Billionaires Football Club

Image: Juan Salamanca


Owners of football teams gain considerable influence in society

Several reasons lead foreign billionaires to buy soccer teams. Many billionaires are football aficionados and have a personal passion for the sport. Buying a football team allows them to actively participate in its management and direction.

Owning a renowned football team brings prestige and social status. It is particularly attractive to individuals with a desire to increase their visibility and gain public recognition. Owning a football club provides opportunities for networking. Connections with other influential people and entrepreneurs are beneficial to business and open doors to new partnerships and ventures.

Owners of football teams gain considerable influence in society. They use this position to promote social causes, become involved in political issues and contribute to the development and promotion of sport in their country or region.

Some billionaires see buying a football team as a potentially lucrative investment. Popular football clubs if managed well generate significant revenues through ticket sales, sponsorships, broadcasting rights, merchandising and player transfers.

The world of football is complex because it involves different financial, social and cultural dynamics. They even attract foreign investors.

Diversifying assets through investments in sport is not new among the billionaires on the list of Forbes, especially North Americans: there are 6 of these in the list of the 10 richest owners of sports teams. In the United States, many billionaires buy shares in professional clubs in leagues such as the NFL (American football), NBA (basketball), MLB (baseball), NHL (hockey) and MLS (soccer/Friendly) — with the aim of investing instead of paying taxes to the Federal Revenue of the country.

Deduct expenses related to operating the club, such as staff salaries, travel, marketing and other legitimate business expenses. Sports club owners can also benefit from the depreciation of club assets such as stadiums, facilities and equipment. Allows you to reduce your tax burden annually.

In some cases, club owners can negotiate agreements with local governments to receive subsidies or tax breaks for building or renovating stadiums. These agreements may include specific tax benefits, such as property tax exemptions or fee reductions.

The strategy of US billionaires, in order not to have their wealth confiscated by taxes, boils down to the trinomial buy (purchase), borrow (borrow) and its general (to die).

They buy shares and/or real estate, but do not dispose of them, so as not to generate tax to be paid. American law only considers taxable income when there is actual receipt of money – and not potentially as in the case of appreciation of stocks or real estate in the market.

Instead of receiving a salary and having income tax deducted at source, they take out cheap loans to maintain the desired standard of living, offering the purchased assets as collateral. When they die, their assets – holdings of wealth, including stocks and real estate – pass to their heirs free of income tax.

For example, it was reported on May 16, 2023): Former basketball player Michael Jordan will sell his majority stake in the NBA's Charlotte Hornets to an investment consortium. Retired from the courts in 2003, he spent an estimated $275 million in 2010 (R$484 million at the time) to take over most of the Hornets' stock, becoming the first former NBA player to become a team owner. . Under the terms of the deal, the Hornets were valued at $3 billion, as per the The New York Times. Multiplied more than ten times the amount invested!

The following billionaire owners of major football clubs make the list of Forbes: Stanley Kroenke (Arsenal – England and Los Angeles Rams of the NFL – United States), US$ 10,7 billion; Nassef Sawiris (Aston Villa), $7,7 billion; Dmitry Rybolovlev (Monaco) $6,6 billion; Rocco Commisso (Fiorentina), $6,1 billion; Paul Singer (Milan), $4,3 billion; John Henry (Liverpool), $3,6 billion; Florentino Pérez Rodríguez (Real Madrid), $2 billion.

In addition to these, there are other well-known billionaires: Roman Abramovich (Chelsea FC – England); Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Manchester City FC – England); Nasser Al-Khelaifi (Paris Saint-Germain FC – France); Andrea Agnelli (Juventus FC – Italy); Dietrich Mateschitz (Red Bull Salzburg – Austria and RB Leipzig – Germany); Zhang Jindong (Inter Milan – Italy); Joseph DaGrosa (Girondins de Bordeaux – France); Robert Kraft (MLS New England Revolution – USA); Johan Rupert (Stellenbosch FC – South Africa).

Roman Abramovich lost billions and dropped from 142nd to 350th on the list of rich people Forbes. He doesn't even appear among the richest in the "owners of a sports team" section anymore, after being 8th in 2021.

He is part of a group of Russian oligarchs with assets confiscated as part of sanctions over the Russian military's invasion of Ukraine. Started 2022 with $15 billion in equity. Shrank to $6,9 billion in March. The future former owner of Chelsea FC has put the team up for sale, but the blocked assets prevent the operation.

Owners of other great teams such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are not listed by Forbes because they are owned by Sovereign Funds. They are linked to authoritarian regimes in the Persian Gulf, respectively, the emirate of Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

In this case, their motivations are different from those expressed by Western billionaires. Similarly, Saudi Arabia announced the nationalization of the main clubs in the country to hire global stars, a strategy related to millionaire sponsorships, entry into European football and the search for geopolitical influence.

The Islamic theocratic kingdom conducts its foreign policy according to a strategic program known as Saudi Vision 2030. It is the world's largest oil exporter with the second largest reserves and the sixth largest reserves of natural gas.

It aims to diversify the country's economy (the 19th largest) by reducing its dependence on oil exports. It also aims to place the country with 33,5 million inhabitants and the 12th largest territory – most of it is desert without rivers or lakes, which is why it uses desalinated water or extracted from underground aquifers – as one of the main political and financial centers on the planet.

Saudi Arabia is a theocratic absolute monarchy with no Constitution for the citizens. It has never held national elections, so political parties are prohibited. She has a history of disrespecting human rights. It imposes a submissive position on women, does not offer religious and political freedom and does not recognize human rights. Suspects are tortured into confessing and beheaded in public.

Plan now to get soft power, a technique for gaining power through non-military means, including investments and support for sporting events such as the 2030 World Cup. sports washing: use of sport to “clean up the image” of a regime, country or economic group, given the popularity of this western cultural-sporting expression now spread across the world.

Such deceptive advertising seeks to promote a positive image and cover up negative activities associated with authoritarian governments with questionable records regarding human rights, freedom of expression, democracy or other socioeconomic issues. They seek to leverage sport, a highly visible and popular field, to enhance their reputation and image globally.

Among other common tactics of sports washing, governments seek to host large-scale sporting events, such as the Olympics, the World Cup or World Championships of continental champion teams. It aims to promote local culture and present an image of a welcoming country.

For example, in Brazil, the Arab investment fund Mubadala formalized a proposal to Libra leaders for the formation of a commercial bloc instead of a national league. Now, to buy 12,5% ​​of the clubs' media rights, referring to the Brazilian Championship, for a period of 50 years, all it takes is Corinthians, Flamengo, Palmeiras and São Paulo – the most powerful teams in supporters and broadcasting rights – to sign . Thus, they will concentrate greater power, far from the competition of others.

Anyway, it's sports washing acquire renowned sports clubs to associate with a positive brand and gain prestige and visibility. This can help divert attention away from other problematic activities of billionaires, whether people or countries.

*Fernando Nogueira da Costa He is a full professor at the Institute of Economics at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of Brazil of banks (EDUSP).

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