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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Yanks Owning Teams Abroad

I am watching Aston Villa play Manchester United. As with most EPL games, the pace is furious. The fans are very close to the pitch, they chant or sing during the entire game, and the quality of play is very high. Manchester United is valued at over 1 billion dollars, and is one of the richest sports franchises in the world. Aston Villa, one of the many London clubs, is not at that financial level, but both teams have something in common. They are owned by Americans. Not by a souless corporate entity, but by individuals.

In the case of Manchester United, the Glazer Family of Florida runs the show. Malcomn Glazer and his sons also own the Tampa Bay Bucs of the NFL. A year ago, they were hated at Old Trafford for buying the team, taking it off the stock exchange, and burdening it with huge debt. They exited the prestigious Champions League during the group stage. During one appearance by the sons of Glazer, Joel was rudely derided by the Man U faithful. Apparently, things are better this year. Manchester United is top of the EPL table, and they are doing much better in the Champions League. Nothing like a winner, right? I am certain that the Glazers only want to build on the fantastic Man U tradition, and create additional fan bases throughout the world. Hopefully, the good people of Florida will be guaranteed at least one annual Manchester United appearance for the forseeable future.

In the case of Aston Villa, Randy Turner, owner of the Cleveland Browns, took a different approach. He didn't alienate the supporters with massive initial changes, and actually attended a few games in person. Not a true soccer man, Mr. Turner did great things with the Cleveland franchise. Let us see how he fares in the EPL.

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