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The Effects of the Owner in the Modern Game
Written by Edmunds5 on Friday, 11th Jan 2013 13:40

The idea of this article, is to discuss the influence of the owner with regards to managers. I will also talk about the impact of the media and fans with regards to football clubs.

Where should I start? Steve Kean at Blackburn, Sean O’Driscoll at Nottingham Forest, Ståle Solbakken from Wolves, Keith Hill at Barnsley, Simon Grayson at Leeds, Lee Clark at Huddersfield following a 43-match unbeaten run. These are just some of the names of Football League managers who have lost thier jobs in the recent past.

I could also dip into the Premier League, and most notably Roberto Di Matteo and his sacking despite Champions League glory against the odds. I could add Neil Warnock’s sacking at QPR when they still had a decent chance of staying up.

Even our very own Mick McCarthy, who with a bit of patience from the board may have led Wolves to safety with the club in touching distance of climbing out the bottom three and with three months of the season still to play.

Perhaps McCarthy had had his time, but the Molineux club's rather rapid decline suggests that they could have done worse than sticking with the man who took them to the Premier League in the first place.

Some may argue that these radical decisions can often pay off, but just why in the modern era, do managers get such a short time to stamp their authority on a club before getting the boot, many unjustifiably?

The first point I would make would be the increasing amount of owners involved in English football, many who are successful businessmen but seem to with the greatest of respect have a limited knowledge of English football.

Many owners have there own personal backgrounds and are used to completely different environments and culture compared with England and may not be full aware of the adoring, obsessive attitude towards football in this country which means different concepts and an immediate difference in understanding.

Owners are undoubtedly powerful, perhaps deservedly so, but the feeling of constant success doesn’t always transcend to a football club.

I feel some clubs need a structure, just look at Liverpool for example, and the vast amounts of money they spent under Kenny Dalglish. Many people would argue that it is a manager’s job to invest the money more sensibly and that Dalgish’s acquisitions were poor.

At the same time is spending £100 million on players logical? Is there a structure here? Is there a criteria for which players are genuinely needed? Are the wages really necessary for players who have yet to play a single game for his new club?

The objective of this blog isn’t to put football club owners in a poor light, I appreciate the fact that many owners have came in and saved clubs from the possible threat of administration and potential liquidation. I would only have to look as far as our club and the state we were in before Marcus Evans's investments.

Chelsea were also in dire straits before a certain Roman Abramovich bought the club, starting a revolution that has since brought many trophies to the club and continued success.

Further more, the new Malaysian owners, led by Vincent Tan have backed Malky Mackay and have given him the funds to bring in players and afford the wages of players such as Craig Bellamy who could prove crucial in their promotion bid.

Some people would also argue that owners should be free to do what they like, it is their money that is being invested and that should be respected, and appreciate that their money has been the trigger for great success.

Would Man City have achieved a Premier League title triumph without their riches? Certainly not, would Chelsea be challenging for the Champions League places let alone win the competition has it not been for Abramovich? Who knows, that’s not even mentioning the trophies that have been won over the past eight seasons.

Football is largely about entertainment, and these riches have allowed our country to witness some fantastic talents.

This ultimately makes the sport more attractive and gives us the nail-biting finishes and pulsating games such as last season when Man City pipped bitter rivals United to the Premier League title following their victory over QPR.

It is also worth noting the influence of external factors though, perhaps us as fans inadvertently play a role in the decline of a club? Fans have every right to show an opinion but perhaps some take it too far when the club's hierarchy get verbally abused and when there are mass protests sparking a widened division between the fans and those that run the club, which only adds to the negativity.

Are fans asking for too much and expect constant success? Is it only natural that clubs will yo-yo up and down divisions despite past highs and maybe you have to accept that things are not always rosy.

But it's tough for fans, because they are powerless in the sense that they are not in charge of the club despite being the core of it, many spend hard earned money watching a broken team and sometimes feel the only way to get their message across is through the ways I’ve mentioned.

There is also the influence of the media, whether that be from tabloid headlines or rumours as well as people venting their frustrations through sources of media such as the internet or local radio. Football phone-ins such as 606 and Talksport which again may not necessarily be healthy for the club in question as they only add to the tension.

But again it is one of the few ways in which fans can let out emotion, there seems to be a lack of insight into the way some clubs are run which cuts off fans and makes them struggle to understand certain aspects.

For example who takes training? Who picks which players to buy? Who picks the team? For me, it is no surprise that the football clubs that are run more sensibly are the ones who seem more stable.

For example, Bill Kenwright at Everton has stuck by David Moyes for a decade and he has achieved continued success on relatively low budgets.

The same could be said about Peter Coates’s relationship with Tony Pulis and Dave Whelan's with regards to Roberto Martinez. The rapid rise of Swansea has also been largely due to the competence of owner Huw Jenkins, each have allowed their managers to implement their own style of football and build their own team.

My views may come across slightly sinister on the way some things have evolved. I would say with regard to our club, that despite the questionable decisions owner Marcus Evans and CEO Simon Clegg have made in the past, at least we can say that both Paul Jewell and Roy Keane were given a fair chance to succeed.

Not only by the board but I felt the majority of fans were respectful, patient and supportive of them both. This meant that even through the more turbulent times we at least kept our dignity as a club and remained an attractive proposition for a manager of Mick McCarthy’s calibre.

The appointment of the for mentioned McCarthy looks to be a very shrewd move so far and you have to credit both Clegg and Evans for their latest appointment, at least we’re starting to look like a football club in safe hands, something that cannot be set at every club and something we should not take lightly.

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jreuser22 added 14:30 - Jan 11
A really good article- something that should definitely concern fans up and down the country. I couldn't be prouder of being an Ipswich supporter when it comes to things like this- we're sometimes labelled as a 'staid' and 'traditional' club but who wants to be modern and exciting when you're in a constant state of financial turmoil? Everyone deserves to have a club to support on a Saturday afternoon (one exception, obviously) and I feel for those fans who right now are worried if their club will even be there at the end of the season. People don't make money from football- foreign owners like to have a club as a tax write-off or some kind of other financial loophole. Obviously there are some owners who do take a great interest in their club but as you say have very little knowledge of the game. Funny how twenty two blokes kicking a ball about can turn into this. Sad too.

MattinLondon added 17:02 - Jan 11
Slightly off-topic but owners -especially foreign owners -must respect the footballing traditions of the country. It wasn't that long ago that some owners called for relegation/promtion to be scrapped and I fully expect this topic to raise its ugly head again. Football is about dreaming and without this Swansea and Stoke would be still stuck in forth tier football football.

Saying that the club must move with the times and have some sense of stability. As much as Paul Jewell was a likeable man he is a yesterdays manager. Old has-beens and the premier league squad system are not always the answer and this is where a progressive owner can must be innovative in getting the very best players for the club. Scouting networks and making contacts worldwide is the way ahead and has been for a long time.

The now owner type can be effective but he must see the bigger-picture and not crave the instant glamour of the Premier League - something I think the club has been guilty off during the ME years.

blueherts added 13:31 - Jan 12
Good piece - just look at the ridiculous triangle at Chelsea now - Benitez/Abram and Torres - if ever the owner should keep out of harms way this is it .
We were a well run team up until the 2001 season - we tasted and enjoyed the premiership - that great first half of the season really helped cement our position . it was a change going to Chelsea and not Crewe !! we did fantastic on the road - never forget Anfield and Goodison , Sunderland - But we suddenly got in unknown territory the playing field had changed and whilst we had a plan to get the Prem - I am not sure we had a succession plan if we got into Europe !!!
The stadium was developed we bought badly in the market and so signalled our demise - financially and 11 years on still in the Championship - we did well in many ways to stabalise and not go into freefall
It is interesting no one has ever repeated what we did in our first year back in the Top flight and probably to their benefit - David Sheepshanks was good for us as a Top Championship / Mid table prem team - TOP 6 !!! wow - that needed a plan
ME saved us in many ways - unfortunately with two people at the top who had little or no idea about Football it has taken afew years to get it right
ie Appoint a team to lead the Club Manager and Coach - Keane never wanted a coach - surprise - PJ was too weak - MM and TC are a great partnership , respected and also good at what they do -
Owners , like Managers , need time and we are lucky in many ways we have an 'English owner' who at least understands the Culture . Too many foreign owners will and are . as in Business , ruining English Football at the top level

Edmunds5 added 14:34 - Jan 12
Thanks for the comments, agree with much of what all three of you have said

DurhamTownFan added 20:21 - Jan 12
Really cleverly-thought blog. My only quibble is that Chelsea were a champions league club before roman came in, even if he has certainly made them bigger.

My main concern is:what happens when these owners get bored and pull out (or even die)? I'm convinced Abramovich will ditch Chelsea at some point, saving them totally crippled with debt. I worry that this could happen to Ipswich on a much smaller scale, unless we get promoted within a few years. Also, what stops these autocrats flogging their clubs to an unscrupulous bidder w utd little respect for or knowledge of the club (ie, venkys, or a smaller scale recently seen at my father inlaw's team, Wycombe).

I'm worried, and I don't think single owners are healthy, or sustainable.

Birch added 11:28 - Jan 13
Very good blog, much the thoughts I've had myself. In many aspects we should be very happy how things are run at ITFC. Going in to the history books, we might never have had the era of Sir Bobby Robson, if things were handled in the sixties, as they are today. Gaining only 1 point from the first 7 matches ot the 1969/70-season would be a sure sacking nowadays. Unfortunately money has become to big, football-knowledge and/or feelings to low from owners, meaning that patience and building-up of a team is very rare today. A real shame, but think there are som indications, that is is actually happening in the right way at Ipswich now. Cross my fingers.

JWM added 15:47 - Jan 14
The thing that should concern us all now is the implications of the FFP which will slowly strangle the aspirations of football clubs like ours. I have read today that Man Utd, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool all want to introduce strict FFP rules to the Premiership meaning that clubs with wealthy owners like Man City and Chelsea (surprise surprise) will no longer be able to rely on rich owners to bankroll them. Given that Man Utd generate by far the biggest amount of income along with Arsenal, Liverpool etc, they would basically ensure that they would have the bigger financial clout if you base it on pure income generated! Arsenal are charging £62 to watch a football match FFS! If these rotten rules are introduced you mark my words, there will only be 2 or 3 clubs able to win the Premiership for years to come! How can this be good for the game when clubs who have rich backing will no longer be able to use this financial firepower to compete with those big clubs who have massive turnover! Clubs like ours are slowly being strangled to death by those that have already made it and now want to ensure to no one else can! Football is going to hell in hand cart.
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