Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 19 News List

Blatter concerned about influx of foreign owners

AP AND AFP , BRUSSELS AND DERBY, ENGLAND

PHOTO: AP

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has expressed his concern over the influx of foreign investors snapping up English Premier League clubs.

“There’s danger,” he warned media at the European Parliament on Monday. “These people arrive, buy the clubs but they can leave at any moment. That creates a risk of instability for these teams and the competition as a whole. Ideally a way should be found for clubs to be financed by local investors.”

“It is not only American investors who have come in. Arab investors are coming. We have seen one investor from Thailand, he is going back,” he said. “Now you sell a team like you buy a shirt or whatever.”

“There should also be a control of these clubs’ finances. But I don’t have a miracle remedy. It’s an important topic for discussion that we should have with UEFA [European soccer’s governing body],” Blatter said.

But while voicing his concern, Blatter said that the arrival of buyers from the Middle East (Manchester City), Russia (Chelsea) and the US (Manchester United, Liverpool and Aston Villa), was only to be expected.

“It’s a logical phenomenon,” he said. “The Premier League is the most attractive championship. You see English football on television all around the world. there’s an immense market.”

Seven Premier League clubs are in the hands of foreign owners: Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Portsmouth, Manchester City and Fulham.

Meanwhile, Canadian businessman Brett Wilson was revealed as Derby County’s leading investor by the international consortium that bought the English soccer club in January.

The 51-year-old Wilson is also a panelist on Canadian TV show Dragons’ Den, a program that sees entrepreneurs compete for financing.

“I want to use my profile in Canada to promote the club whenever possible,” Wilson said in a statement.

“As a Saskatchewan boy I know that fan commitment can run pretty deep but I was blown away by the level of community and corporate support that the Rams enjoy,” he said.

“I believe the potential to expand that level of support both locally and internationally is extraordinary,” Wilson said.

“The number of hardcore football fans here in Canada is staggering and I believe that European football provides an unrivaled level of entertainment that is only beginning to be tapped in North America,” he said.

Michigan-based General Sports and Entertainment (GSE), which manages Derby, is trying to enhance the club’s profile despite it having dropped out of the Premier League with the lowest-ever points total in May.

Derby are 15th in the 24-team second-tier League Championship.

Wilson owns the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, a Southern League baseball team based in Jackson, Tennessee, and is managing director of Prairie Merchant Corp, a private merchant bank.

“His role on the CBC show, which is one of the most popular programs in Canada, will give Brett a fantastic platform to promote our great club in his home country,” GSE and Derby chairman Andy Appleby said.

“This is the reason Brett has waited until now to step forward as a leading investor. Brett’s investment supports our long-term plan to establish Derby County as a real force of the future, not just in England but worldwide,” Appleby said.

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