Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

The entitlement to Training Compensation of “previous” clubs under EU Competition Law. By Josep F. Vandellos Alamilla

Editor’s note: Josep F. Vandellos is an international sports lawyer associated to RH&C (Spain). He is also a member of the Editorial Board of the publication Football Legal and a guest lecturer in the ISDE-FC Barcelona Masters’ Degree in Sports Management and Legal Skills.


Article 6 of Annexe IV (Training compensation) of the FIFA-RSTP (Ed. 2016) contains the so-called “Special Provisions for the EU/EEA” applicable to players moving from one association to another inside the territory of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA).
The provisions regarding training compensation result from the understanding reached between FIFA and UEFA with the European Union in March 2001[1], and subsequent modifications introduced in the FIFA-RSTP revised version of 2005 to ensure the compatibility of the transfer system with EU law.[2]
This blog will focus on the exception contained in article 6(3) Annexe IV of the FIFA-RSTP. According to this article, when “the former club” fails to offer a contract to the player, it loses its right to claim training compensation from the players’ new club, unless it can justify that it is entitled to such compensation. Instead, the right of “previous clubs” to training compensation is fully preserved irrespective of their behaviour with the player.[3] From a legal standpoint, such discrimination between the “former club” and the “previous clubs” raises some questions that I will try to address in this paper. More...



The EU State aid and sport saga: The Real Madrid Decision (part 2)

This is the second and final part of the ‘Real Madrid Saga’. Where the first part outlined the background of the case and the role played by the Spanish national courts, the second part focuses on the EU Commission’s recovery decision of 4 July 2016 and dissects the arguments advanced by the Commission to reach it. As will be shown, the most important question the Commission had to answer was whether the settlement agreement of 29 July 2011 between the Council of Madrid and Real Madrid constituted a selective economic advantage for Real Madrid in the sense of Article 107(1) TFEU.[1] Before delving into that analysis, the blog will commence with the other pending question, namely whether the Commission also scrutinized the legality of the operation Bernabeú-Opañel under EU State aid law. By way of reminder, this operation consisted of Real Madrid receiving from the municipality the land adjacent to the Bernabéu stadium, while transferring in return €6.6 million, as well as plots of land in other areas of the city. More...

Resolution of Disputes Arising From Football Contracts in Turkey. By N. Emre Bilginoglu

Editor’s note: N. Emre Bilginoglu[1] is a lawyer based in Istanbul. His book entitled “Arbitration on Football Contracts” was published in 2015.


Introduction

With a total market value of approximately 911 million EUR, the Turkish Super League ranks as one of the prominent football leagues in Europe. Five of the eighteen teams that make up half of the total market value are based in Istanbul, a busy megalopolis that hosts a population of fifteen million inhabitants.[2] As might be expected, the elevated market value brings forth a myriad of disputes, mainly between the clubs and the players. However, other crucial actors such as coaches and agents are also involved in some of the disputes. These actors of the football industry are of all countries, coming from various countries with different legal systems.

One corollary of rapid globalisation is the development of transnational law, which is quite visible in the lex sportiva.[3] Like foreign investors, foreign actors of the sports industry look for some legal security before signing a contract. FIFA does protect these foreign actors in some way, providing players and coaches legal remedies for employment-related disputes of an international dimension. But what if the legal system of the FIFA member association does not provide a reasonable legal remedy for its national actors?[4] More...


The World Anti-Doping System at a Crossroads

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Tomorrow the Foundation Board of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will gather in Glasgow for its most important meeting since the creation of the Agency. Since the broadcasting of a documentary alleging systematic doping in Russian athletics by the German public broadcaster in December 2014, the anti-doping world has been in disarray. The various independent investigations (the Pound Report and the McLaren Report) ordered by WADA into doping allegations against Russian athletes have confirmed the findings of the documentary and the truth of the accusations brought forward by Russian whistle-blowers. Undeniably, there is something very rotten in the world anti-doping system. The current system failed to register a widespread, and apparently relatively open, state-sponsored scheme aimed at manipulating any doping test conducted in Russian territory. Moreover, it was not WADA that uncovered it, but an independent journalist supported by courageous whistle-blowers. More...


The EU State aid and sport saga: The Real Madrid Decision (part 1)

Out of all the State aid investigations of recent years involving professional football clubs, the outcome of the Real Madrid case was probably the most eagerly awaited. Few football clubs have such a global impact as this Spanish giant, and any news item involving the club, whether positive or negative, is bound to make the headlines everywhere around the globe. But for many Spaniards, this case involves more than a simple measure by a public authority scrutinized by the European Commission. For them, it exemplifies the questionable relationship between the private and the public sector in a country sick of never-ending corruption scandals.[1] Moreover, Spain is only starting to recover from its worst financial crisis in decades, a crisis founded on real estate speculation, but whose effects were mostly felt by ordinary citizens.[2] Given that the Real Madrid case involves fluctuating values of land that are transferred from the municipality to the club, and vice versa, it represents a type of operation that used to be very common in the Spanish professional football sector, but has come under critical scrutiny in recent years.[3] More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – October 2016. By Kester Mekenkamp.

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.  


The Headlines
We are looking for an International Sports Law Intern (with a particular interest in the CAS)! More information can be found here.


The (terrible) State of the World Anti-Doping System

The fight against doping is still on top of the agenda after the Russian doping scandal. The national anti-doping organizations (NADOs) have reiterated their call for an in depth reform of the World Anti-Doping Agency at a special summit in Bonn, Germany. These reforms are deemed urgent and necessary to “restore confidence of clean athletes and those who value the integrity of sport” and secure “the public’s desire for a fair and level playing field”. The NADOs propose, amongst others things, to separate the investigatory, testing and results management functions from sports organizations, and to remove sports administrators from crucial anti-doping executive functions. More...




Taking the Blue Pill or the Red Pill: Should Athletes Really Check their Medications against the Prohibited List Personally? - A Comment by Marjolaine Viret (University of Neuchâtel )

Editor's Note:  Marjolaine is an attorney admitted to the Geneva bar (Switzerland) who specialises in sports and life sciences.   She currently participates as a scientific collaborator at the University of Neuchâtel on a research project to produce the first article-by-article legal commentary of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code. Her latest book Evidence in Anti-Doping at the Intersection of Science & Law was published in 2016 in the International Sports Law Book Series of T.M.C. ASSER Press.


INTRODUCTION

On 30 September 2016, a panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) rendered its award in the matter opposing high-profile tennis player Maria Sharapova to the International Tennis Federation (“ITF”). Maria Sharapova was appealing the two-year ban imposed on her by the ITF Tribunal in June 2016 for her use of Meldonium, a substance newly added to the WADA Prohibited List 2016[1]. Since neither the ITF nor WADA had chosen to challenge the Tribunal’s decision, the stakes of the case were rather simple: would the player convince the CAS panel that she should benefit from a finding of “No Significant Fault or Negligence”[2], thereby allowing for a reduction of the sanction down to a minimum of one year, or should the decision of the Tribunal be upheld? In its award, the CAS panel decided to grant such finding and reduced the sanction to 15 months.

This blog does not purport to be a ‘comment’ on the CAS award. Rather, it seeks to place the Sharapova matter into a broader context with respect to a specific issue: the expectations on Athletes when it comes to their awareness of the prohibited character of a substance, specifically when taking a medication[3]. In July 2016, I presented at the T.M.C Asser Institute in The Hague various current challenges of anti-doping that the Meldonium cases exposed (see the video here). One of these challenges concerned the modalities for including new substances onto the Prohibited List. This blog represents a follow-up on my presentation, in the light of the findings contained in the CAS award. More...



Case note: State aid Decision on the preferential corporate tax treatment of Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna and FC Barcelona

On 28 September 2016, the Commission published the non-confidential version of its negative Decision and recovery order regarding the preferential corporate tax treatment of Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna and FC Barcelona. It is the second-to-last publication of the Commission’s Decisions concerning State aid granted to professional football clubs, all announced on 4 July of this year.[1] Contrary to the other “State aid in football” cases, this Decision concerns State aid and taxation, a very hot topic in today’s State aid landscape. Obviously, this Decision will not have the same impact as other prominent tax decisions, such as the ones concerning Starbucks and Apple

Background

This case dates back to November 2009, when a representative of a number of investors specialised in the purchase of publicly listed shares, and shareholders of a number of European football clubs drew the attention of the Commission to a possible preferential corporate tax treatment of the four mentioned Spanish clubs.[2]More...



International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – September 2016. By Kester Mekenkamp

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.


The Headlines

September hosted the very last bit of the sport summer 2016, most notably in the form of the Rio Paralympic Games. Next to the spectacular achievements displayed during these games, in the realm of sports law similar thrilling developments hit town. The first very much expected #Sportslaw highlight was the decision by the German Bundesgerichtshof in the case concerning SV Wilhelmshaven. The second major (less expected) story was the Statement of Objections issued by the European Commission against the International Skating Union.More...


De- or Re-regulating the middlemen? The DFB’s regulation of intermediaries under EU law scrutiny at the OLG Frankfurt. By Antoine Duval and Kester Mekenkamp.

Football intermediaries, or agents, are again under attack in the news. For some, corrupt behaviour has become endemic in football’s culture. It is always dangerous to scapegoat a whole profession or a group of people. Many intermediaries are trying their best to lawfully defend the interests of their clients, but some are not. The key focus should be on providing an adequate legal and administrative framework to limit the opportunities for corrupt behaviour in the profession. This is easier said than done, however. We are dealing with an intrinsically transnationalized business, often conducted by intermediaries who are not subjected to the disciplinary power of federations. Sports governing bodies are lacking the police power and human resources necessary to force the intermediaries to abide by their private standards. In this context, this blog aims to review a recent case in front of the regional court of Frankfurt in Germany, which highlights the legal challenges facing (and leeway available to) national federations when regulating the profession. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Investment in Football as a Means to a Particular End – Part 1: A non-exhaustive Typology - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

Investment in Football as a Means to a Particular End – Part 1: A non-exhaustive Typology - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor's note: Rhys is currently making research and writing contributions under Dr Antoine Duval at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law. Additionally, Rhys is the ‘Head of Advisory’ of Athlon CIF, a global fund and capital advisory firm specialising in the investment in global sports organisations and sports assets.

Rhys has a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) from the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. Rhys is an LL.M candidate at the University of Zurich, in International Sports Law. Following a career as a professional athlete, Rhys has spent much of his professional life as an international sports agent, predominantly operating in football.

Rhys is also the host of the podcast “Sportonomic”.


Introduction

In the following two-part blog series, I will start by outlining a short typology of investors in football in recent years, in order to show the emergence of different varieties of investors who seek to use football as a means to a particular end. I will then in a second blog, explore the regulatory landscape across different countries, with a particular focus on the regulatory approach to multi-club ownership. Before moving forward, I must offer a disclaimer of sorts.  In addition to my research and writing contributions with the Asser Institute, I am the ‘Head of Advisory’ for Athlon CIF, a global fund and capital advisory firm specialising in the investment in global sports organisations and sports assets. I appreciate and hence must flag that I will possess a bias when it comes to investment in football.

It might also be noteworthy to point out that this new wave of investment in sport, is not exclusive to football. I have recently written elsewhere about CVC Capital Partners’ US$300 million investment in Volleyball, and perhaps the message that lingers behind such a deal.  CVC has also shown an interest in rugby and recently acquired a 14.3 per cent stake in the ‘Six Nations Championship’, to the tune of £365 million.  New Zealand’s 26 provincial rugby unions recently voted unanimously in favour of a proposal to sell 12.5 per cent of NZ Rugby’s commercial rights to Silver Lake Partners for NZ$387.5 million.  Consider also the apparent partnership between star footballer’s investment group, Gerard Pique’s Kosmos, and the International Tennis Federation.  Kosmos is further backed by Hiroshi Mikitani’s ecommerce institution, Rakuten, and all involved claim to desire an overhaul of the Davis Cup that will apparently transform it into the ‘World Cup of Tennis’. Grassroots projects, prizemoney for tennis players and extra funding for member nations are other areas the partnership claims to be concerned with. As is the case with all investment plays of this flavour, one can be certain that a return on the capital injection is also of interest.

So, what are we to conclude from the trends of investment in sport and more specifically for this blog series, in football? A typology elucidates that a multiplicity of investors have in recent years identified football as a means to achieve different ends. This blog considers three particular objectives pursued; direct financial return, branding in the case of company investment, or the branding and soft power strategies of nations.

From Associations and Member Owned Clubs, to Corporate Structures

It is important to point out that the ability to use football as an investment tool is only possible due to the ways in which football has transformed from associations to corporations over recent decades. For the purpose of this short blog, I will give the simplistic and short story, though I would urge those interested to go beyond this blog on the history of football ownership models and trends.

Essentially what I hope to emphasise, is the influx of private ownership and the advent of substantial television rights deals cannot be divorced. At this pivotal turn for football ownership, private ownership had been taking place in some forms, often a hybrid model with members, and often the case was a private owner coming in and saving or at least supporting a club financially.  Whereas at the start of the 1990s when broadcast deals made headlines, private owners saw a commercial opportunity as football moved into a generation where broadcasting rights were the main source of revenue for clubs.  By the early 2010s in Europe, “approximately three of four professional clubs were majority owned by private investors, and one in six clubs were owned by foreign investors”.[1] Football club owners hence quickly became more business orientated and more market-driven due to the opportunities that broadcasters presented and the benefits leagues and organisers were able to conjure up. “The growing prize money of the UEFA Champions League, the escalating TV revenues for premium competitions, and the internationalization of marketing measures have strengthened the incentives”.[2]

Private owners saw member owned clubs as unable to maximise commercial opportunities, and it is the same kind of sentiment that is aimed towards the less commercially mature sports by Private Equity groups and other institutional players today.  That being, yes, you may know your sport, but you do not know how to take it to the heights it could achieve in the commercial sense.

Investing for Direct Return: Private Equity

Private Equity firms are notorious for being able to identify undervalued businesses that they can further improve the value of by trimming unnecessary or wasteful expenses, as well as reconstruct operations and other inefficiencies. The priority of course is to make money and a return for investors. 

A variety of Private Equity groups have found football appealing in recent years as clubs look for non-traditional means of funding and in some extreme instances, rescuing from bankruptcy. Larger Private Equity groups have come to be known to accrue a portfolio of football clubs and other sports asset investments in order to diversify their sports investment wings, and to maximise returns for investors.  For the boutique firms, the strategies might be more considered and to the observer less audacious, identifying undervalued and underperforming smaller clubs with a history at the top tiers of football or the potential to get there. There may of course be other commercial motivations for specific acquisitions, such as the location of clubs, though in a nutshell, these Private Equity plays are a matter of identifying undervalued football clubs with scope to grow in value, in turn providing an opportunity to make investments and acquisitions at a low entry point and to deliver substantial results for investors. 

Whilst examples of Private Equity investment into football are a plenty, conder the following few for the purpose of this short blog. As an example of a multi-club ownership portfolio, New City Capital, fronted by Chinese American, Chien Lee, now boasts investment and ownership in Barnsley F.C. (England), FC Thun (Switzerland), K.V. Oostende (Belgium), AS Nancy (France), Esbjerg fB (Denmark), and is the former owner of OGC Nice (France); selling the club at the time for a record price in the French context. Lee and his multiple co-investors bring strategies and philosophies to these clubs akin to the “Moneyball” strategies made famous by Billy Beane. With a business background, the investors involved clearly fancy their abilities to maximise value of the clubs, but Lee is additionally conscious of his ability to grow the value of the clubs by the ways in which he has been able to tap into Asia and create new fans and revenue streams based on these connections. “We will try to ‘internationalize’ Barnsley, as we did with Nice. Before we invested in Nice, not many people in Asia had heard of them. Now in Asia -- in China -- people know the club.”

In terms of opportunistic timing strategies, as well as funding arrangements in order to complete an acquisition, one may consider another noteworthy example in the Private Equity space, that of ALK Capital’s takeover of Burnley. A leveraged buyout play, the sports investment arm of ALK, Velocity Sports Partners, acquired majority and controlling shareholding of 84% late 2020. For its part, Redbird Capital has made a variety of investments into football, in a variety of ways. They took a direct stake into Toulouse FC, but have also made an interesting investment into the Fenway Sports Group that owns Liverpool FC. This ultimately highlights an overarching view that football is a good bet for the firm, yet also showing that investment into the world game may come in many shapes and sizes.

It is the case that with the aforementioned examples, the investments have been a success insofar as the assets and portfolios of these firms have experienced growth in value, for example New City Capital sold OGC Nice for a handsome return. However, one must also point at investment failures such as King Street Capital with Girondins Bordeaux. Some of the identifiable distinctions between those firms able to achieve their objectives or at least stay the course, and the King Street Capital debacle, appears to be among other things, a fractured relationship with local government and the distance between the firms ambitions, control over that ambition and those running the club (COVID-19 to an extent as well).

Investing for Nation Branding: Qatar & UAE, Soft Power & Sports Diplomacy

Insofar as football remains the world game, nations are acutely conscious of the consequent power in nation branding via football investment. Nation branding according to Dinnie’s summary, consists of three key objectives; to attract tourists, to stimulate inward investments and to boost exports.[3] For a nation like Qatar, it is additionally about security and standing on the international scene.  To attain such objectives though of course requires certain image and branding achievements. In recent years, it is notable that a variety of states have been using their financial power to invest in football, not for the sake of profit, but in order to improve their image internationally.

State branding via soft power strategies like investment in football has come to be known widely as sports diplomacy. A variety of nations have identified sports diplomacy as way in which to be viewed favourably by other nations and to create positive imagery around an investment that in turn reflects positively on the nations image. Soft power and sports diplomacy has been endorsed by scholars as legitimate strategies, given it is a non-military instrument to compete with much larger and militarily capable states.[4] This is of course key to a nation like Qatar, that desires to move away from oil dependency and has to compete with much larger neighbouring nations. Branding is to make a distinction between one brand and another. For Qatar, it is perhaps it’s ultimate struggle to differentiate and distinguish itself from its neighbouring countries.

One of Qatar’s headline soft power through investment in football strategies is the acquisition of, and post-acquisition operation of European giants, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). It is almost impossible however to disconnect Qatar’s sports diplomacy strategies with PSG, from its strategies with BeIN Sports the broadcaster, along with being awarded World Cup 2022.  

The Qatari’s acquired PSG in a less than ideal state but have since managed to turn the club into one of the richest and most successful on the planet. PSG’s image remains a priority, because in turn it is seen that Qatar’s image is the beneficiary. The importance of this for Qatar might be best measured by the size of the spend on players since taking over the club. Putting the likes of David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic aside for the moment, PSG paid both the number one and number two world record transfer fees for Brazilian superstar Neymar (a reported 220 million Euro) and French wonderkid, Kylian Mbappe (a reported 180 million Euro). One media report said “The colossal Neymar deal, funded by Qatar Sports Investments, shows how far governments will go to secure global influence.” That article was headlined - “A £198m transfer is not about football. It’s about soft power”

Now consider the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and how it yields power through the following subsidiaries and stakes therein: Manchester City F.C. (100%), Melbourne City FC (100%), Montevideo City Torque (100%), Lommel S.K. (99%), New York City FC (80%), Mumbai City FC (65%), Girona FC (44.3%), Sichuan Jiuniu F.C. (29.7%), Yokohama F. Marinos (20%), Troyes AC (100%), City Football Academy, City Football Marketing, City Football Services, City Football Japan, City Football Singapore, City Football China, City Football India, CFG Stadium Group, Goals Soccer Centers.

Manchester City FC is certainly the golden child of the group and much like PSG for Qatar, the successful imagery around Manchester City cannot be disconnected from the desired branding in a global sense for the UAE. The growing list of investments of CFG highlights that the UAE is intent on soft power strategies and using sports diplomacy to brand itself widely as a legitimate and well organised nation. Was it a coincidence that just as the City Football Group was arranging its stake in the Chengdu based football club, Sichuan Jiuniu, the UAE’s national airline Etihad announced it “would be enhancing its links with Chengdu’s airport”? That is to say nothing of the Chinese investment into CFG.

Questions remain about whether these soft power strategies have been successful in light of for instance, the widely reported atrocious treatment and deaths of migrant workers in Qatar, or the ongoing reports of slavery in the case of the UAE. In an ugly sense, the success of the soft power investments of these nations in football, is whether they are loud enough to drown out the noise of the atrocities associated with their nations. The paradox for Qatar, is that before using football as a diplomatic tool and winning the right to host the World Cup, the exploitation of migrant workers was not making headlines. Ironically, it is this active use of football as a diplomatic instrument that has shone a light on the issue and effected Qatar’s image substantially.

Black and Peacock point out, when it comes to soft power sports diplomacy one ought to be aware that the values publicly portrayed and associated with an investment in football (i.e. success, courage, commerciality, aspiration) will often not be the actual values of a state but rather merely the values with which a state would preferred to be associated with to fulfil wider objectives.[5]

Investing for Company Branding: Red Bull

The other type of investment aimed primarily at improving the image of the investor (and not recouping a profit directly from the club as an entity) is company branding. In a way, it is the ultimate move of a sponsor, instead of paying an annual yearly contribution to the club, the sponsor takes control of the management of the club in order to maximise the image return for its brand. The paramount example of such a strategy is embodied by Red Bull’s investment in football clubs around the world. The regulatory complexities will be left for blog 2, but it is Red Bull’s stake and influence in four clubs (Red Bull Salzburg, RB Leipzig, Red Bull New York, Red Bull Brasil) that renders it the ultimate example of a company that found investing in football as way to brand at scale. Despite the success that Red Bull football clubs have experienced, sporting and commercial, the purpose for Red Bull investing in football is of course to further promote the brand and sell energy drinks.

Red Bull had previously and in a revolutionary way, tapped into branding via sport and had worked out a way to brand at large using the content production arm of the company. Utilising extreme sports, Red Bull campaigns focussed on associating itself with elite sport, perhaps thus conflating the alleged performance enhancing capabilities of its beverages or at least that its product was trendy and fashionable to drink in the context of sport.

When it came to football, Red Bull followed an ownership strategy rather than a traditional sponsorship method, opening up both the benefits of the ownership over traditional sponsorship models, and, the size, scale and reach of football as opposed to the more niche extreme sports.

Branding through football is seen as almost more covert, as the consumer is less aware that when they watch a branded club in a branded stadium, they are being advertised to;

“the consumer does not perceive that the content is branded. Sport content is predestined for branded entertainment. Engaging sports fascinate and attract people and have proven to be capable of transferring positive images… many niche sports still lack the attention of sport consumers or sponsors and are not covered extensively by the media. Branded entertainment, therefore, can provide niche sport enterprises, athletes, and teams as well as sponsors with consumer attention and prosumer engagement.”[6]

Conclusion & a note on Member Owned Clubs

Per the title of this blog, the typology of investors listed above is not exhaustive, though perhaps the most relevant as I segue into the regulations around multi club ownership. However, a short note on the membership model clubs is worthwhile. Member owned clubs still exist widely and some are in fact popping up in protest over a perceived hyper commercialisation of football. SV Austria Salzburg is a newer member owned club, established in response and in protest to the Red Bull ownership of the former SV Austria Salzburg, that Red Bull subsequently changed the name and colours of. Member owned clubs can be funded by paid memberships and more traditional revenue streams like ticket sales and sponsorship.  Control wise however, the members maintain the controlling stake and more importantly perhaps, the controlling vote. The hybrid model between private ownership and member ownership remains interesting, given what can be maintained in terms of history and culture, and what can be brought in in terms of commercial expertise and the reality that the need and desire for profits can drive success of a football Club.

As is hopefully apparent from the above, the types of investors and indeed the motivations come in all shapes and sizes. It is also worth pointing out, when it comes to the Private Equity groups and the nations and companies concerned with branding, the main reasons for investment does not render it the exclusive reason. Qatar will take the commercial benefits of PSG, BeIN sports and the World Cup. Part owners of CFG, China Media Capital/CITIC Capital (12%) and Silver Lake (10%) would not have invested with such alacrity based on the soft power strategies and state branding aspirations of the UAE, and rather those groups are of course more interested in the commercial benefits. Separate from selling more energy drinks than ever, Red Bull is undoubtedly pleased with taking RB Leipzig from the 5th tier to the Bundesliga, and now valued at EUR560 million, Red Bull has an extremely valuable asset. Likewise, the big funds and institutional players are aware of the positive branding that sport affords them when their football investments are successful.

In the next blog, I consider the current regulatory landscape regarding investment in football with a particular focus on regulations that address multi-club ownership.


[1] Marc Rohde and Christoph Breuer, “The market for football club investors: a review of theory and empirical evidence from professional European football Institute of Sport Economics and Sport Management”, (German Sport University Cologne, Köln, Germany) European Sport Management Quarterly, 2017 VOL. 17, NO. 3, 265–289.

[2] Ibid P267.

[3] Keith Dinnie, “Nation Branding, Concepts, Issues, Practices”, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2008.

[4] Romain Herbreteau, “The use of a football club as a means of state branding: The mixed results of Qatar’s promotion in France” Leiden University - Master Thesis, Master of Arts International Relations, Supervisor: Dr Camillo Erlichman (2018)

[5] David Black and Byron Peacock. "Sport and Diplomacy." Oxford Handbooks Online (2013) 1-21

[6] Reinhard Kunz & Franziska Elsässer & James Santomier, “Sport-related branded entertainment: the Red Bull phenomenon” (2016)  Sport, Business and Management: An international Journal, 6, 520-541.

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