One of the most striking features of football in recent times has been the takeover of leading clubs by investors who would not appear, on the surface, to have any real interest in the business of football.
Consequently, the wave of American takeovers of clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Sunderland and Aston Villa is the subject of this post.
In the eyes of this particular new breed of owners, it is no longer necessary to win titles and trophies.
The creation of short term cash is everything.
If competitions can be won as well then this is fine and dandy but club performance on the field is always secondary to financial achievement off of it.
This puts such owners at odds with the fans.
Dr Jack Rasmus: "The [global financial capitalist] elite are deepening their control of non-financial companies and are increasingly directing those companies toward profits growth from financial manipulation as the primary corporate activity... Instead of making profits by making real things that require real investment and employ real people, the focus of global capitalism is increasingly toward more financial asset investment."
Thus real profit is being surpassed by generating forms of money capital as profit.
It is the US that is behind the majority of this activity.
Financial gains may be 'created' by manipulation of the US tax code through the utilisation of 'inversion' capitalism and, additionally, shadow bankers and their financial speculators also markedly gain from the structure.
Even greater gains come from financial speculation that benefit other investors, major shareholders and senior management.
Rasmus: "Lower taxes for the US corporation from the inversion means more retained corporate cash on hand, and the prospect of more future earnings as well, all of which in turn drives up the company’s stock price. That makes the company even more attractive to investors like hedge funds and equity firms, which buy up big blocks of both the purchasing and purchased companies’ stock. Banks and shadow bankers that jump into the process at the outset, buying up company stock in the process, also provide original funding for the company’s purchase. Others jump into the stock as the acquisition deal proceeds. Once concluded, early and latecomers both then reap a nice capital gain from the eventual stock price appreciation that almost always follows the deal... So all levels of financial speculators benefit from these ‘inversion’ deals—shadow bank investors, hedge fund managers, big stockholders, and top corporate managers with significant stock holdings and compensation—all realise big capital gains from stock price manipulation that is at the core of tax inversion deals. Again, it is not just about tax avoidance; it is about stock price manipulation and huge capital gains."
Taking Manchester United as our primary example.
The leveraged buyout by the Glazers imposed significant annual interest repayments on the club.
This outflow of tens of millions of pounds annually prevents significant reinvestment in the transfer market with the club being restricted to players in the £20-35m strata as opposed to the level of players being purchased by Real Madrid or Barcelona, for example.
... Fellaini in!
Additionally transfer activity is delayed in a brinksmanship fashion to produce the maximum benefit to short term cash flow. Last season this resulted in the majority of transfer targets failing by end of transfer window and there is now pressure on Ed Woodward to make the necessary purchases this season.
Many of these targets will not arrive as the selling club will price their assets according to Man Utd's 'need'.
But, to the Glazers, Manchester United's failure to purchase star players, land the title, win any trophies, qualify for Champions League or Europa League is entirely trumped by the £750m 10 year Adidas deal that produces lots and lots of cash.
Other takeovers are of even more questionable integrity due to the owners' interests in betting markets.
In these cases, the generation of cash by match manipulation frequently competes with integrity on the pitch.
Inversion capitalism is the lovechild of private equity where short term profits were generated by taking over a company, asset stripping its value and selling on the shell at a significant profit.
Indeed, inversion deals are merely a slightly longer term version of private equity on a global stage.
And there are now copycat structures popping up all over the British game.
If you apply the above template to Celtic, for example, many of the same bullet points appear.
- The selling of players at significant profit (Wanyama, Forster, Hooper, McGeady, Ki, Ledley, Wilson and Watt bringing in £40m gain to the club) without the necessary reinvestment or the strategy of bringing in numerous players on loan without any capital outlay (or future profits). Or club loyalty.
- Refusal to invest for Champions League progression as the financial returns of such investment are uncertain.
- Satisfaction with winning SPL ad finitum rather than strategic planning towards the future European Super League as these potential profits are too far into the future for short-termist thinkers.
- The scheduling of pointless pre-season friendlies all around Europe for financial gains rather than developing a sense of 'home' at Murrayfield during period that Parkhead was hired out for profit. If Legia Warszawa hadn't messed up, this season would be over already in a footballing sense.
- Low wage, minimum wage, living wage issues at the bottom of the club hierarchy.
- The linkage to criminalised agents of highly questionable integrity both with regard to transfer markets and betting markets.
None of these capitalist matrices have the interests of the particular club at heart.
All are geared to the short term financial gains of a criminalised global finance capitalist elite.
But, what the hell do we care?
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