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Billionaires and the beautiful game

What is it with billionaires and “the beautiful game”? Football clubs seem to have become the latest must-have possession for any self-respecting billionaire over the last few years, with prominent families and individuals investing in well-known teams.

What is it with billionaires and “the beautiful game”? Football clubs seem to have become the latest must-have possession for any self-respecting billionaire over the last few years, with prominent families and individuals investing in well-known teams.

But football is an expensive game and not just for the fans. Many investors, like the Glazer family, appear willing to risk millions in a bid to own a prominent club. The Glazers reportedly got themselves, and Manchester United, into a lot of debt to finance their takeover of the Old Trafford team, leading to campaigns against them from fans claiming the deficit is preventing the club from investing in new players. The family is now planning a partial flotation of the British football club, according to reports, although there is some confusion about what will happen to the money raised.

Others have spent a fortune since purchasing a club, taking investing in players to new extremes. Take Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan for example – he has splashed out about £750 million (€865 million) on Manchester City since acquiring it in 2008. Then there is Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who is thought to have spent around £1 billion since taking over Chelsea in 2003.

But the latest rich owner of a football club – Tony Fernandes – has no plans to follow the approach of some of the league’s wealthiest owners.

Fernandes, AirAsia’s chief executive, agreed to buy 66% of Queens Park Rangers from Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone and his partner Flavio Briatore this week. He’ll share ownership of the west London team with the Mittal family.

There’s money to buy players, he said, but the 47-year-old isn’t planning to spend the sums other wealthy owners have. Instead he wants to build the club up from the bottom, investing in a good training academy and working with the community.

"Of course you don't go into anything in the sporting world and not want to be the best, but these things take time,” he said.

It’s a different approach for a wealthy owner, but will it work? 

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