The myth has been around for long enough now. “Football is business,” proclaimed The Independent when the Glazers took over at Man Utd. “The Football Business” runs the title of a book by David Conn of The Guardian. There are even university courses about the link between football and business.
Maybe it was true once, but since the arrival of Roman Abramovich, followed by the Glazers, Randy Lerner, Thaksin Shinawatra, George Gillett, Tom Hicks and many and various others, football has become little more than a rich person’s playground.
According to one estimate, Abramovich has spent at least £600m on Chelsea since he arrived in 2003. He and Randy Lerner at Aston Villa are held up as the ideal type of foreign owner, for, as David Conn puts it rather euphemistically in the Guardian “investing” millions in their clubs. But this is not an investment. As Abramovich shows, this is spending with little hope of return, at least financially. Perhaps there might be some returns in terms of status or prestige, but financially, football no longer pays.