The good, the bad and the ugly - The turbulent story of the modern football club owner

The running of professional football club owners up and down the countries, across all depths, has significantly changed over the last 20 years and it has brought an abundance of controversy.

The good, the bad and the ugly - The turbulent story of the modern football club owner
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich | Photo: Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

In a world that is heavily dictated by money, football is one sport that is increasingly following that trend and it is safe to admit this has been the way in the beautiful game for at least the last two decades.

Whilst many football clubs see it as a new lease of life, a stream of rejuvenation and prosperous futures, for many it has become a real problem and led to catastrophic consequences - several have had to suffer relegation after relegation, others being forced to endure torrid investment and cultural changes. 

The general feeling is any potential investor, predominantly foreign, will bring more bad than good, although this isn't always the case and can be the saviour for a number of clubs but the fact cannot be dismissed that the majority distance themselves away from the loyal supporters who travel up and down the country week-in, week-out. 

2003, the start of a new era?

Fourteen years ago earmarked a major change in the way football clubs were managed as Chelsea were taken over by the infamous Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who had purchased the club for an astonishing £140 million. 

The father to seven daughters changed the face of English sport forever as the London-based outfit went from a team struggling to make the top four to a side becoming a household name across the United Kingdom and giants of the European game, even going onto reach the UEFA Champions League Final on two occasions and winning it once. 

Stamford Bridge would not be the host of such a heavyweight if it were not for Abramovich and the sum of money he's injected into the Blues since his takeover in the early 2000's. 

His money has also seen Chelsea accumulate four FA Cups, five Premier Leagues, three League Cups, one UEFA Europa League and two FA Community Shields. So, it is quite apparent that there is some good to modern football club owners, and now the team has some of the world's highest quality players plying their trade at the Bridge. 

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Tan makes foes in South Wales

Skip forward seven years to 2010 and there's an instant reasoning as to why so many supporters remain sceptical over new club owners as Malaysian investor Vincent Tan took over in the capital of Wales as he bought the reigns at Cardiff City

At the time, the Bluebirds were in the Championship, the second tier of English Football, and Tan envisaged the team becoming an established side in the luxurious Premier League, attracting full houses on a weekly basis, but it all became a sour story from there. 

Vincent Tan had intended to put £100 million into Cardiff City, which included increasing the stadium's current capacity as well as build a new training ground.

However, this all depended on whether he would be able to change the club's colours, the historic blue that people instantly recognised with the team, to an unwanted red, alongside the re-branded logo - getting rid of the bluebird and replacing it with a red dragon. 

Malky Mackay was appointed manager, debt was cleared and promotion was gained to the top-flight, so Vincent Tan remained thoughtful that the supporters would forget his previous controversy over the colours and re-design, however, it only intensified and the situation wasn't helped by the instant relegation back to the Championship. 

The Malaysian remains in charge but very rarely shows his face at the Cardiff City Stadium, which is just as well, as the fans will never forget the torrid couple of years they had to endure under his ownership. 

Queens Park Rangers find themselves in debt

Queens Park Rangers, notoriously a Premier League club in the 1990's, were on the edge of re-establishing themselves as a top-flight outfit with the investment from Tony Fernandes.

Having been announced as a major shareholder in August 2011 of the west London-based team after investing £35 million, prosperity was on the horizon having suffered years of accumulating debt - the club were meaningfully overspending year after year and that was becoming a major concern for supporters. 

QPR gained promotion to the first division at the end of the 2011-12 campaign, topping the Championship. Their Premier League was only short-living as they managed just two years before dropping to the second-tier. 

The club massively spent above their means as high calibre names arrived at Loftus Road. Brazilian and ex-Champions League winner Júlio César was attracted to the capital by the extravagant wages on offer. Shaun Wright-Phillips and Bobby Zamora also arrived under Tony Fernandes' hierarchy. 

Whilst it's not necessarily a bad story of a modern football club owner, the debt Queens Park Rangers now find themselves in is horrifying and one of the worst in Europe at €279m owed, fifth most in the continent. 

Since their Premier League days, a distant memory to many, QPR are struggling to even catch mid-table in the Championship and the major target for Fernandes should be to clear that catastrophic debt. 

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​Midlands becomes target for Chinese owners

​If there was one area of the country that saw a lack of footballing progress then it would be the West Midlands. Two giants of the game in that part of the world have seen huge changes in ownership over the last eighteen months. 

Aston Villa were bought by Recon Group in the summer of 2016, owned by Tony Xia, and the Chinese businessman swiftly became chairman of the relegated Premier League outfit but saw an influx of investment in the playing squad. 

Supporters saw the likes Ross McCormack, Tommy Elphick and Nile Jendinak drop a division to play for Aston Villa in the Championship. Now, after more than a year as owner of the club, Tony Xia is seeing the team on the verge of once again reinstating their top-flight status. 

Another side to be on the receiving end of Chinese investment is Wolverhampton Wanderers, who have lingered in the English Football League for a few seasons now. 

Fosun International, a Hong Kong-based company, bought Wolves for £45 million last summer and are already seeing the benefits of their investment. The arrival of Nuno Espirito Santo and several players in the transfer window has seen the club quickly become the most fearful outfit in the Championship and currently lead the pack at the top of the league. A return to the Premier League looks very much likely at this point, thanks to the Chinese ownership and investment. 

​What does the future hold for English club ownership?

​Obviously, these are just a handful of multiple examples and the list is ever-growing with the growth of foreign ownership increasing by the month across the English football leagues, even in non-league, with Ebbsfleet United, from Kent, being the latest fifth-tier outfit to see a cash injection into the club. 

The future of such is yet to be dictated but the predictions are that football is becoming an attractive market for businessmen outside of Europe, and it is not just England which is seeing this trend. Clubs across the continent are either suffering or benefitting from the increase of foreign ownership.