Defending the idea of the Foreign Owner

By Darshan Joshi

The plain truth is that we made this possible. It is no revelation that money and status are the drivers of ambition, or that money goes where money grows. The brutal truth is that we are powerless to stop this. Accepting change can be painful, as us fans yearn for the ‘better’ days of yesteryear where we didn’t hear at regular intervals of interest repayments and stock exchange floatation on the back pages of our newspapers.

However, there in lies the issue that lacerates deep at the philosophical core of football – the sport holds different meanings to fans, to players, to investors and to politicians. This disconnect of perceptions cannot be understated because power, of fame or influence, and money go hand in hand. Football clubs are no longer run as democracies.

The appeal of football is eternally changing but it is born out of attraction, of passion, of beauty. We have let it develop into this global phenomenon because we, as humans, are material sense-enjoyers. We are at the heart of the demand that created and caused this hyper-augmentation of the value of football. Whether or not our materialistic titillation is pure of essence to begin with is uncertain and hints at a spiritual enquiry into the anthropological modes of nature but the people, forever a majority, will see that they are never wrong.

We are, after all, not the 1%. Our dedication to football and thus our personal satisfaction does not harm others, so it must be right. Those lured by the prospect of fiscal gain, whose intents are not in keeping with our own, are deemed the opprobrious.

As the product underwent its metamorphosis from desire to necessity, its demand evolved into something that is now inelastic. We simply cannot do without football and for billions across the planet it is now a staple that is fed by our very pockets. Our money multiplies as it is swallowed and regurgitated and re-swallowed and re-regurgitated by the economy of football, until this economy is a thing exponential of growth. Money goes where money grows, and humanity has made a habit of celebrating innovation and entrepreneurship, of rewarding it in the name of economic development.

We have championed the idea of good investment, be it in education or gold, in stocks or bonds. The importance of opportunity is realised only when it is grasped.

Whether or not the economy of football is at its zenith and resisting the cyclically inevitable crash, the Foreign Owner is the rent-seeking individual who has made his investment in a thing that is seemingly perpetually liquid and has seemingly avoided the many violations of financial crises. It is to him an investment built on the foundations of beauty and passion, driven by the dollar which does not run short in supply. He is attracted by a materialistic titillation that by some unjust token the fan has deemed to be less pure than his own.

He sees football not necessarily as a product of entertainment, but as a vehicle to exaggerate his fiscal status. His money affords him power, and his power acts as the enabler to run what he owns the way he wants it to be run. He is the dictator and his power will endure because we let it.

The masses are the drivers of everything in this world; we are the army of ants in the economy of football. His money is attracted by our own, and as long as our pockets are filling the coffers of the sport, he will remain.

The solution purports itself to be one of revolution, but its occurrence is unrealistic and should not come to fruition. The concern and dishonour should not lie with the existence of the concept of the Foreign Owner. The political hierarchy of football must be charged with ensuring the notion of fair competition amongst its many clubs endures, as it is one of society’s major blemishes that inequality is rife. Moves in the direction of righteousness are being made; if ever so slightly, through the impending financial fair play rulings, but innovativeness and the resulting fabricated expansions of balance sheets will ensure those at the top remain.

Regulations need be proposed and stringently adhered to – for example, Etihad’s £400m naming rights deal with Manchester City reeks of injustice and cannot be allowed to happen, for the simple fact that it hails from Abu Dhabi, the same city whose royalty owns the club – otherwise we will find the gap between rich and poor moving ever further from curtailment.

There is not an innate wrongness with external investment in football as many opine. It begets growth, which allures further fiscal injections. The trend is toward a footballing macrocosmos, disjointed from an everyday reality that will to fans persist as a necessary escape. Our demand for the product is at the heart of the footballing economy, with sense-gratification our primary intent. The epiphany required of us pertains to the omnifariousness of football – to each, their very own.

This article is by Darshan Joshi, an AFR senior writer. You can follow him on twitter @thedarshan. Comments below please.

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