How club owners have changed the game

Roman Abramovich
BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

Football is big business, and many people within the game are instantly recognised, featuring prominently on social media, online and in traditional media. This is no surprise when it comes to the players, managers and coaches who affect the outcome of matches, but many other people associated with the beautiful game are also well-known in the football world.

Match officials, pundits and fans are often popular figures, but when it comes to influencing matches, seasons and the clubs that we love, it is the club owners who have played a big role in changing the game.

There are many famous football club owners in all of the prominent leagues around the world. One of the best examples of a club owner who has changed a club, the league and perhaps even the game itself is Roman Abramovich at Chelsea FC. The history of Chelsea is a topic that is commonly cited by many football fans across the country.

However, barring a few teams, it is not as if Chelsea lag behind when it comes to silverware or magic moments in the league, the domestic cups or in Europe. It would be fair to say that the 1980s were not a particularly fantastic time for silverware at Stamford Bridge, but it was still an era when fans felt that they had a team and a community around them.

There was also the fact that the 1990s were a brilliant time to be alive, even before Roman came on board.

The club had overspent quite a bit, but when Roman Abramovich bought the team, everything changed. Chelsea might have had more money to spend, but the club had a different outlook and a much sharper focus on being successful.

The capture of Jose Mourinho after taking Porto to Uefa Cup and Champions League success set the blueprint for a long run at the top of the English game. Through it all, Roman Abramovich has sat and cheered his team on.

Of course, not every football club owner can achieve success, and not every management appointment ends up going according to plan. An example of a team that have been badly run would be Blackburn Rovers as controlled by the Venkys.

The Rovers were bankrolled to a Premier League title under Jack Walker in the ‘90s, which was an outlier for the team, but the period endured under the Indian owners has been tough for the club’s fans.

A promotional video featuring players enjoying chicken from the owner’s company was embarrassing, but fans have been left even more humiliated by what has happened on the pitch.

Chelsea have achieved success on the park

One thing that Roman Abramovich does right that not every club owner copies is keeping a low profile. Yes, the Russian oligarch is regularly seen at games cheering the team on, but he does not give interviews.

Moreover, he avoids meddling in team affairs unless it is absolutely necessary. The Russian knows his investment and enjoyment in the club is better served by having football and business people in charge at the club.

Many other football owners come into the game from outside of the game and do not realise what it takes to achieve success in football, which is a very different environment from other business areas.

Abramovich the game changer

After the arrival of Abramovich into English Football, other clubs soon began to change owners’ hands, with fans of other teams hoping their club would have the same success that Chelsea did.

The most notable success came when Manchester City was taken over by Abu Dhabi billionaire Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The new owner gave the funding for the club to rebuild the team, and now Manchester City are considered to be one of the top clubs in the Premier League.

The Premier League was not the only English league to have clubs taken over by wealthy businessmen. The Championship has started to see even more foreign owners come in. For example, this can be seen in the recent takeover of Nottingham Forest by Greek shipping magnate ‘Evangelos Marinakis‘.

Names like Dave Whelan, Vincent Tan, the Glazer family and Carson Yeung are well known amongst football fans, even if they support different sides. There is no denying that owning a football club can bring publicity for an owner, but it is vital that the owner manages the club correctly to ensure that they are viewed in a positive and favourable light.