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No place for champions

While Celtic and Ajax have European pedigree, perhap the most egregious omission from the ESL was French club Olympique Lyonnais, better known as Lyon.

The men’s team dominated the French domestic league until Paris SaintGermain (PSG) was taken over by Qatari owners, who in 2017 broke the world transfer fee record to sign Brazilian forward Neymar for £200m.

However Lyon’s women’s team has dominated European competition for the past decade. It won the last five Women’s Champions League trophies (although was recently knocked out of this year’s tournament by PSG) after the club invested significant money into the women’s side.

Despite adding a line into the initial press release about setting up a women’s competition alongside the men’s tournament, there was no mention of inviting the most succesful European team of the 2010s.

According to Morningstar, listed entity Olympique Lyonnais is not held by funds registered for sale in the UK. The £50.5m Mapfre AM Behavioural fund, managed by Luis García Álvarez and Michael Morosi, holds several football clubs including 2.2% of its portfolio in Lyon.

Any change?

The great truth when it comes to making money in football is that it is rarely the clubs who profit.

That is why owners wanted the ESL in the first place, and also why few managers invest in European club sides.

Will this change? Some think that football clubs are really entertainment businesses now, and if they can take greater control over their own media rights, for example by streaming games themselves rather than outsourcing to Sky or BT, the big names could truly profit.

But Mapfre’s Luis García Álvarez makes a different case for investing in football clubs. He lists three reasons for optimism football:

1. Increasingly tighter financial controls leading to healthier balance sheets.

2. Better management teams coming into the sector.

3. Use of new tools, such as technology, to improve costumer experience and reach the global fan.

‘All this at really attractive prices for investors, as there is still a lack of understanding of the underlying dynamics in the sector,’ says Garcia Alvarez.

If the ESL leaves a legacy of stricter spending rules and tougher ownership requirements he could be right. But as a football supporter it is hard to believe in any positive change at upper echelons of the game.

Already the Athletic has reported that a private equity company is in talks to buy a stake in the Uefa Champions League tournament.

Repercussions might see some changes to the way clubs are run for a few years, yet it is hard to see this impacting the businesses that have made money from the game. Sportswear manufacturers like Nike, gambling companies like Bet 365, and video game makers like EA will continue to profit from interest in the sport. These are the businesses that are likely to continue to profit from the game, whether supporters can win back the game or not.


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