My Say: The Best And Worst Of Football Club Owners

Avnish Anand picks his five best and worst club owners in the last 25 years or so...
The following are the views of the author and not necessarily of 

We always talk about the impact players and managers have on clubs. As they are actively involved in the matches, it’s simpler to measure the impact of their efforts and therefore it becomes so much easier to judge whether a player or a manager has been good or bad. Not so easy in the case of club owners.  

Most of them hardly get involved in running the club. Others who do get their hands dirty have different levels of involvement – and that makes the task of comparing owners extremely difficult. Therefore, for the purpose of this exercise we simply got down to the bottom line – we judged the owners based on the success or failure of their clubs irrespective of their level of involvement. You are still a good owner if you hire correctly and then sit back to enjoy the hired men bring success to your club.  

So here we go, in particular order. We will be limiting the timeline of this exercise to the last 25 odd years. We will have just five owners in each category and hence will have to miss out on a few good and bad ones    

The Best  

Malcolm Glazer and Man United

He took over in 2005 when United had just finished their worst season in the Premiership. He had financed his purchase through debt financing and there were fears that the heavy interest charge would sink the club. Three years on, United have two league titles, a Champions League crown, a reduced debt and money flowing in from everywhere. Thanks to Glazer, Sir Alex always has the money to get his transfer targets and has no management guys interfering with his football decisions. The club has never been in better shape.  

Bernard Tapie and Olympique Marseille

Forget the match-fixing scandal which finished his involvement with football. Remember the two trips to the Champions League final including one title – the likes of Chelsea, Inter and Lyon would give an arm and a leg for that. Their accomplishments continue to remain the most glorious chapter of French club football. They also won four consecutive Ligue 1 titles.  Tapie achieved this by signing a bunch of great players and managers – and did this within the foreign player restriction of the pre-Bosman era – a highly creditable effort.  

Silvio Berlusconi and AC Milan

When he took over AC Milan were the target of constant ridicule at the hands of cross town rivals Inter – having faced the ignominy of multiple relegation's in the 80’s. Today Milan are the most successful European club of the last 20 years and their bitter rivals are the ones getting ridiculed. Berlusconi gets his hands into everything – from player signings to match formations. But it seems to work and Berlusconi has built Milan into one big happy family. Big time players rarely leave and retired ones stay on to join the coaching or management staff.   

Gianni Agnelli and Juventus

He ran the club just like his family ran Fiat – like a corporate organization and the club was just as successful as the car company. They have won the most Serie A titles and made four trips to the Champions League final. Agnelli built Juve into the most well-supported club in Italy and one with a very solid foundation. Other clubs would have taken years to rebound from the point deduction and the relegation. Juventus were back amongst the Serie A elite in just one season.    

Jean Michel Aulas and Olympique Lyonnais

Imagine a new guy takes over at a club like West Bromwich Albion and step by step builds it into the most dominant side in England – one which wins seven premiership titles in a row virtually unchallenged. That is exactly what Aulas has achieved with Lyon. They were oscillating between Ligue 1 and 2 in 1986 when he took over. He had a 15 year plan for the club with lots of small targets thrown in.  His painstaking approach is an anomaly in modern football, but one which has worked wonders.    

The Worst  

Roman Abramovich and Chelsea

He is the polar opposite of Aulas in terms of patience and markedly different from Glazer by not letting his manager take complete charge of football matters. And that is why in spite of spending almost 600 million pounds on Chelsea and guiding them to two titles he makes the latter list. He wanted to build Rome in one day. Chelsea are already onto their fourth manager during his stint – and that is never the sign of a good owner.  

Massimo Moratti and Inter Milan

He is Abramovich spread over a longer period of time but with a little less money and even less success. Thanks to him, Inter are no longer spoken of in the same vein as Milan and Juventus. They are a dysfunctional club which keeps losing its big stars all the time. Ronaldo, Vieri, Roberto Carlos, Cannavaro have all moved out. Moratti also has no patience and just fires everybody and starts afresh every time things get too bad. His father brought glory to Inter under the managerial aegis of Helenio Herrera. Massimo’s managers don’t stay long enough to emulate the Fench-Argentine.  

Gillett and Hicks and Liverpool

Liverpool welcomed the pair with open arms in stark contrast to the hostile reception given to Glazer by United. But while Glazer has brought money and success, the financial restraint of the American pair almost always leaves their manager Benitez narrating his sorrows in public. The Spaniard is often forced to sell players to finance his purchases and even then fails to get the players he wants. Ironically Tom Hicks is famous for giving Alex Rodriguez the most expensive contract in baseball – he finally sold the player off to the Yankees by agreeing to pay half his salary! To add to the tragedy for the club, the pair is embittered and was almost on the verge of a break-up.      

Mike Ashley and Newcastle United

His manager turnover ratio beats that of Abramovich and Moratti and that too when his club is without a manager now. Also belongs to the category which believes in reducing the manager’s powers. The fans hate him and want him out. And he has managed to do all this in just one year.  

The Norwegian businessmen who bought Wimbledon when Joe Kinnear was manager -

Wimbledon had no stadium and a meagre transfer budget. Yet Joe Kinnear’s men continued to defy the odds finishing regularly in the top ten in the premiership and securing impressive results in the cup competitions. Then a couple of Norwegian businessmen bought the club. They thought Kinnear was no good and brought in countryman Egil Olsen to run the club. The club got relegated, Egil Olsen left and then they went on a free fall, finally ceasing to exist in 2004. As they say, if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.

Avnish Anand.

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