Money Buys Soccer Teams, but Not Goals
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Money Buys Soccer Teams, but Not Goals

But in sports the mood changes whimsically.


Sunderland, itself owned by an Irish-American banker, was the first English Premier League club to remove the manager – or head coach – this season. Fear of failure, and the dire cost of relegation that demotes three teams every season, makes owners revert to business practice in distress. They cull the manager and try someone else.

In business, maybe, it can turn fortunes around. Sports dance to their own tunes.

For whatever reason Tan joined the investors in soccer, he will have to read Rudyard Kipling’s line on triumph and disaster in his epic poem “If” to understand what he has bought into. Certainly, the Malaysian entrepreneur helped turn around Cardiff when it was in hard financial times three years ago.

And, with the young Scot, Malky Mackay, as manager, the money helped build a squad that took Cardiff into the Premier League for the first time in its history. However, despite the outlay of another 50 million pounds, or about $82 million, last summer, Cardiff has yet to learn how to compete. After all, other billionaire owners spend six times that amount on players alone.

While Tan seeks a new team manager – the former Manchester United striker, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, is likely to get first refusal — Tan himself fronts up to the wrath of Cardiff supporters.

The owner had earlier changed the color that the team wears, from blue to red. And changed the club crest from a blue bird to a dragon. Those, he suggests, make Cardiff a better commercial prospect in Asia.

Maybe they do. But there are bigger clubs, such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, and the European champion Bayern Munich also in red, also selling themselves abroad.

Cardiff people have identified their team with blue since the time of their fathers, and grandfathers. They know this man from Malaysia saved the club from insolvency, but they do not lightly sell their history, their identity or the adage that a British club belongs to its community.

On Saturday, Tan was resplendent in his red club shirt, his dark sunshades. He stood, while every fan is obliged to be seated in Premier league stadiums. And stood where he could be seen supporting his team.

When first Jordon Mutch and then Frazier Campbell scored for Cardiff, the owner put his hands together. He turned to the spectators and raised both thumbs. The king in his castle.

Sunderland huffed and it puffed, but with Jozy Altidore, an American striker who runs wholeheartedly but lacks real sharpness as a finisher, missing chances, it toiled. The clock had turned 87 minutes when Ki Sung-yueng , the Korean in Sunderland’s lineup, sparked the move from which Steven Fletcher scored.

Cardiff and its owner would then endure the final three minutes of normal time, and five added minutes for injuries and stoppages, at the very end of which Jack Colback struck a shot that deflected into Cardiff’s goal off the home side’s defender, Steven Caulker.

The final whistle followed immediately. The 2-2 score represented two lost points. The owner turned to leave, the home crowd was baying, there were banners in support of the sacked coach. And Tan booed back at the fans.

Meanwhile, at Kingston-upon-Hull on England’s northeast coast, another owner who became the financial savior of a struggling club witnessed Hull City’s finest hour — a 6-0 home win over Fulham.

Assem Allam, Egyptian born but resident in Hull for decades, had bought the club when it was destitute, an act of gratitude, he said, for the university education that enabled his business acumen to thrive.

Allam hired Steve Bruce, another former Manchester United player, to train his team, and lift it from third tier to first. So far, there is still harmony, almost a father-son relationship between the owner and coach.

Bruce, though, has had to manage much more than the team. His success in doing that is reflected in the way that Tom Huddlestone, a play maker discarded by big-spending Tottenham Hotspur, crowned an emphatic victory by scoring a fine goal against Fulham.

It was the first time for almost three years that Huddlestone has scored. In all that time, he had pledged not to cut his burgeoning Afro bob of hair until he broke that spell. A local charity benefited from that pledge but, delightfully, the moment that Huddlestone joined in the scoring on Saturday, the team physiotherapist Rob Price took out a pair of surgical scissors and chopped away at the locks — right on the field.

Somewhere in the audience, not really needing to steal the limelight from his team, the owner Allam felt the essence of a fun day. A rare harmonious day at Hull this winter, because Allam had become almost as alienated in his domain as Tan is in Cardiff.

Again, it involves an owner who has put in the cash to keep the club from going under — but an owner who wants to change the commercial viability of the club by tampering with its heritage.

Allam does not want a change of colors. Indeed, he seeks to emphasize the amber and black stripes on the shirt by rebranding the club from Hull City AFC to simply “Hull Tigers.”

The fans have rebelled. They carry banners that read “City till we die.” The owner threatens to remove his patronage, and joyous days like Saturday’s are the exception.

The piper plays the tune, but the people will only follow what they know and trust.q

ALL of the billionaire owners are in it for their own egos, full stop. Whose ego is bigger than Roman Abramovich, who fired the estimable Carlo Ancellotti a couple of months after he was the first manager in club history to win a league and FA Cup double, and then upped that even more by canning Roberto DiMatteo, less than half a year removed from winning Abramovich's holy grail of the European Cup?
Torres hardly seemed an aging striker when Liverpool sold him on to Chel$ki. He was only 27, and although he started first team football at Atletico at 16 (hence his nickname "El Nino," or the boy), he seemed to be at the peak of his powers. This year, Mourinho brought in 33 year old Samuel Eto'o, who is older than Torres, and sent Romelo Lukaku out on loan, who has scored more for Everton than ALL of Chel$ki's strike force have.
Mackay eventually got canned not because of differences with Tan, but largely because he sought to make the case for his job in the press, and few owners, even the most humble among them, are likely to tolerate that strategy. Even Mourinho was sent away from Chel$ki the first time for the same offense. Managers may know a lot more about football than billionaire owners, but the thing of which they must remain the most cognizant is who signs the paychecks.




Why oh why do we expect these billionaire business guys to act any differently? Football is not business, it is half art and half money and half team chemistry and half just plain belief in the fact that you can win. I know that adds up to more than a whole, but thats my point. It is not as straightforward as a business, look no further than the 50 Million spent on Fernando Torres. A businessman would think, "hey I get a superstar talent, I should get x number of goals per million".


A football man thinks, "hmmm, thats a lot of money for an ageing striker". Malky MacKay did a lot to make those Cardiff boys believe they could win, any football man would set their next goal to stay up for the next year or two and build on that. Cardiff is not terrible, they are a decent lower half of the table team. Tan should be pleased with their progress. If they can stave off relegation I would say job well done. I am certainly not a Cardiff fan, but they play a decent game, and as we all know the best teams tend to be the teams with the most stability. I think its a shame that Malky lost his job, I thought he did well. Tan seems to be in it simply for his own ego.


In a better world more teams would be owned by their fans, like German teams such as Bayern and Dortmund, or in the US, the Packers.I'm an Arsenal man, but the Bundesliga knows how to run things. Not only are they tremendously successful in the Champions League, but their youth development program keeps their teams in the black and has made their national team one of the favorites in Brazil. Finally, they treat their fans with respect, ticket prices are very reasonable. As the president of Bayern said "We do not think the fans are like cows to be milked. Football has got to be for everybody. That's the biggest difference between us and England."


Sheik Mansour's professionals, who saw fit to sign, among others, Roque Santa Cruz, Emmanuel Adebayor, Jo, Joleon Lescott, and Jack Rodwell? Like big market baseball teams (the Yankee$ come to mind), the free spending billionaire owners have enough money to bury their mistakes, many of whom are sold on for pennies on the pound of transfer fees incoming. The free spending billionaire approach also *severely* stunts youth development, now entirely absent at Man City, which used to have an estimable record in producing first team players through its academy.{jcomments on}

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