Striking a deal for European football clubs

Why do people buy football clubs and what makes a successful owner or ownership group?

An audience of students, alumni and practitioners from the global sports industry were in attendance as a panel of experts discussed football club ownership in the context of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) at Bayes Business School (formerly Cass).

Topics of the discussion, hosted by the M&A Research Centre (MARC) at Bayes, included sustainability of investment – particularly in a setting of promotion and relegation – plus the pros and cons of multi-club ownership vehicles, creating synergies and the pitfalls of emotional attachment.

The panel then took questions from an energised audience about environmental, social and governance (ESG) and sportswashing – in light of recent contentious high-profile takeovers – residual valuation of clubs, the effects of Covid-19, women’s and grassroots football, and a possible need for further regulation, such as the ‘50+1’ model of the German Bundesliga where clubs are mandated to give supporters the majority of voting rights.

Panellists included:

  • Alan Giles OBE (chair) – Visiting Honorary Professor, Bayes Business School and Deputy Chair, MARC Advisory Board
  • Chris Brady – Chief Intelligence Officer, Sportsology Group
  • Jordan Gardner – Investment Intelligence Specialist, Twenty First Group
  • Professor Scott Moeller – Director, MARC

On chairing the panel, Alan Giles said:

“The business of football is like no other in the world. Not only is it highly lucrative for an owner or ownership group if they can get it right, but it provides an emotional appeal for investors that is almost unmatched by any other industry.

“However, this emotion can all-too-often prove fatal in the fortunes of investing in or buying a football club. Over-involvement and pressure from supporters can lead to poor decision making driven by this emotion, while under-investment can hamper a club’s fortunes.

“As a football supporter with an M&A background, it was a pleasure to chair this panel discussion and gain the fascinating insight from those who have experience in ownership and brokerage of investment in football clubs and the football industry.

Professor Moeller said:

“The Mergers and Acquisitions Research Centre at Bayes exists to provide cutting-edge insights into the field of M&A.

“In the last few years and even weeks, football club ownership has been a hot topic in the financial headlines with deals completed for Newcastle United and Chelsea, and prospective deals in the pipeline for Manchester United and Liverpool continuing to alter the landscape of the game in Britain and across Europe.

“With football clubs becoming increasingly complex and expensive to acquire, and the emotional collateral among supporters that comes with creating a winning team, questions are increasingly being asked about ESG impact of such deals.

“This valuable panel discussion shed light on the powers of ownership, along with its complexities and common mistakes.

“Chris and Jordan have extensive experience of successful club ownership in the lower leagues of English football and multi-club investment overseas, and their insights prompted very interesting discussions among the panel and with our audience.”

Find out more about the Mergers and Acquisitions Research Centre.

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