Cap’n Bob Stirs Up a Hornets Nest at the Football League

by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

Today oil sheiks, Russian businessmen, US tycoons and Asian multi-millionaires have bought into the Premier League ‘dream’.

Some clubs would have folded without their financial intervention, and others may not have achieved the level of success they have without their monetary input – Hull City and Chelsea come to mind.

MaxwellBut there are strict FA rules in place to stop these wealthy owners from extending their grip in the Premiership. And one famous incident contributed to that stance.

It was 27 years ago this week that Robert Maxwell, one of Britain’s most colourful businessmen, tried to expand his portfolio of clubs by attempting to purchase Watford FC from a Mr. Reginald Dwight, better known as Elton John.

On 20 November 1987 the singer agreed to sell the Hertfordshire club, then playing in the old Division One, to Maxwell’s British Printing and Communication Corporation for £2million.

However, Maxwell already owned Derby County, who he rescued from collapse in 1984 with County in debt to the tune of around £1.5m – chicken feed by today’s multi-million pound deals, but a fortune in the mid-eighties.

Yet just six days later, on 26 November, his deal to buy Watford was dead in the water.

The Football League had stepped in and blocked the sale citing Maxwell’s other footballing interests. Their decision was upheld in the High Court. Maxwell was forced to back down.

Much debate has raged, over the last few years, about the effect of foreign money on the English game. Indeed I have contributed to that debate in this column.

But there is one thing I think we can all agree on: no one person or corporation should be allowed to get a stranglehold on our national sport.

What we have may not be perfect but we should be grateful that the game’s legislators, by and large, have the fans interests and the good of the sport, at heart.

@RichardBowdery

 

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