Multi-club ownership, whereby a single group has a controlling influence in more than one football club, is increasingly common in world football.
But are the existing ownership groups maximising the potential of this structure?
Multi-club ownership can be grouped into 3 groups.
- The City Group model
- The Red Bull model
- The Feeder Club model
The City Group model is based around the idea of establishing a single club in each major territory and attempting to make them the dominant force by investing heavily in providing the best facilities and personnel.
The Red Bull model is based around owning multiple clubs with a single group-wide philosophy, centralised coaching, recruitment, and frequent player trading within the network.
The Feeder Club model usually involves one dominant partner using another club to fulfill their needs. The success of the dominant partner is the main consideration.
The Covid-19 crisis will inevitably lead to a restructuring of football clubs worldwide as clubs seek investment or new ownership.
The next 2 years will present a huge opportunity for smart investors to build a worldwide portfolio of clubs.
But which model of multi-club ownership works best? And is there a better way?
We have identified six choices that need to be made to establish the structure of a multi-club ownership model.
The choices made determine the types of clubs that should be targeted for takeover, the locations of these clubs, the amount of money that will need to be invested, and the likelihood of sporting success.
The MRKT model tries to combine the best elements of each.
We believe the commitment to a single style is what drives the success of the Red Bull model. By fully embracing a footballing philosophy you can fine-tune your scouting, youth development, and coaching and have a common vision of how you want to play the game.
In-network player trading would become a key feature of the system. With an average Premier League player costing around £18m and earning an average of £3m a year the ability to produce top level talent is key. Talent does not emerge fully formed. There are vital development points in a player’s careers where players need competitive games at the best possible level. However local rules on work permits, and club ownership, need to be considered.
The most significant issue for player development at large clubs is the sheer size of squads.
The average Premier League squad contains 67 players on professional contracts. The average Premier League team fields 23 players for more than 1 minute over the course of a season.
In a typical week for a Premier League club with first team, U23, and U18 fixtures, 33 professional players in the squad start a game, but 34 don’t.
This forgotten 50% of players (680 Premier League players between the 20 teams) have worked incredibly hard, and passed selection after selection, to be given a professional deal. But the final step into playing top-flight football is arguably the hardest.
Loans are notoriously difficult to get right. They are short term, temporary fixes.
Brexit, in particular, is going to have a significant impact on the loan market for UK players. Previous loan destinations like the Netherlands will no longer be accessible to British players as non-EU passport holders.
So is there a better system available for player development than loans?
We believe there is.
Long term partners, either formal through shared ownership or informal, are found with a similar style of play and a commitment to player development. The partners at the higher level get playing time for their unused players, the clubs at lower levels get access to better quality players than they could otherwise attract or afford. As the network expands so do the opportunities for players. They can find a solution for the betterment of their career within a network of clubs committed to their development.
Choosing the right clubs
When choosing clubs to join the network we believe geography is key. Whilst it is tempting for UK based clubs to look abroad for partner clubs it is often the case that rather than looking to sign additional players as a first step they should maximise the opportunity for players they have already developed. This means finding a solution that allows as many of the best U23 and U18 players to get regular open age football as possible.
We can provide a solution to UK teams looking for UK based partners for mutually beneficial deals based around player improvement.
But we can also suggest international partners at all levels. And some locations will prove far more productive than others.
When purchasing clubs an overlooked factor is the size of the local player pool. Some of the highest potential clubs in the world underuse the talent on their own doorstep. MRKT Insights has invested in creating a football information system that measures the potential of football clubs based on their ability to produce, and add value to, footballers. We can help identify the clubs that are underusing their resources or are undervalued.
You also need to consider links between the clubs. If you plan to bring in players from Africa and South America you need to think about the number of non-EU players who can play in games. You may also consider factors such as common language, climate, and the culture you are building within the network of clubs.
MRKT Insights has also developed a Squad Scoring system. We are able to quickly assess a club’s sporting and financial outlook over the coming years by scoring the playing squad for playing system suitability, current value, and contract length.
We can identify specific regions that produce talent and create career plans to maximise that talent within the club network. We learn from the best intercontinental club and academy partnerships like Right to Dream with Nordsjaelland and Generation Foot with FC Metz, and the best agents operating in developing markets.
The benefits of a single style
By introducing a single network-wide football philosophy, we can recruit the best talent finders, coaches, and support staff and work towards a common goal. Players are increasingly aware of the need to play regular football between the ages of 18 and 20. Clubs that can offer a pathway to first-team football will be able to recruit more easily. The more attractive the club is to players the more talented the players they will attract.
Talent ID – Scouting and Recruitment – will also hugely benefit from a group-wide focus. With a strict set of attributes, we can focus on quickly identifying talents who fit the network profile. We have developed software that helps clubs find these players all over the world, and have a team of scouts constantly monitoring football at all levels. Where we lack local expertise we find it. The hunt for talent is both global and local and we can help with both.
Turning separate teams into a sporting group
Changing the mindset from teams operating as individual units, protective of their methodology, to a network aiming to improve collectively requires finding people with shared values. A key component of the Red Bull model is the development emphasis they put on the coaching staff. They move within the network and have the opportunity to progress to the very highest levels. Pathways aren’t just for players and coaches are significantly cheaper to recruit and train.
Research is the foundation of our work at MRKT Insights, we can help identify the right people to put into key positions within the network.
The right people need the right technology to spread best practice.
We have looked into the technology used in football; speaking to the most innovative clubs, the players and analysts who work with the systems, and the system suppliers. Our qualified coaches and analysts have designed packages that would enable network-wide performance, training, and video data to be uploaded to a single hub and analysed centrally. Colleagues around the network could compare methodology and give and receive feedback on team performances and individual players. We have a deployable solution ready to link clubs together.
We can help ownership groups put together a club network with youth development, built-in player pathways, a unified coaching philosophy, cutting edge analytics, and of course knowledge of the global transfer market.
And we can help investors invest smartly with long term capital growth, as well as sporting success, a key feature of the model.
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