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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Carson Yeung's imminent takeover of Birmingham City is a watershed moment for English football. For the first time in history, half of the Premier League is in the hands of overseas investors. Ten clubs, ten multi-millionaire owners, but does Yeung really have a chance of success in the Midlands?

US-backed Manchester United are thought to be the most heavily indebted football club on the planet, paying out over GBP60m every year just to service their interest. Chelsea have never made Roman Abramovich a single penny of profit. It was touch and go this summer as to whether or not Liverpool would be allowed a critical restructuring of their loans and if the Arab owners of Manchester City are ever going to recoup their investment, they'll have to win the Champions League for the next five years, a tall order given that they're not actually in it. Aston Villa, under American Randy Lerner, have done well to rise from the bottom half to the European places, but an improvement on two successive 6th places seems unlikely without further spending. West Ham spent heavily and crashed hard under their doomed Icelandic owners, Sunderland have splurged tens of millions without yet securing the mediocrity of mid-table and Portsmouth are desperately selling players to survive. Only Fulham can be said to have improved dramatically under their foreign owner and that wasn't hard, the Cottagers were in the third division when Mohammed al-Fayed arrived.

Birmingham City are an interesting proposition. This under-achieving club in Britain's second largest city certainly has potential. Yeung knew this back in 2007 when he fell short in his first attempt to buy them. His hesitation and eventual failure to raise the necessary finances were thought to be the reason for the departure of Steve Bruce and indirectly, the subsequent relegation of the club, so he'll be hoping no-one brings that up on his first day in the office.

However, it's not like he'll be replacing any local heroes in the boardroom. David Sullivan, David Gold and their managing director Karen Brady have had a tempestuous relationship with the fans since taking over the club themselves in 1993. In that time, they've been promoted from the second division three times and relegated back down twice, running the gauntlet with vocal supporters groups all the way. Many fans feel that they should have given the club more money, but this seems harsh. Not only have all of their managers been backed with cash, but they've generally been given enough time to stand or fall on their purchases as well. In Barry Fry, Trevor Francis, Steve Bruce and Alex McLeish, they've had less managers in 16 seasons than Chelsea have had in the last two.

Gold and Sullivan know how demanding it is to run a football club. Yeung is about to discover the horrible truth for himself.. Look through the history books and you'll struggle to find a convincing reason for Birmingham City to even be in the top half. Their sole major trophy, the League Cup, came in 1963, and this is only their sixth season in the Premier League. Try telling that to the fans though. They will be expecting investment and support from their new owner and they will not be shy to let him know how he's getting on. Yeung will probably need to spend another GBP80m to live up to those expectations and that seems rather unlikely given his earlier struggles to raise cash.

After the exploits of Newcastle's Mike Ashley, only a fool would believe that English owners are any better suited to the Premier League than their foreign counterparts, but with more and more new money arriving ever month, it's harder than ever for teams to stand still, let alone to move forwards. Yeung will be delighted with his new toy, but how long will it be before he encounters the same problems that have dogged his fellow owners?


Member of the Barry Corr Fan Club
Oct 25, 2003
New Barn, Kent
Weren't there rumours some time ago that if Sullivan and Gold backed out of Birmingham, one of them and I can't remember which, would come knocking for us.........?