One thing that has characterized the Premier League has been how it has been receptive to non-British individuals on the field of play and in the boardroom. In particular, the Premier League has seen an influx of American owners and majority shareholders within the last decade.
On Friday, the latest American to became the owner/majority shareholder of a Premier League team as it was announced that the owner of the NFL‘s Jacksonville Jaguars, Shahid Khan had bought 100% ownership of Fulham FC from Mohammed Al-Fayed for £150-200 million ($226-302 million).
Khan joins Randy Lerner, the Glazer family led by patriarch Malcolm Glazer, and Stan Kroenke as Americans who own or have owned both an NFL team and a Premier league team. Within this group of American owners, and including the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) who owns Liverpool, the success of American owners as Premier League owners has been mixed.
While it could be said that it is unfair to single out the American owners of Premier League teams, that does not mean that one cannot draw some conclusions and that Fulham fans should not be nervous of the team’s new American owner. First and foremost, Khan has yet to establish himself as the owner of the Jaguars, this therefore means there is too much uncertainty in truly knowing what kind of owner he will be.
While Khan has publicly expressed a desire to keep his Jaguars team in Jacksonville and made some financial commitments to show he is committed to keeping the team in the city, many are still unsure. Some may speculate that his purchase of Fulham plays into the idea of the Jaguars someday in the future moving to London (which is very very unlikely to ever happen).
For Fulham fans, Khan owning the team should be a concern as they will be made to wonder if this could in the long run, indirectly affect the finances of the team that plays it’s games at Craven Cottage. In many ways, this was an issue at one point with Aston Villa when Randy Lerner was questioned as to whether he could own both the Cleveland Browns and the Midlands based team as it was perceived he was not giving his manager enough funds to make significant signings.
Another reason why Fulham fans should be nervous are the contentious relationships that have existed between fans of Premier League clubs and their American owners. The two most contentious have been those between the Dan Hicks and George Gillet who owned Liverpool prior to FSG (as they were hated for virtually running the club into dismal financial situation) and the Glazer family with Manchester United.
Despite the success Manchester United has had with the Glazer family as owners of the club (granted it could be said that the success was because Sir Alex Ferguson still “ran” the club), the Glazers have never been embraced at all by the majority of Red Devils fans.
The upside for Fulham fans is that the current manager of the club, Martin Jol, is a man who knows how to run operations and has made some quality signings to ensure that the team has the potential to remain a mid table team for the 2013-14 season.
Given the past and current situation of Premier League teams who are owned or have an American as the majority shareholder and questions about Shahid Khan as owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Fulham fans have some well placed fears about what awaits their club for the long term.