If I was an oil rich billionaire, looking for a football club to own, I’d work with the following criteria. I’d be quite interested to know what rationale people have either used, or would use, themselves. I’ll try and isolate a few clubs that fit the bill each time as we zero in on who I want to own. Some things need to be written off early – I don’t think that Germany would be the place to go, given their restrictions regarding ownership. I would also (just for the purposes of this) eliminate non-European teams from the equation. Here, then, is my 6-step guide to taking over a football club.
1. Potential of crowds.
The team must be in a large, built up area, filled with people who would – over time – be willing to buy into the dream both in terms of dream and in terms of finances. Successful teams come from large cities now. Players like living there, as well. The Villarreals and Sassuolos just don’t cut it on the big stage any more. Ideally, that city won’t be shared with other ‘big’ football teams.
Potential Venues: Leeds, Lisbon, Athens, Berlin.
2. International Recognition.
The team must have a name that resounds around the world, even if not from recent times. That pre-awareness of brand identity is something that can be built on, and built on quickly. It means people don’t have to worry about your name like they did with Anzhi/Anji or Shakhtar Donetsk. It also means your fans can lay claim to ‘history’, which is an added bonus. Again, it would be nice if your team name wasn’t the name of the town it was, because that’s a bit limiting.
Potential Names: Fiorentina, Benfica, Panathinaikos, KV Mechelen
3. Ease of Champions League Entry.
The team must play in a league where the chances of a well-sponsored team getting into the Champions League, where the real money is, are good. You don’t want to have to battle past Real Madrid and Barcelona every season for the right to earn the big bucks, much less do you want to see your new fans deprived of success for long because your opponents are also powerful.
Potential Leagues: Portugal, Belgium, Poland, Greece.
4. Existing Infrastructure.
It is helpful if you don’t have to invest in a stadium straight away and if you have the ability to offer fans a variety of ways to get to your stadium. Ideally you can take advantage of something that has been built for another purpose and persuade the people in charge to let you use it. These places often end up being white elephants that may be available cheaply, which is an added bonus.
Potential Locations: Athens (2004 Olympics), Berlin (2006 World Cup), Nice (Euro 2016), Warsaw (Euro 2012).
5. Colour Scheme
You don’t want your team to play in the same colours as other Champions League teams; they’d be difficult to spot. Black and white? Juventus? Light blue? Manchester City. Bright yellow? Oh, Borussia Dortmund. Instant recognition is key. If somebody is playing as your team on FIFA and their friend walks in, its imperative they realise it isn’t Bristol City. You need a new colour to the party, unless you want to change the kit for good luck, like Cardiff did.
Potential Colours; All Green, All Purple All Navy Blue, Pink.
6. A Domestic Rival.
It is vital that your fans have the chance to think they’re battling, domestically, against another opponent. If you walk the league every season, then they’ll lose interest in it. It would be best if this team have been very successful, too, so you have a long time ‘aiming’ to surpass them. Ideally, this will come with a derby match with a spectacular name that can be conjured with around the world when the TV rights are sold abroad.
Potential Rivals; FC Porto, Olympiakos, Galatasaray, Glasgow Celtic.
Looking through these, there isn’t a vast number of possible targets for my team. Benfica, in Lisbon, are a definite possible as Portugal gets good Champions League entry numbers and they’re a very famous team historically and have the Stadio de Luz to play in. They do play in red, though, which isn’t ideal. The other team use a former Olympic stadium as their home ground. Greece isn’t particularly high on the co-efficient list, but deadly rivals (the Eternal Derby) Olympiakos have dominated despite not being particularly wealthy themselves. Sadly, AEK Athens’ yellow is the same as Dortmund but sharing their ground, Panathinaikos are a perfect candidate, ticking all six boxes.
If I was buying a club, then, it would be Panathinaikos.
Who would you buy?
(I’ve had convincing arguments for Ajax already)