Big guns spark football showdown showdown
Sports marketing giant heads for clash with Uefa over plans to buy out clubs
Sunday 24 May 1998
IMG, which already owns the French club Strasbourg, is now targeting teams in Italy, Germany and even Hungary as international football moves in- creasingly from the playing field to the boardroom.
"We are currently having active discussions with clubs in Europe, South America and Asia," said Paul Smith, IMG's senior international vice-president, football division. "We think we can invest in several clubs simultaneously."
Although he would not reveal any names, Mr Smith all but admitted that Ferencvaros, Hungary's most famous team, is among IMG's targets. "The Hungarian club involved has an illustrious past, which badly needs a new injection," he said.
Hitherto, IMG has dealt almost exclusively in promoting and managing athletes such as Andre Agassi and Tiger Woods, and events such as the British Open golf championship. Mr Smith did not rule out the possibility of internal "transfers" between IMG-owned football clubs and players they represent.
"If we have a network of clubs and some of our players belong to those clubs, then clearly we could move the players around," he said.
Mr Smith said the example of Manchester United, which has become a hugely lucrative commercial venture, was partly behind IMG's plans. "We started thinking about ownership of football clubs 18 months ago. Manchester United have moved from being a sporting to a business success and that was the spur to see how we could develop our idea."
IMG's plans are bound to fuel fears that football could soon become the property of a network of global conglomerates. Uefa warned last week that it "reserved the right to intervene and take appropriate action" if more than one club was owned by the same company.
The European football body said that from next season, if two or more European clubs under common control appeared in the same competition, only one of them would be allowed to take part.
"We have to protect the integrity of sport," said Marcel Benz in Uefa's legal department. "We do not want a situation where, if two commonly owned teams are facing each other, the owner can order one of them to win in order to boost the share price."
Uefa's declaration was seen as a direct response to the expansion of companies like IMG and, more specifically, the English National Investment Company (Enic), which already controls three European clubs - AEK Athens, Slavia Prague and Vicenza - and has a stake in Glasgow Rangers.
The London-listed group said Uefa was in breach of European Union laws. In a veiled threat, Enic said it would "take any action it considered appropriate in order to protect its shareholders' interests".
English premier league officials said they sympathised with Uefa and stressed that multi-ownership could not happen in this country. This is because the Premier League rules state that, except with prior written consent, no club may "hold or deal in the securities of shares of another club".
A working party was recently set up to monitor the trend elsewhere, and a Premier League spokesman said: "We understand Uefa's position because it is not dissimilar to ours."
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
- 5 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Prince Philip set to be knighted by Australia: Celebrate by reading his greatest gaffes
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
iJobs Money & Business
£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...
£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...