The Telegraph’s Matt Law reports this lunchtime that Cain Hoy, a US-based private investment firm, are considering a takeover of Tottenham Hotspur. There’s nothing more to this story at the moment and, as yet, there’s no real suggestion that current Tottenham owner, Joe Lewis, is interested in selling the club.
A potential buyer expressing a vague interest and an actual takeover being completed are miles and miles apart from each other.
There are going to be some supporters who will embrace the prospect of a change in ownership and who would gladly see the back of Joe Lewis and Daniel Levy, but takeovers are always to be viewed with suspicion. Financial Fair Play’s integration into the code of European football means that owners can no longer treat clubs as vanity projects and neither can they buy their way to success. As long as FFP exists, Chelsea or Manchester City-type situations will never be repeated.
ENIC’s ownership is not popular at White Hart Lane, but it has provided stability. There are times when the lack of ambition has been aggravating and, as is the case now, the handling of off-field matters has seemed clumsy and inefficient, but Spurs haven’t been bastardised by their owners.
Look around the Premier League and you’ll notice that with new owners often comes new danger.
Mike Ashley bought Newcastle United to, as it has transpired, simply exist in the Premier League and collect television revenue, Randy Lerner’s acquisition of Aston Villa long ago descended into a farce of devaluation and cost-cutting, and nobody needs reminding of the long-term costs of the Glazer family’s decision to buy Manchester United. The cliche of a new club owner being a saviour is an outdated one, because investors aren’t enticed by silverware anymore. Instead, they crave a piece of the Premier League pie. They see the escalating value of the broadcasting contracts, they notice the competition’s global appeal, and they view a football team as a viable investment. Owning a club used to be a thankless task involving an inevitable loss of money, but the structure of and revenues associated with the game now have changed that - and hence the type of person attracted to ownership opportunities has also changed.
We talk about football ‘being a business’ so much now that we’ve become desensitised to its meaning, but it’s true - and it’s frightening. With each passing year and with each new generation owner, teams become less like football clubs and more like Formula One cars. They exist on the race track, displaying their sponsor’s insignias and striving for little more than not finishing last or crashing.
Cut the wage bill, sell key players the moment they enter their prime, finish tenth, pick up the cheques from Sky and BT Sport. That’s the way football’s going in this country and, most worryingly, that’s the most logical path for all but the biggest clubs to take. Success - or success in supporters’ terms - is no longer a prerequisite to profit.
Maybe that’s all wrong and maybe Cain Hoy are an owner whom Tottenham supporters should embrace, but history tells us that, contextually, there isn’t a more chilling phrase in the English game than ‘group of American businessmen’. Think hard about how intolerable Lewis and Levy really are and whether some of the inconveniences at Tottenham really are so difficult to bear.
A takeover is a lucky dip now, and clubs are far more likely to draw a Hicks or a Gillett than an Abramovich or a Mansour.