As the most prestigious league in English football other than the Premier League, a slot in the Championship is a great goal for a team to achieve. Not only is it a worthwhile opportunity in itself, it’s also an opportunity to compete for a spot in the biggest prize of them all – the Premier League. But like many aspects of modern football, there’s a clear financial dimension to Championship football as well.
Getting into the Championship is a fantastic way to show potential financial backers that you’re a team with a strong potential, while from an investor’s point of view the high degree of publicity that Championship teams achieve almost always makes it worthwhile. But just who is funding teams in the Championship, and what benefits does their financial support confer? This article will explore who is behind the monetary magic that keeps many Championship teams afloat, and what this much-needed investment assistance actually looks like.
Evangelos Marinakis – Nottingham Forest
Evangelos Marinakis, who owns Olympiakos in Greece, took over Nottingham Forest back in 2017. At first, it appeared uncertain that he would end up being the owner: a group of companies based in the US were looking to lead the takeover of the club, but in January, when it was revealed that this was no longer likely,Marinakistook over from previous owner Fawaz Al Hasawi who had been in office for five years.
Marinakis paired up with another Greek businessman, Socrates Kominakis, to launch the deal. Marinakis has spent a lot of time in Britain, having gone to school in Watford. When asked to describe why he decided to launch his £50m takeover of Forest, he said: “I think that it doesn’t take long to decide, even if you have a choice, which team to go for. When you see all this tradition and all these achievements, of course this club has the potential to grow and achieve victories that the whole region deserves.”
Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens – Aston Villa
Nottingham Forest isn’t the only club to have received an injection of external cash recently as part of an ownership or takeover bid. Birmingham-based Aston Villa has also seen some changes – believed to be to the tune of £30 million. Earlier this year, Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens each purchased a 27.5% share in the company, so that between them they own more than half of the club.
Upon becoming new backers, the pair also received titles reflecting their roles. Sawiris is designated executive chairman, while Edens is now described as a co-chairman. According to press reports, the pair managed to carry out the takeover in the extremely fast time frame of just nine days.It’s believed that the two business people were watching the World Cup when they got their idea, and within less than a couple of weeks they owned their stakes.
Guochuan Lai – West Bromwich Albion
Last year, the new owner of West Brom – Guochuan Lai – made a substantial investment believed to be worth in the region of £200 million. Overall, Lai is believed to be worth nearly £2.8 billion, suggesting that the cost of the takeover was simply small change. When he bought the club, the former owner – Jeremy Peace – was made so rich that he began featuring on lists of the wealthiest businesspeople in the wider Birmingham region!
But while other Championship football magnates are often willing to take a high public profile, Lai avoids this altogether – and not much is actually known about him and how he operates. According to local press, Lai is based in China – although he is believed to have promised to come out to West Brom and visit the club from time to time.
Overall, then, the Championship is clearly a hotspot for investment. With the combined value of Championship clubs believed to rest at well over one billion euros, it’s apparent that this division sees plenty of investment action – and that not everything is focused on the high profile, glamorous teams of the Premier League. Looking at the individual backers of Championship teams, it’s possible to confirm that investment appetite is still strong the further down the leagues you go. With backers like Evangelos Marinakis of Nottingham Forest and the Sawiris/Edens combination of Aston Villa clearly showing strong financial interest in the Championship, there’s no reason to assume that demand for a slice of English footballing action will drop away any time soon.