Corporate football: The reality of the beautiful game?

Multi club-ownership (MCO) might make sense as a corporate strategy for Middle Eastern sportswashers or private equity raiders but for just about everyone else, the concept of gobbling up football clubs into one amorphous group does not.

By Steve Menary

The Dutch fans at NAC Breda managed to rebuff the attentions of the Abu Dhabi owned City Football Group, but 22 percent of Portuguese side Braga is now held by Paris Saint-Germain’s Qatari owners and the US group Global Football Holdings has taken a majority stake in Brøndby IF, prompting Danish fan group Alpha to stop chanting and producing tifos until the winter break in protest.

Niamh O’Mahony, chief operating officer and head of governance at Football Supporters Europe, says: “We are still looking at why multi club ownership makes sense. No-one has been able to explain why. There are some good owners and they tend to respect the heritage of the clubs but there’s an awful lot where we don’t know their motivations.”

MCOs balloon
The number of clubs caught up in cross ownership has ballooned in the last five years. In 2017, UEFA’s research found 26 top-flight clubs across Europe involved in cross-ownership. By February 2021, UEFA had identified 90 European clubs caught in the MCO web but this is a global phenomenon.

Research by Josimar has found 227 clubs around the world whose owners also owned, controlled or had a significant stake in other football clubs.

With a takeover of French Ligue 1 side Olympique Lyonnais by US investor John Textor imminent, that number will swell further, and there will be more clubs whose owners own or control other teams and have been able to disguise their identities.


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