Buying a football club is a good way to higher your profile. In Daniel’s post (1) about his trip to Hong Kong he wrote that most of the reporters at Carson Yeung’s trial were reporting on his case because he owned a football club and therefore had a slightly higher profile. However, they didn’t know much about Birmingham City FC. It seems like a case of mutual misunderstanding; the people in Hong Kong know as little about our club as we know about business practice in China.
There’s an account of the fame associated with club ownership in David Conn’s book: Richer than God. Usually, when foreign owners buy football clubs they are trying to make money. The situation at Manchester City was different; their owner had more money than he knew what to do with and was looking for something to spend it on. Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the chairman, said that the takeover of the club attracted more media attention than any of the other business deals with which he had been involved, even though some of those deals involved far more money. The £210 million spent on the takeover received enormous publicity while a deal, done around the same time by an investment company he runs, was only noted in the trade press even though it was worth a thousand times as much.
There’s another football story (2) in the news today that involves a more modest amount of fame and fortune. This afternoon, Newport beat Wrexham 2-0 in the Blue Square Premier playoff at Wembley and is now back in the Football League. The chairman of Newport County is Les Scadding who won £45.5 million on the Euromillions lottery in 2009. He took over as chairman last year and admits to helping the club financially but says he’s not a sugar daddy. The relationship between fans and club chairman is much closer lower down the football pyramid; the fans can see him in a pub after a game.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a chairman or owner with local connections and an interest in Birmingham City — someone that you might actually meet? If you were given a choice between a fabulously rich foreign owner with no prior connection to the club or a local owner with less money, who would you choose?