by Enic, the company through which English businessman Joe Lewis later bought Tottenham.

A court decision regarding Enik’s minority stake in AEK Athens and his majority stake in Slavia Prague led to the introduction of rules barring two clubs in which a person or company had “decisive influence” from entering the same UEFA club competition .

However, since each national league has different rules, there remains a rather large loophole. While the Premier League has limited ownership of a second club in the division to 10%, UEFA’s good faith rules allow one person to have a 100% interest in one club and “non-decisive influence” over a stake in another club competing in the same competition. . .

Questions were raised in Germany when American investor David Blitzer, who owns a 40% stake in Crystal Palace through his company Bolt Football Holdings, acquired a 45% stake in the Augsburg majority owner in early 2021. club membership With 50+1 voting shares remaining, they stayed on the right side of the rules and finished the season with no relegation issues following the club’s record signing of American forward Ricardo Pepi in January in a $18m (£14.75m) deal. .

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It wasn’t the only triumph for Blitzer, who was also behind Chelsea’s failed buyout of Sir Martin Broughton last month, which if successful would have meant giving up his Palace shares. His Dutch club Den Haag missed out on the Eredivisie in the play-offs, and his Belgian side Waasland-Beveren were close to relegation to the top flight six years after relegation. Bolt Football Holdings has also become the likely new owner of 10-time French champions Saint-Étienne after being relegated to Ligue 2 amid dramatic play-off scenes against Auxerre.

Meanwhile, RedBird – another American investment firm partnered with Liverpool owners John Henry and Tom Werner, the NFL and LeBron James – continued its success in bringing Toulouse back into Ligue 1 by completing the purchase of Milan, the Italian champions. for 1.3 billion dollars.

AC Milan celebrate their victory in Serie A last month.
AC Milan celebrate their victory in Serie A last month. They were bought by RedBird, who will have a club in Ligue 1 next season thanks to Toulouse’s promotion. Photo: Nikola Marfisi/AGF/Shutterstock

The Miami-based 777 will look to post a similar gain after a 100% takeover by Standard Liège in March, completing a $175.8 million deal to buy Genoa in September. The sale made Standard, which had not won a national title since 2009, the 10th club in the Belgian top flight to attract foreign investment, and since 2018 almost half of Serie A clubs have been sold to North American investors or consortiums.

In February, 777 spent $137 million to buy a 70% stake in Vasco de Gama after a law was passed last year allowing Brazilian clubs to operate as public companies, opening the door to foreign investment. A month earlier, John Textor — an American who reportedly spent £87.5m to join Blitzer as a minority shareholder of Palace in August after showing interest in Newcastle — bought a 90% stake in Botafogo.

Textor says he intends to revive the club’s glory years in Rio de Janeiro, where Jairzinho and Garrincha made a name for themselves. “I want it to be clear in three to five years that there is a Botafogo way,” he insisted. “Failure is the best teacher.”

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