Sunday, June 16, 2024

Saturday round-up: Injuries, and multi-club ownership

Morning all, a quick Saturday blog for you.

There really wasn’t a great deal to Mikel Arteta’s press conference yesterday. The injury update was basically that Thomas Partey is still a few weeks away, and Bukayo Saka is fine after the mild panic that was transmitted when his name was placed in the same sentence as the word ‘Achilles’.

Beyond that stuff about Martin Odegaard’s contract, Declan Rice settling in, Nicolas Pepe leaving, and his feelings about facing Everton (again) isn’t really worth getting into. You can read it all here if you fancy. We’ll obviously talk a bit more about the Everton game in tomorrow’s blog.

Speaking of Everton though, they announced yesterday that majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri (formerly of this parish) had signed an agreement with 777 Partners to ‘acquire his full stake in Everton Football Club, which accounts for 94.1 per cent of the Club’s shares.’

We’ve had new manager bounce before, is there such a thing as new owner bounce? All jokes aside, I’d be a bit worried if I were an Everton fan. 777 is an ‘investment company’ which owns stakes in Genoa, Sevilla, Vasco de Gama, Hertha BSC, and Standard Liege, and there have been many questions about the way they operate.

Our friend Philippe Auclair is the co-author of an excellent piece on Josimar (which is subscription only), which goes into a lot of details about their background and practices. Suffice to say, if I were a fan of any of the clubs owned by them, I’d be concerned about what was uncovered, and how they operate.

By the way, I realise we live in an era where there are countless subscriptions for everything, but I have to say there is nobody producing investigative journalism around football like Josimar. For a lot of us, the easy thing to do is wrap yourself in the warm embrace of cognitive dissonance, and just enjoy the football as much as possible without thinking too much about all the rest, but it’s also important to realise that the game we love has been thoroughly co-opted by countless bad actors who are using it for financial gain and beyond.

Here’s a bit from the Financial Times about 777 and their ‘front man, Josh Wander:

Wander and Pasko built 777 from early investments in “esoteric” financial assets such as lottery winnings and structured settlements, in which defendants in lawsuits agree to pay damages over several years rather than as a lump sum.

The firm’s holdings now span seven industries, including aviation, litigation finance and private credit, which Wander said shared a common theme of predictable long-term cash flows. In sports, he said, 777’s strategy includes moving players between its clubs, buying adjacent businesses such as ticketing and merchandise, and cross-selling products from its other companies.

“The vision for this football group is that one day we’re not selling hot dogs and beers to our customers; [it’s] that we’re selling insurance or financial services or whatever,” he said. The intensity of fans’ engagement with their clubs meant “they want to be monetised”, he added.

Yep, there’s nothing fans want more than to be monetised. They don’t want a team they can get behind, they don’t want owners who actually care about their club, they don’t the sense of community that comes with football, they want to buy club-branded financial products. Mmmmm, gimme that sweet, sweet Everton car insurance. Oooh, my life assurance with a free Jordan Pickford poster! That’s what fans really love.

It’s so grim when you think about it. And from the Josimar piece, a quote from a former 777 employee:

All these businesses are losing money. Sport? Losing money. Aviation? Losing money. But who is going to take the loss? The joint venture partners. These guys play a shell-game. They claim to be self financed, to have put their own money into it. But they can’t have as much money as they say they have. It’s just not possible. But they don’t need a lot of money. Because what they really do is shunt money around. It’s a giant shell game. The same money is always out there doing something. And they are running it faster and faster.

Yep, sounds very healthy all right. We’ve never seen that kind of scheme before. Leaving everything else aside, it’s just sad that yet another historic English football club has been hoovered up by an investment firm. Not even a football fan, just someone who views football as a way to diversify their portfolio of interests and to ‘monetise’ those gullible fans who can’t wait to hand over hard-earned cash for sketchy insurance products. I know we’ve crossed the Rubicon when it comes to ownership at this point, the Premier League couldn’t give a shit who is in charge of a club once it’s good for business.

“Mr Satan, promise you’ll be good? That’s enough for us. Here are the keys to White Hart Lane.”

It also draws attention to the multi-club ownership model which is becoming increasingly prevalent, and which really ought to be done away with. I know, it’s closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. The City Group have already basically normalised this, but you know who has a ‘franchise’ in multiple cities? Hotels. Fast food chains. Clothes stores. But with football, it’s a way to move money around dressed up as conglomerate of clubs connected loosely via some kind of sporting endeavour.

It’s quite depressing really. So I’m going to have a bacon sandwich and take the dog for a walk.


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