Football: ‘it’s a mug’s game’

I know the phrase should be “Gambling: it’s a mugs game”, but in light of speculation yesterday that yet another English Premier League club is about to be sold to foreign investors, I can’t help feeling that the original phrase should be changed.

Clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United I can understand – these clubs have large fan bases and a “brand” that appeals in all corners of the world. But even these clubs have not been without financial fallout for their recent purchasers.

I appreciate that Newcastle United is a big club in terms of history and domestic fan base, but it also a club that has yo-yoed its way up and down the English football league for a few years now, and had its fair share of financial difficulties. Yet according to speculation yesterday, Newcastle United is attracting the attention of another potential Middle Eastern buyer, the Kuwait-based Arabi Club. The deal appears to be being driven by Arabi Club’s chairman, Jamal Al-Kazemi, and if serious, would see Mike Ashley, the Sports Direct founder, finally have an exit strategy for the club. A club for which he is undoubtedly passionate but has made a serious dent in his personal wealth and has repeatedly subjected him to personal criticism.

But it’s not just English Premier League clubs that attract interest - just this week the acquisition of Nottingham Forest was completed for an undisclosed amount by the Al-Hasawi family of Kuwait, and Qatar Petroleum have been linked to Blackburn Rovers. These are clubs that all have a rich history, but haven’t competed for trophies in recent times.

Perhaps the clubs themselves are seen as the “trophies” in their respective purchasers’ eyes?

Filed under: football, UK, dealmaking