England fears of foreign take-over of Premiership

According to Tom Bower in The Observer. Richard Scudamore, the "gung-ho chief executive" of the English Premier League, "now risks being devoured by his new paymasters and the consequences for English football could be catastrophic." The author of Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed and the Souring of British Football (Simon & Schuster), Bower claims that "over recent weeks, some of the nine foreign owners of Premier League clubs have been quietly discussing Scudamore's dismissal and his replacement by a non-British executive. Their motives are financial. Having spent millions to buy the clubs and many more millions on foreign players, they are impatient about inadequate profits.

"Scudamore, they complain, is an amateur compared to his American peers. 'Only the Americans know how to really market the Premier League brand,' says a football agent close to the foreign owners. 'They've got Scudamore with his unsophisticated "Third World" mentality. A proper marketing expert could earn millions more from the most exciting sporting fixture in the world.' To maximise the profits, the foreign investors argue, the Premier League should be rebranded and marketed like Coca-Cola."

Bower predicts that Scudamore's successor is likely to be an American "without any interest in the 37,500 English clubs affiliated to the Football Association, or the Premier League clubs' commitment to the England team." The Premier League's relationship with the FA, already frail as a result of Scudamore's disdain, would be further jeopardised. With at least four more Premier League clubs, including Everton, Arsenal and Fulham (owned by the would-be Brit Mohamed al-Fayed) expected to be sold over the next year or so, the balance of power is inexorably tilting in the foreigners' favour.

"No alternative scenario seems feasible. To remain in the Premier League with a chance of qualifying for the lucrative Champions League requires tens of millions of pounds to buy new players. Liverpool, for instance, have just signed the young Spain striker Fernando Torres for an improbable £26 million, a club record. One of Liverpool's main rivals, Arsenal, have in recent seasons begun to struggle because much of the club's money was spent on a new stadium, the 60,000-capacity Emirates, rather than players. Depressingly, none of the club's potential buyers is English. That is consistent with the absence of any Englishmen offering to buy West Ham, Aston Villa or Portsmouth. Even Liverpool were never destined to be bought by a wealthy local fan.

"The English are cashing in their national sport to earn fast money. Greed is not the only reason. No Englishman, it seems, has the vision and ability to secure an adequate profit from Premier League football as an owner," he warns.

The 'sell-out' in numbers?

Number of players from outside the UK and Ireland who started the opening matches in the first weekend of the Premier League in 1992

Players from outside the UK and Ireland in the Premier League at the end of last season

Average annual salary in pounds at the start of the Premier League in 1992. Scott Parker is to earn that amount in a week at West Ham

Millions of pounds paid by Sky in 1992 for live broadcasting rights contract, for five years

Billions of pounds paid by Sky and Setanta for live broadcasting rights over the next three years

Millions of pounds generated by the sale of overseas TV rights in a three-year deal that will see the Premier League shown in 208 countries

Number of foreign managers. There were none in 1992

Percentage by which the combined revenue of Premier League clubs outperformed that of the sides in Italy's Serie A in 2005-06

Number of Premier League clubs with foreign owners. In 2003, there was just one, Fulham, whose owner had lived in the UK for 30 years

Thousands of pounds paid by David Dein in 1983 for his stake in Arsenal. Described by club chairman Peter Hill-Wood as 'dead money', his shares are now worth around £60m