Friday, February 12, 2010

An Asian takeover of the EPL!

(Also in Bengali daily Ek Din - a bit Bengali-focussed; and a bit of repeat of what I wrote here)

There’s a very interesting phenomenon developing around the English Premier League at the moment.

But that's in a bit. First, a check on what makes the Premiership the hottest thing going around right now. I am no fan of English football. My days aren’t made or broken by Manchester United’s fortunes. But it’s true that the 2009-10 EPL season has been magnificent to say the least. Did you know that this season, for the first time in its history, the EPL is seeing goals scored at a rate higher than three per match? More than in Italy or Spain or Germany.

Anyway, that’s just trivia.

What’s more important is what is going on in the boardrooms of the clubs. Once upon a time, American tycoon Malcolm Glazer’s takeover of Manchester United made crazy headlines. Today, four of the top 20 clubs are owned by Asians; Manchester City, Portsmouth, Birmingham and Fulham. And there’s talk that the second-most historic British club – Liverpool – will be bought over by Sahara’s Subroto Roy. Yes, a Bengali. Another honorary Bengali – Lakshmi Mittal – is currently the owner of Tier 2 club Queen’s Park Rangers.
Interesting, isn’t it? While on the football field, Asians are nowhere among the best in the world, off the field, their big bucks are making the world dance to their tune.

The logic is very simple. The worldwide recession has hit Europe and America the worst. As a result, owners of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal are currently in debt of close to 500 million pounds each. The clubs are trying to sell. And the clubs can’t find buyers anywhere except in Asia, where the recession has had an impact, but not a massive one.

So imagine a tomorrow: the biggest sporting franchisees are on offer – not just in the EPL, but even in the NBA or elsewhere. Their owners are in debt. What happens? The Ambanis and Tatas and others are among the best-placed around the world when it comes to spending power. And they go and buy. It’s a win-win situation.

And who knows, once he counts his profits at the end of the third season of the Indian Premier League, Lalit Modi might be interested as well. And then you have a semi-complete takeover of the biggest British industry by non-Brits. Asians at that!