Barnsley takeover poses further questions for Canaries fans
PUBLISHED: 10:52 21 December 2017 | UPDATED: 17:04 21 December 2017
The progress of Barnsley will be watched closely by Norwich City supporters in the next few years, following news of wealthy investors taking charge at Oakwell.
Finance and club ownership is a hot topic among Norwich fans as much as it is throughout football but the change in the landscape of the English game is undeniable.
Wealthy owners taking control of some of the country’s top clubs – Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, the Glazer family of Manchester United and plenty more – has contributed towards the Premier League becoming the wealthiest league in the world.
That has filtered through to the Championship as well though, where wealthy ownership from business supremos or investment groups is becoming the norm.
Just look at the team currently romping away with the title, Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Guo Guangchang’s Fosun International Group has invested heavily since taking over Wolves in 2016, with the Chinese businessman worth an estimated £4.72billion, with Fosun posting a profit of £1.2bn in the last financial year alone.
The man whose company owns big brands including Thomas Cook, Club Med and Cirque de Soleil has allowed Wolves to splash around £50million in the past year – which looks certain to open the floodgates to the Premier League broadcast millions.
Back here in Norfolk, the impact of those top-flight riches being removed is all too stark for all connected with the Canaries, as the bleak reality of life after parachute payments was made clear by managing director Steve Stone at the club’s recent AGM.
Parachute payments worth around £40m last season will drop to around £30m for 2017-18 but after that, they stop, which goes a long way to explaining why income is dropping so sharply.
During the Premier League season of 2015-16 income was just over £100m, which fell to £76m last season and is forecast to fall again to around £60m for 2017-18.
While the inevitable financial adjustments have begun – trimming £9m from the wage bill and generating a surplus of around £9m through transfers during the summer transfer window – the long-running discussions about City’s ownership continue.
It is well known that majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones don’t have the financial muscle to fund the huge expenses of a club which wants to be in the Premier League.
The self-funding model has been talked about plenty in recent years. Indeed it brought four years out of five in the top flight not so long ago.
For now, it is the fresh worry of seeing another Championship rival attract a big cash injection which has got City fans talking.
Chinese billionaire Chien Lee has led a consortium which has taken control at Barnsley, a club with much lower levels of support – average attendance of 13,833 – and comparative success.
That consortium also includes US baseball’s ‘Moneyball’ pioneer Billy Beane – played by Brad Pitt in the movie of the same name – and Paul Conway and Grace Hueng of Pacific Media Group, who own French club Nice.
New co-chairman, Conway, told Tykes fans: “Similar to our investment in OGC Nice, we expect to further enhance the academy, playing squad, commercial operations and fan experience of Barnsley Football Club. Barnsley has some of the most passionate fans in England and we look forward to meeting many of its supporters in the upcoming weeks.”
While the Tykes have often been rivals of the Canaries in the second tier, the South Yorkshire club have spent just one season at English football’s top table since joining the Football League 119 years ago.
The new owners had previously pursued takeovers of Brentford and Middlesbrough but have bought themselves a financially stable club with a stadium that has a capacity of over 23,000.
The takeover, reported by the Financial Times as likely to have cost between £10m and £20m, sees Barnsley join Championship clubs including Wolves, Bristol City, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers and Sunderland as clubs with billionaire owners, with the owners of Cardiff, Derby, Aston Villa, Sheffields United and Wednesday, Birmingham and Reading all worth hundreds of millions as well.
All of which goes to show that investment doesn’t bring guaranteed success but as a club widely considered to be smaller in stature like Barnsley becomes the latest club to join the rich kids, worries that Norwich are no longer competing on a level playing field will inevitably continue to grow.
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