More and more deep-pocket American investors are developing an ongoing and strong interest in acquiring football clubs in Europe. Although the primary target, up to now, has been the British soil and particularly the English Premier League clubs, lately we are seeing that other European leagues are also catching the attention of the American billionaires and millionaires. France’s, Spain’s and Italy’s top divisions now have American investments in their clubs -whether in full ownership or minority stakes – just like EPL had some twenty years ago.
And while much is being written on the risks of the American funds being poured into the European football clubs – especially regarding transforming the sport into a commercial and profit-maximizing product – the truth is that fans don’t seem to bother much about the ownership as long as their club ascends the league ladder and keep on winning. Fans like to watch their club rise and they want to be able to bet on their success, on sportsbooks all over the world And sportsbooks all over the world, including Australia bookmakers and European betting sites.
But what drives Americans’ interests over European football?
There are three main reasons that can explain the rising interest of Americans in investing their millions -and sometimes billions of dollars – into acquiring majority or even minority stakes at European football clubs. Let’s break them down:
1. The European football is a lucrative sports’ industry
The football industry in Europe is a highly profitable one and what is more interesting is that it has potential to be even more profitable. With huge prize money for winning teams, enormous shares of broadcasting rights and extremely huge advertisement money, teams are actually seen as money-making machines.
In fact Americans see that the European football clubs have many potentials, if managed strategically and they find that this strategic underpinning resides on their own knowledge and experience of financially-motivated strategies that are practiced back home. Given that leagues like NFL and MLB are making millions for investors, Americans expect that replicating management strategies and approaches will normally bring millions-not to say billions- in European football too. And as such they develop a strong interest in acquiring these clubs.
2. Football is worshiped in Europe
In Europe, football is not just another sport. It is not simply the most popular sport. It is the absolute, the ultimate sport adored by fans. People see clubs as a source of pride and identification and they enthusiastically support them just like they would support their own family if they were to compete in sport. They want to see them grow, transform and shine but they are also with them when they are not glowing.
In a unique commitment relationship like that, fans are expected to consume the product – which is none other than the club itself and everything that has to do with the club. So, fans buy tickets, watch matches (they are the broadcasting audience which has a financial implication for the profits from advertising), buy merchandise and they are generally willing to spend money for their favorite team. Effectively, this makes the industry lucrative and very attractive for American investors who want to spend their big bucks in the European continent.
3. The level of commercialization of European football is still low
Making money from the strategic management of clubs is not so mainstreamed in Europe. Be it, what we described above – the fact that football is like a religion to many fans or that Europeans get to see football past its money-making ability, the truth is that the level of commercialization that we are seeing in American leagues like NFL and MLB, is simply not there.
There is still a genuine relationship between fans and clubs that has not been ‘tainted’ by the commercialization of every touch point. Unlike the American way, which is underpinned by the commercialization of every transaction between the fans and the sport, the European way remains quite unleveraged from a financially-motivated perspective. So, American millionaires and billionaires see European soil as a very fertile, untapped industry for strengthening the commercial action and intensifying the customer based relationships.