Love them, loathe them or hate them, private owners of football clubs are increasingly the norm. The days of fan ownership (or even fan input) are long gone, and foreign owners are increasingly buying up Premier League clubs. In my opinion there are three types of football club owners in modern-day English football.
These types of owners are:
The type of owner that seems genuinely interested in the game, these owners normally have more money than type two owners, and want to buy a club that is perhaps not at the very pinnacle of the game, wear the badge of owner and invest in and develop the club, possibly viewing it as a “project”. This type of owner often uses their ownership of a club as an ego trip; the club becomes “theirs” as they fund its success on the field.
Often type one owners are incredibly rich, enabling them to fund the rapid growth of clubs that, before, did not have the financial means to facilitate such a rise. Type one owners are usually more interested in type one clubs (explained below). Examples of type one owners are Roman Abramovich of Chelsea, Sheikh Mansour of Manchester City and Mohamad Al Fayed of Fulham.
The type of owner who maybe isn’t entirely sure what the game is about, type two owners usually lack the funds to develop a “project” club. Despite their lack of footballing knowledge, type two owners have usually only heard of the very biggest clubs (which are usually type three clubs-see below) and just want to purchase an already established club. These owners often lack any feeling for the club and often just view it as “just another purchase”.
The very nature of this type of owner- a cold, money-making business attitude- they generally only buy the biggest clubs as these are the ones with the deepest coffers, allowing the type two owner to maximise profit on their purchase. These are the types of owners who not only (usually) lack the funds to invest, but also lack the funds for the original purchase of the club, and end up causing the club to lose money through debt and interest repayments. Examples of type two owners are Malcolm Glazer of Manchester United and the former owners of Liverpool, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
Type three owners are the rarest kind, and could also share characteristics of type one owners. Type three owners are usually local businessmen who have an interest in/love for the club and are usually closer to type one owners than type two. These owners usually buy the club so that they can invest in, help and develop the club, and can buy either type one or type two clubs depending on their location and funds. Unlike type one owners, type three owners are usually those with a lifelong affiliation with and affection for the club into which they are buying.
Examples of type three owners are Jack Walker (bought Blackburn Rovers in the mid-90’s) and the so called “Three Amigos”, the local businessmen who bought my local club, Mansfield Town FC (you may not have heard of it but it’s a good example). Sadly, at Premier League level anyway, type three owners are almost non-existent, a memory of a different time when any local businessman with a genuine passion for his club could take the helm and finance a title charge.
There are also three types of football clubs that appeal to the different types of owners because of their different characteristics. These types of football clubs are:
Top division clubs that are good enough to stay in the division, but aren’t quite good enough to challenge for the title or consistently challenge for a European place. Clubs that fell into this category before they were taken over, or clubs that are in this category now- Chelsea, City, Villa, possibly Blackburn (especially in the mid-90’s) and Stoke etc. These clubs are usually bought by type one or richer type three owners who are interested in developing the club and helping them to become one of the biggest and best clubs. These clubs are usually viewed as a “project” by their prospective owners.
Type two clubs are usually lower-league, local clubs who are bought by local businessmen eager to help the club grow, or even just to save the club from debt. Essentially a lower-league equivalent of type one clubs. Examples of type two clubs are Mansfield Town (referred to above) and Darlington.
Clubs that are already well developed and considered to be the biggest and most famous clubs. Clubs that, even though they may not be the most successful at the current time, have that sense of history about them and are world-renowned. Clubs that fall into this category are clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool. These clubs are usually bought by type two owners who have no real sense of the history and magnitude of what they are buying.
They are not interested in a “project” club that can be developed and advanced- and they usually do not have the funds for this anyway- they merely want to make money from the venture. Owners of type three clubs may be the type of owner- unlike type one owners- who not only do not have the funds to develop a club, but also do not have the funds to even buy the (usually more expensive) already well-established clubs and have to take out loans and accrue debts that will possibly weigh the club down in order to ultimately make a profit.
This is, of course, just my opinion. Feel free to agree, disagree and argue in the comments section below.