Foreign owner would destroy identity, say Real

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The Independent Football

Real Madrid would never allow a foreign investor to take over the club because it would lose the identity it enjoys around the world, a spokesman for the Spanish side said yesterday.

The club's commercial director Begona Sanz told the Soccerex conference here in the Middle East that Real, who are nine-times European champions, had too much tradition to permit the kind of overseas involvement that has happened in the Premiership.

"It is difficult to understand a club like Real Madrid without its social base," she said. "From grandparents to grandchildren, our club is run by 80,000 members who are a big part of our history. We would lose much of our personality and glamour.

"We have a long tradition, we are a social entity and it would dramatically change. I think we are successful enough without the need for foreign ownership. We are a healthy club with high income so don't have to go another way."

The Chelsea chief executive, Peter Kenyon, recently said that the Premiership champions aimed to be the biggest club in the world by 2014 but Sanz predictably shrugged off such wild claims. "Our history is there, our aim is always to be number one - coming second is failure. And that includes Chelsea," she said. Meanwhile Chelsea's group business affairs director Paul Smith defended the club's transfer activity since Roman Abramovich arrived as owner.

"Although it is popularly reported that money is endless at Chelsea and we just dive into the bank when when we feel like it and pull out a few million, the reality is that we are on a publicised pledge to balance income and expenditure by 2010," said Smith.

"All we've done in the last three years is overspend in order to compensate for the fact that in the previous 20 to 30 years there had been under-investment. What we want to do is get to a position where we utilise investment in our academy system."

However, he admitted that Chelsea's fan base needed to be improved to match those of other leading clubs at home and in Europe. He said: "We need to be respected by different parts of the football community. There is no question that we have a fan base that is pretty selective, that goes to see big games but doesn't have the tradition of going to see every Chelsea game whatever the weather. We have to work on that."

Smith also denounced the idea of a United States-style salary cap for Europe's major leagues. He said: "It is totally unworkable. Europe works on a free market basis whereas sport is America is communistic."