Back again to talk about football (soccer), but this time it’s about the English clubs. On February 29, the Water Cooler reported that most of Italy’s major football Serie A league’s clubs were in the red. Today, we’ll focus on the losing proposition of England’s smaller football clubs.

The February 25, 2024 Sunday Business section of The New York Times summarized this predicament with the headline: “To Own a Small English Soccer Club, Plan to Bleed Cash.” The irony of the article is that the Times is notoriously negligent in covering football in its (now) limited sports pages, but it hit the bullseye in its business pages.

The thrust of the Times story was that taking over a low-tier team, even one in the sixth tier, can be a costly undertaking, and yet, according to the Times, “there are plenty of very wealthy people who want to buy their way into English [football].” With private equity firms and sovereign wealth funds entering the field, the Times explained, “even the rich can feel poor.”

Even though acquiring a minor-league team doesn’t even come close to those in the Premier League, where, for example, billionaire Jim Ratcliffe spent $1 billion to buy a 25 percent stake in Manchester United, one has to nonetheless be prepared to invest at least $10 million for a sixth-tier team. The article warned that even in this case investors should be “prepared to hemorrhage cash.”

Naturally, even reaching the third professional tier of the Football League means some $1.2 million a year in broadcasting revenue. Only two teams can be promoted to the Football League (while two are demoted to the semi-professional league), but the costs of achieving the goal of getting out of the lower leagues are becoming prohibitive.

In 2022, the latest available figures, the clubs in the National League’s three divisions reported a combined loss of $25 million, and 66 percent of the league’s teams, reported the Times, were insolvent.

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