‘So you’ve been taken over by a foreigner, huh?’ #2 Manchester City
We continue our survey of clubs who have been subject to foreign investment by looking at the most high-profile case of recent years, Manchester City, and finding out how Ric from the City fan site Bluemoon views the events of the last four years.
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, aged 42, followed his father into political power in the United Arab Emirates in 1997 before entering business, banking and charity ventures. He has won numerous endurance horse racing events and is patron of several major sporting events on the Arabian calendar.
Since he took control of Man City, buying the club from former president of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra for a reported £200 million (a £120 million profit on what Shinawatra had paid for it), another £426 million has been spent on players.
That’s a lot of money for one measly Premier League title! Still, if the Al-Hasawi’s can invest a tenth of that then our future looks very bright indeed.
LTLF: What was your first reaction when Sheikh Mansour took over the club?
Ric: ‘The initial reaction was disbelief, as no one saw it coming. There had been no speculation in the press prior to the announcement, so it caught us all off-guard somewhat. It was a surreal day, as it coincided with the last day of the 2008 summer transfer window, and City were making incredible bids left, right and centre. We only actually ended up making one signing (albeit that player was Robinho from Real Madrid), but there was a sense of wild optimism amongst the fans. Sky Sports News that day was a sight to behold. At one point I thought Jim White might self-combust, such was the excitement in the studio.’
LTLF: How have subsequent events compared to what you initially expected?
Ric: ‘If anything, the events of the last four years have exceeded expectations. The new regime have acted in a dignified way (in our eyes at least, although I suspect few in the press agree), treating the club’s supporters and heritage with respect. The fact that they are not shy of putting their hand into their considerably deep pockets also helps, obviously.’
LTLF: What effect does foreign ownership have on the relationship between club and fans?
Ric: ‘City fans are virtually unanimous in their praise of Mansour and Khaldoon [Al Mubarak, club chairman], and the relationship between club and supporters is strong. There are a few dissenting voices who feel that they can no longer relate to the club, but they are in a tiny minority.’
LTLF: What about how other clubs regard you?
Ric: ‘Obviously we are now viewed differently by other fans, and it’s understandable that there is some resentment. In the past many supporters treated us sympathetically, seeing us as the antithesis to United. We were seen as “proper” supporters when we were rubbish, but are now considered “glory hunters” since we became successful.’
LTLF: Do you think the ever-increasing trend of foreign investment in English clubs is a good or bad thing?
Ric: ‘I think anything that breaks the tedious hegemony of the traditional top four is a good thing. There are valid concerns about the motivation of some foreign investors, but equally there are many unscrupulous English owners too.’
LTLF: Finally, do you now see Forest and our Kuwaiti millions as a potential threat in the future?
Ric: ‘It will be great to see Forest competitive in the top flight again, and look forward to challenging you for honours in the future.’
The next part of this series turns to a club who have probably had more foreign involvement at board level than any other club, QPR…