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It would be fascinating to know what Chelsea FC’s players are thinking.
In the space of 12-months, they’ve gone from the highs of becoming European and World champions to having their employer caught up in a war and hit with financial sanctions.
As this season draws to a close, the West Londoners have only the FA Cup to challenge for and are still waiting for the ownership situation to be resolved.
Manager Thomas Tuchel, the man so often at the eye of the storm this past year, said the lack of clarity was affecting his planning.
In particular, the German was concerned with Chelsea’s ability to identify and secure transfer targets.
“[At this stage] you are never fully sure, but we would have some targets and we would have for sure contacted some players and found out about their situations,” he explained.”Now our hands are tied. We can still have talks inside the building but we cannot act. The situation is not ideal.
“It would be challenging enough with a stable situation but we don’t have it.”
Stability is a priority not only in the dressing room there is a desire for whoever takes over to also be there for the long haul.
A report from British broadcaster Sky News claimed bidders for Chelsea had to guarantee that they will not sell a controlling stake for at least a decade as part of any deal to buy the club.
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As I’ve pointed out previously the new ownership is likely to have a heavy dose of American influence, which means that, while the proprietors might be buckled in for the long haul, they will also be looking to ring the changes.
According to US sports industry insider Irwin Kishner, the Co-Chair of the Sports Law Group with New York law firm Herrick, Feinstein, part of the appeal of acquiring Chelsea for an American is the opportunity to make improvements.
“The ways sports businesses are run overseas, there’s more value to be made by making certain changes, implementing certain standards [and] management techniques, that I would submit are maybe a little bit more evolved here over the US,” he told me.
“I’m talking about figuring out ways of enhancing the stadium experience, community involvement and real estate development. There’s a number of different what I call revenue streams that I think can be evolved,” the lawyer added.
Kishner has represented some of the biggest players in US sports in his career and knows his way around a multi-billion dollar buyout.
Having been involved with groups that have tried to acquire Premier League teams in the past, Kishner is well aware of how difficult it can be to acquire an English soccer team, especially one as prestigious as the Blues.
“An asset like Chelsea doesn’t come up very often,” he continued, “it is clearly a very valuable franchise and it also makes, I think, great sense for a US consortium or US ownership to try to come in.”
Why a $3.7 billion price tag is great value
Raine Group, the US bankers selling Chelsea, might be insisting on owners commit for ten years, but they are certainly not suggesting that will be bad business.
The lender’s co-founder Joe Ravitch was quoted in the Financial Times saying he expected the near $4 billion valuation of the club to more than double in the next five years.
“My guess is that Chelsea and all of the top Premier League clubs will probably be worth in excess of $10 billion in five years,” he told the newspaper.
Kishner agreed that, while the price might look eye-watering compared with any deal that has gone before, a sense of long-term perspective was required.
“These clubs have a history of just appreciating in value,” he added, “at the time the deal is done it’s like, ‘oh, my goodness, how can anybody in their right mind pay that much money for a football team?’ Fast forward 10 years? And it’s like, ‘wow, that was a great deal.’
“You’re probably going to pay more because it’s such an iconic franchise. But ultimately, I suspect in the long term the owner is going to do rather well.”
It’s interesting to see the level of confidence from the US market in the ever-increasing value of British soccer clubs.
Just a year ago Chelsea was one of six Premier League sides who’d been part of an attempted breakaway European Super League (ESL) project.
The financial necessity of establishing a new competition was far greater for the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus, who still haven’t abandoned the project, compared to their English rivals, but their involvement didn’t suggest a never-ending gravy train.
The indications are that US owners in particular are keen to fundamentally change the sport.
For American-backed Liverpool and Manchester United, the ESL was the second effort in less than a year to remodel the game. The pair were also instrumental in the so-called ‘Project Big Picture’ attempt to transform the English leagues just seven months earlier.
All of which suggests that the improvements Kishner believes American owners see at Chelsea aren’t restricted to the organization of staff at Stamford Bridge.
When you look at that numbers the reality is that the Premier League’s main revenue driver for the past three decades, broadcaster rights revenue, has been plateauing for a while.
If the growth that Chelsea’s bankers are predicting is to be achieved, that can only be from new ground being broken, most likely through the creation of new or changed competition.
The question is; what that will mean for the Premier League and European soccer?