When it comes to the most controversial owners in the Premier League recently, no one definitely sums up the epitome than Chelsea’s American owner Todd Boehly.
From dismissing Thomas Tuchel, who had different opinions for no reason because of his own preference for Cristiano Ronaldo, to making high-profile speeches everywhere; demanding that the Premier League reform by following the American sports business model; rejecting to rule out rejoining the European Super League again; “advocating” others to follow the example of Red Bull Group’s global acquisition of clubs to establish a group ownership model, and to use immigration law loopholes to bypass the difficulty of applying for a work permit in order “to create the strongest youth training system” and etc… As far as what people can think of, Boehly will definitely be there to fuel more controversy “without ever knowing when to give up”, as if he fears that he had not shocked everyone enough yet.
Of course, when we compare him to many of the Premier League club owners from past to present, it is rare to find someone who is willing to express his opinions in such a high-profile manner as Boehly. It should be mentioned that, since the Liverpool owner John Henry acquired the club 12 years ago, he was only ever seen publicly when he comes to watch the Reds’ games on important occasions, and also to celebrate the club’s victory, to celebrate key players who have achieved certain achievements, or to commemorate a key figure for their past contributions who is about to leave the club, the only time the owner has appeared in front of the public, was when he apologized to fans for taking the initiative to join the botched European Super League plans.
One thing, however, is that, unlike Henry, although Henry would occasionally be criticized for unwilling to offer manager Jürgen Klopp more money for signings than their opponents and refusing to break the wage structure by offering to pay key players higher wages, He is still willing to listen to and adopt the voices and opinions of the fans and the locals, actively help the Liverpool community to improve, and is willing to renovate the home stadium Anfield, upgrade the club’s training base and support the fans to fight for injustice. His contributions to the club no doubt sees him being regarded as a rational owner.
Boehly, on the other hand, is more like fellow former Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner. It is worth mentioning that Henry, Boehly and Lerner all have one thing in common, that is, all three of them are also owners of National Football League (NFL) teams. Lerner acquired Aston Villa in 2006, but he knows nothing about the Premier League. He always manages the club with the idea that if he invests a little money, he will be successful. As a result, when he does not want to attend the shareholders meeting, and the club’s performances worsened, Lerner began to stop investing completely, and boldly said “because American sports model does not have relegation, so I don’t know this concept” to avoid responsibility, it is conceivable that fans naturally was dissatisfied with his ridiculous remarks, and the Villans did indeed regress from the dark horse status which have seen the club challenged the European position all the year round to a club that can only fight to avoid relegation every year since 2010. When Lerner sold the club in 2016 to China’s “scamming expert” Xia Jiantong, the disgraced former chairman of Tianxia Group, Aston Villa had become a debt-ridden, tumultuous club whose shareholders could not stand the situation following relegation and left one after another.
Of course, the above is not to imply that Boehly is also a wealthy American businessman who wants to bring down Chelsea, but his style is too similar to that of Lerner. Judging from the fact that Boehly deliberately fired Tuchel and hired Brighton head coach Graham Potter just because the former does not agree with his personal preferences, it was just like the scenario happened when Lerner gave up his full investment all those years ago, during which when the renowned Northern Irish head coach Martin O’Neill didn’t buy into his ideas, and their cross-town rival Birmingham City performed better in the previous season, he deliberately angered O’Neill, got rid of him and hired Birmingham City’s head coach at that time Alex MacLeish. Both Boehly and Lerner have exactly the same style of doing things based solely on what they liked.
Not only that, do you still remember the Premier League’s plans to “add the 39th matchday in foreign country” more than 10 years ago, or the “Project Big Picture” which the Manchester United owner, Glazer family advocated which demanded that the Big 6 clubs be allowed to guarantee 25% of the TV rights’ share? ? In fact, in the early years of Manchester City, before the former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the Abu Dhabi crown prince and businessman, Prince Sheikh Mansour, there was also an American owner named Gerry Cook who advocated that he wants 14 clubs to break away from the Premier League to run a league without promotion and relegation, but have these three plans come to fruition now?! How could Boehly dare to put forward such an idea with so many before him had learned the lessons?! Whether he really didn’t know these happened or whether he was pretending to not know about them, he would be the only one who knew best.
Let’s talk about Boehly’s remarks about the American sports business model. It is well known that there is no so-called concept of promotion and relegation in the NFL, NBA, Major League Soccer (MLS) or Major League Baseball (MLB). American sports leagues have always been modeled on a nationally well-known team owning one or more affiliated sub-teams that play in their respective lower-level, unrelated leagues. At the same time, the competition format of NFL, NBA, MLS, and MLB are divided into Eastern or Western Conference by multiple teams for the regular season, and then some of the teams with good records in each league will enter the playoffs to compete for the grand championship title.
Solely from this point, such a competition format is already completely different from the European league model, therefore it is totally justified that Arsenal and France legendary international center forward, Thierry Henry and the resident pundit of Sky Sports, former Liverpool and England legendary international defender, Jamie Carragher are to angrily denounced Boehly’s remarks and criticized him that “as an outsider, the way he has arrogantly talked about reforming other people’s league models before he understands the big picture”. As an outsider, Boehly is still trying to win over the hearts and support of Chelsea fans and English on the one hand, but on the other hand, his decision to not learn from the lessons after the Big 6 clubs have been criticized by fans around the world for attempting to join the European Super League which were planned by Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus is bewildering.
Also as Carragher said, “If a wealthy British businessman clamoured to change the competition model to a Premier League-like model within a few days after he had bought a NFL team, it would definitely lead to a raging outcry across the United States”, no matter which country in Europe, fans are extremely resistant to changing of competition format, let alone forcing them to change their culture to another culture. To be honest, as a Chinese, if Chinese were to be asked to forget about celebrating the Qingming Festival, the Hungry Ghost Festival, the Double Ninth Festival, the Lunar New Year and other customs, and instead celebrate the Running of the Bulls Festival, worship mummies, and practice lifestyle like the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, where human sacrifices and other customs will be the same as attempting to touch the sky, i.e. their success rate will be very slim.
Boehly also forgets that, compared to Americans, Europeans generally have a love of sports that is incomparable. Americans generally only support a team or a star from a particular team as an interest, but Europeans are different, because the community where everyone lives is basically bound to have a local club, supporting the club in your hometown means that you have a strong and inseparable feeling for your hometown’s identity and love, and it also symbolizes how proud you are of your hometown’s achievements. How can Europeans, whose love for their club is as inseparable as flesh and blood, accept the idea of treating sports as an interest like the Americans do?!
Secondly, American sports teams and their league business model make a lot of money every year. There is no doubt about this, and we can only be amazed about this, but Boehly is like many Americans, hedge funds, and wealthy businessmen who only care about making profits, the main reason why they want to reform the business model of the league and the club is to make more money, not just to bring success to the club as they said. Boehly talked about how much he wanted to follow the example of Red Bull Group, Manchester City’s City Football Group by setting up a group for multi-club ownership model which have many affiliated sub-clubs around the world. There is no problem with the concept, but the problem lies in his narrative during which he thinks that it would be as easily achieved as a matter of “I will agree to your plans no matter what as long as you informed me”.
Boehly said that after Brexit, players from South American countries must comply with their new immigration and work experience scoring system in order to successfully obtain a UK work permit, and the most direct way is to use this loophole to sign a large number of young players with different nationalities, then deliberately send them to Portugal to “get” a certain number of points to “successfully” obtain a work permit and then bring them back to Chelsea, is there any difference between making such a statement and a blatantly committing a crime? ! Yes, the concept of multi-club ownership football has become commonplace, and even Brentford has joined the ranks as the sister club of Danish Superliga’s super power Midtjylland, which just proves the popularity of this model. However, Boehly only saw the good in others, but did not understand some of the untold stories behind their success. Although the achievements of all the clubs under the Red Bull Group and City Football Group are admirable, in fact, they also encountered many protests when they bought these clubs.
First of all, take the Red Bull Group as an example. Since 2005, the well-known energy drink from Austria and Thailand has aggressively acquired clubs in 6 major cities in the world, including Salzburg, New York, Sao Paulo, Sogakope (Ghana) and Leipzig, but they bought Salzburg, Sao Paulo and Leipzig and decided to erase their respective club’s original names, history and club colours, a large number of fans have been protesting against the Red Bull Group’s approach, and even until this day, many still look down on Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig. Not only that, with the fact that Salzburg and Leipzig both recently broken through and appeared in the same European game at the same time, these were also considered by many to be very unfair.
Boehly said that he wanted to take over a Portuguese club and use it as a platform that young South American player could exploit the British immigration and work permit points system’s loophole, not only that this is literally committing a crime blatantly, he was also too arrogant. Just imagine the Liga Portugal bwin clubs other than Benfica, Porto, Sporting CP and Braga, who would be willing to become a subsidiary and tool that loses its identity in order to strengthen Chelsea?!
Another point is that it is extremely unfair for Boehly to claim Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne as world-class players who came through the Chelsea’s youth academy. It is worth mentioning that De Bruyne, like Thibaut Courtois, was a player who was signed by Chelsea after playing for the top team Genk for a period of time, and Salah on the other hand, came through Egypt Premier League side Al Mokawloon, and then signed after he repeatedly humiliated the club in the Champions League after moving to Swiss Super League giants Basel as the Blues were unwilling to accept being humiliated by the “Egyptian King” again. Moreover, the two had no chance to show their talents when they were at Chelsea, but it was only after they had both left and joined Manchester City and Liverpool respectively that they became superstars, so if you say “as long as you have played for Chelsea, you are a superstar produced by the team’s youth academy”, and to attribute that the two came from the club’s Cobham youth academy training base, then why doesn’t he praise the Dutch defender Winston Bogarde, who was willing to sit on the bench and do nothing between 2000 and 2004 and did not want to play as he does not want to forgo his high wages, or the two English players who were only released this summer in the form of Danny Drinkwater, Ross Barkley or the high-profile Brazilian winger Kenedy who was notorious for slurring at Chinese as a “world-class star produced by Chelsea”? ! Can Salah’s boyhood club, Al Mokawloon, not be angry with Boehly’s absurd remarks?!
Finally, let’s talk about the All-Star Game idea which had angered so many people. The NFL All-Star Pro Bowl, which is always advertised as “the best sporting event in the world”, is known as the “American version of the CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala”, but its entertaining and professionalism levels are comparable to China and South Korea’s Running Man Series. Regardless of MLS, MLB, NFL or NBA, the annual All Star game is a grand event where a group of big-name players pretend to entertain the audience and perform with well-known entertainers in the entertainment industry invited to attract fans and audiences to watch the programme. However, it shouldn’t be called the most eye-catching sporting event of the year. It should be better to call it as a sports variety show. Yes, this year’s All-Star Pro Bowl made $200 million in two days, but Boehly failed to disclose that this is based on the fact that after the TV station scrambled to grab the All-Star Game broadcast rights at a sky-high price, and then have advertisers bid for their advertisement slots at a sky-high price. Trademark bidding is the basis for in-stream commercials, would you think such a method would make the All-Star Game not profitable?! Besides, an All-Star Game where stars from the north and south compete on the same field, although it sounds very interesting, don’t forget that how much hate fans such as the two Manchester giants, the two Merseyside clubs, and city-rivals in various areas of London would have with those of their rivalling clubs?! We have seen how everyone has been arguing so much that the ceiling is about to fall. Just imagine if Haaland scored a few goals in the All-Star Game, Rashford had nothing, and Kane and Coutinho lost, can you imagine how heated the arguments will be derived from such a game?! And how do you decide who is the head coach of each team?! Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Eric Ten Hag (north); Steven Gerrard, Mikel Arteta, Antonio Conte (south) are all the head coaches who have proven record of winning championships in the clubs in each district. Would all of them participate in the game as managers/assistants to each other at the same time? Even so, how can they reach a consensus with their different tactical ideas? Moreover, Boehly said that an All-Star and Champions League game could bring Chelsea an extra $200 million of profit, but he forgot that not every Premier League club plays in the Champions League, Europa League or Europa Conference League. Please think about the clubs in the relegation zone and the newly promoted clubs, don’t just think about making your wallet even bigger.
Of course, as Klopp, the two Manchester clubs’ legends Gary Neville and Micah Richards said, there is still the 2022 FIFA Qatar World Cup this year, and the UEFA Nations League, the Asian Cup, the African Cup, and the European Championship will follow suit. When all these competitions are in full swing, there are already enough international competitions now, and the players already have no time to rest. Do you think there will be spare time for anyone to play the All-Star Game?! Also, if any player is seriously injured while playing in the All-Star Game, causing them to miss the rest of the season and missed the World Cup, will Boehly, who is hosting such a game, be willing to bear the mental loss of the player, the club and the national team’s loss?!
So overall, Boehly’s idea is not entirely wrong, it’s admirable that he has such a seemingly ambitious plan since he had just took over Chelsea, but he shouldn’t say something like this so prematurely while he has not fully understand the European football model, making such arrogant remarks will only make him appear extremely rude and domineering in the eyes of the English and even Europeans.
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