Umasking the Game
Evanna Ramly | 03 Nov 2017 15:28
Living the Dream… Or Enduring the Nightmare? explores the ups and downs of foreign football club ownership

While numerous football fans grow up idolising their favourite players, not many think about the powers behind them. Yet, the money involved is so massive that it really does matter who owns the club.

“Back in the day, the directors and owners used to be nameless men in suits who would sit there and no one would ever look at them,” says Bob Holmes, author of Living the Dream… Or Enduring the Nightmare? “Even fans didn’t know who they were; as long as they kept the clubs running, that was good enough.”

Having reported on the sport for decades, Holmes came to realise that some stories behind football owners were in fact worth telling. “Roman Abramovich [owner of Chelsea] was the turning point when they suddenly became interesting. Not that he was very charismatic. They used to have a camera trained on him for the first three years but he never did anything more than blink, even when they scored.”

More such intriguing characters would soon follow, a real mix from different countries and backgrounds. “We had American businessmen, a Thai prime minister, Middle Eastern royalty, a Malaysian budget airline entrepreneur, and even a Hong Kong hairdresser, all attracted by the English Premier League and the appeal of owning a football club. Some knew what they were doing and some didn’t.”