"I anticipate this trend only growing further in the future"
1 - Multi-club ownership is seen by most experts as the future of football. From your point of view, from what moment in football's history did this start to happen? Was there a fundamental turning point for this new reality?
A: Multi-club ownership, where a single individual or company owns or controls multiple football clubs, has been growing in popularity in recent years and can be traced back to the late 2000’s / early 2010’s when City Football Group (CFG) and Red Bull launched their projects in global football. This trend can be explained partly by the increasing globalization of the sport, as well as the growing financial power of certain individuals, corporations and nation states. In the last several years various institutional investors and high net worth individuals have attempted to replicate the CFG and Red Bull model, taking advantage of the economies of scale across multiple clubs and the opportunities to streamline the player development process. I anticipate this trend only growing further in the future, as sophisticated investors look to control the pipelines on talent and invest into new footballing markets.
2 - What are the main factors to consider before choosing a club to invest in?
A: The most important factors that I consider when looking at football club investment are:
- Infrastructure (Stadium, Training Facilities, Academy)
- History / Fanbase
- Geographic Location
- Financial Health (Debt, Profitability, Assets)
- Current on-field performance (Is the club in danger of relegation? Or close to promotion?)
3 - You entered the European football market through clubs from Northern Europe, namely England, Ireland and Denmark. Can you tell us why did you choose to bet in these markets?
A: I generally feel that many markets across European football are too crowded, oversaturated with many ownership groups trying to do the same thing everyone else is doing. My approach is more disruptive where I try to find business strategies and markets where others are not looking. I particularly like the markets in Northern Europe, which I believe are undervalued from a player development perspective. In addition, many of the clubs in Northern Europe are run more sustainably than the clubs I’ve seen in Southern or Eastern Europe. Looking forward, I believe there are opportunities in developing markets such as Latin America and Asia, places where there has generally been very little foreign investment. Beyond the specific geographic region, I believe that it’s important to show proof of concept in terms of owning and operating clubs well. My various football projects have been very targeted and strategic in terms of helping me gain the experience needed to be an operator in the future at some of the biggest clubs in Europe.
4 - In Portugal there are already some clubs included in this multi-club ownership system. How do you look at the Portuguese case? Is it currently a favourable market for investors?
A: Clearly the Portuguese market is very attractive for foreign investment due to the strong track record of clubs developing and selling players. Since most Multi-club ownership models are heavily reliant on player sales, it makes sense that Portugal would be a popular market for club acquisitions. My concern at this point is the amount of interest in Portuguese football has inflated the price for clubs, even down to the 2nd and 3rd tier. Clubs at those levels often don’t have the type of stadiums and club infrastructure that would be conducive to the development of players in a MCO model. However, Portugal will continue to be a favorable market for club investment as part of MCO’s moving forward, especially considering the future centralization of media rights.
5 - Do you feel that the future centralization of media rights in Portugal will make the country more attractive to investors?
A: The move to a centralized media rights structure in Portugal is a game changer for the growth and opportunities in Portuguese football. The current media rights deal skews overwhelming large portions of revenue to the biggest clubs, which makes it difficult to craft a viable financial model for any other club. From my understanding, the new structure will give significantly more revenues to the smaller clubs, giving them greater opportunities to compete for places in Europe and build sustainable financial models. From conversations I’ve had with foreign investors, there is already significant investment interest in Portuguese football due to the future changes in the media rights.
6 - As an American, you are aware of the striking differences in the way the sports industry operates in your homeland compared to Europe. Would you say that in Europe it is more complicated to successfully implement this type of investment project or is that a thing of the past?
A: I’ve split my time between the United States and Europe over the last five years, so I have a unique perspective when it comes to the business of sport on both sides of the Atlantic. Generally speaking, the financial model of sport in North America is driven by entertainment and profit, while conversely the model in Europe is driven by passion and community. With that being said, sport in Europe has been trending (slowly) towards a more sophisticated structure with people looking for a return on their investment. It can be very difficult to have a more profit driven approach in Europe with the risk of relegation, the lack of wage controls or salary caps, and the generally lack of financial discipline at most clubs. However, I firmly believe that clubs in Europe need to be run in a sustainable way, with sound financial management. There must be a balance between the need for financial returns at a football club, but also a strong appreciation for the community nature of these clubs. While difficult, this balance is one of the keys to success in European football, and something I strive for at all my projects.
7 -In a recent interview, you mentioned that Communication is one of the most important aspects in the good management of several clubs in different countries. Considering your experience, what are the secrets to good communication in this context?
A: Communication is key to good leadership in any organization, and at a football club it’s even more important with how forward facing these clubs are. My philosophy is that transparency and honestly with your staff, supporters, and sponsors promotes a culture and environment where people feel informed and connected to your club. I have no doubt when I made decisions as Managing Partner at FC Helsingør, that people did not always agree, but I generally felt that there was a respect that I was open and transparent about why and how I made those decisions. Many ownership groups tend to be absentee which is simply not a viable leadership model at a football club.
8 - As an investor, you have chosen to continue investing in the football market. What is your opinion on keeping investments in more than one sport?
A: There are plenty of investors who believe in diversification when it comes to investing across sports. That certainly makes sense, and you can examples like the San Francisco 49ers who own a NFL franchise and are also involved in the ownership of Leeds United in the English Premier League. I think some of the expertise across sports can translate well, and there are definite synergies in multi-sport investment. That being said, football in particular has a unique structure and some people can underestimate the ease of adding football clubs to a multi-sport portfolio. However, generally speaking I think diversification is a smart investment strategy.
9 - You have been a regular presence at events that promote debate and networking between major industry players, such as the Thinking Football Summit, where you will be present for the first time in 2023. For an investor always on the lookout for new opportunities, how important is it to participate in this type of events?
A: I really enjoy speaking at various football networking events and conferences throughout the world. I actually just got home from Mexico City where I spoke at a conference about growing trends in football investment and analytics in Latin America. There is no substitute for in-person interaction and I find it particularly important to spend time at these events to learn about the intricacies of each football market across the world. This will be my first year speaking at the Thinking Football Summit and I’m looking forward to building relationships and learn more about the exciting future of Portuguese football.
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