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How the Economy Will Affect the Premier League

The Guardian‘s David Conn has an interesting interview today with Keith Harris, the banker and former Football League chairman who advised the billionaire owners of clubs like Chelsea and Aston Villa throughout the process of buying them. Harris argues that the global economic downturn—he calls it “the toughest economic situation anybody has endured in our lifetime”—will mean an end to the culture of the football club as rich man’s plaything and could lead, if wages and transfer spending aren’t brought under control, to a meltdown in the Premier League itself.

We have been through a time when clubs have been overspending, with very ordinary players commanding huge transfer fees and wages. The climate has changed and takeovers are not going to be the solution to the woes that they may have been two years ago. That is unequivocal.

Harris also says that of the group of clubs for which he’s currently working to find buyers, which includes Portsmouth, Everton, Blackburn, and West Ham, only West Ham has a chance to sell quickly, because of the allure of London and the desperate circumstances of current owner Björgólfur Guðmundsson.

I’m still waiting to read an analysis of the current football economy that would observe the distinction between the wealthy owners who see their clubs as toys (Sheikh Mansour, Roman Abramovich) and the ones who see them as long-term investments (the Glazers, probably Randy Lerner). This isn’t quite that; Harris believes that every club is “ultimately a trophy asset.” But it’s sharp and well worth a read.

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How the Economy Will Affect the Premier League

by Brian Phillips · January 7, 2009

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