Owning own grounds 'advantages' English clubs

The purchase of English Premier League club Liverpool for £220 million by Americans George Gillett Jr and Tom Hicks, owners of USA National Hockey League franchises, "is the most spectacular so far in an American invasion of English football that has also seen Malcolm Glazer buy Manchester United, Randy Lerner take over Aston Villa, and Arsenal consider an alliance with the sporting magnate Stan Kroenke," wrote Cole Moreton of The Independent. "The Russian Roman Abramovich owns Chelsea and West Ham has gone Icelandic but Americans are now interested in every vulnerable club, including Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City," he added.

Why? Like most English clubs, Liverpool FC has been pulling in fans for more than a century. "This track record of sustained popularity and high levels of interest" makes English clubs attractive to investors, according to the financial analysts Deloitte, which last week published a list of the richest sides in Europe. Premiership teams are the most profitable by far, making a combined £1.3 billion last year - and that will rise, thanks to a new TV rights deal. Now each week 1,500 hours of Premiership action are broadcast to 200-plus countries.

All football clubs get their money from ticket sales, TV, merchandising and sponsorship. The big advantage English clubs have over foreign rivals for US money is that they own their grounds. Juventus, for example, one of the sexiest brands in Italian football, rents its stadium and relies on broadcasting rights for nearly 70 percent of its income. That's not a solid investment. The American model is to build a new stadium on the tightest possible budget, pack it with fans and other users and sell the name for a fortune. Tom Hicks allowed American Airlines to rename the home of his ice-hockey team, the Dallas Stars, for £100 million. Anfield is old and always full, but part of the deal is a new stadium to hold 60,000 people. Mr Gillett won't rule out selling the name Anfield "if naming rights are worth one great player a year".

Who owns the rest of the EPL (for now)?

Arsenal - Danny Fiszman, diamond merchant (UK)
Blackburn - Walker Trust, backers unknown (UK)
Bolton - Eddie Davies, thermostat maker (Isle of Man)
Charlton - Richard Murray, TV production (UK)
Everton - True Blue Holdings and Bill Kenwright, theatre impresario (UK)
Manchester City - John Wardle and David Makin, JD Sports owners (UK)
Middlesbrough - Steve Gibson, haulier (UK)
Newcastle - Freddy Shepherd, marine and offshore services (UK)
Reading - John Madejski, hotels and publishing (UK)
Sheffield United - Kevin McCabe, property (UK)
Tottenham - Joseph Lewis, currency trader (Bahamas)
Watford - Lord Ashcroft, finance (Belize)
Wigan Athletic - Dave Whelan, JJB Sports shops (UK)

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