Skip to main content

"If you want some accessible but informative insight into football then I suggest you couldn't do better than the Political Economy of Football website, which is not only intelligible but comes with the added bonus of being written by Addicks fan Wyn Grant."
Ben Hayes - Charlton Athletic programme

The multi-club model


New Charlton Athletic owner Roland Duchatelet owns or has interests in five other football clubs: Standard Liege, FC Brussels and AFC Tubize in Belgium; (through his son) Upjest FC in Hungary; and Carl Zeiss Jena in Germany. He is also said to be eyeing Ad Alcorin in the Spanish second division.

What is the motivation for such a multi-club model? Charlton blogger New York Addick has considered its possible commercial merits:

'The concept isn't particularly new (for example ENIC owned stakes in multiple clubs), but it has been brought to the forefront again most notably by the Pozzo family which owns Watford, Udinese and Granada.

The Watford experience would seem to suggest the potential use of effectively a large single pool of players, initially to benefit the 'junior' club in the arrangement (in this case Watford) for the longer-term benefit presumably of the two more senior clubs.

Such an arrangement requires not only the judicious use of the loan system and 'fudged' permanent signings, but also a manager willing to agree to such an arrangement. However whether this model is preferable to utilising the existing loan/transfer system (albeit with a larger budget for fees and wages) is far from clear.

Indeed it is notable that Udinese have fully 30 players out on loan, of which 24 are at 'non sister' clubs (including Matej Vydra now at WBA, having previously starred at Watford). In short maintaining such a large centralised squad is expensive, especially if some (like Vydra) are playing 'below their station' and demanding to be paid accordingly.

Moreover the relative hierarchy of clubs within the club is by definition fluid - for example Watford get larger crowds than both Udinese and Granada, yet play in the second tier of its domestic league. The money available upon promotion however would dwarf both of their sister clubs.

So the key therefore must be to understand the overall goal of the group owner - if it is to maximise group earnings then using the likes of Udinese/Granada/Liege to give Watford/Charlton a cheap way to be leapfrogged into the Premiership has some obvious merit. However what happens once they get there? A juggling act with each club's fans feeling entitled to special treatment no doubt.

In terms of other potential synergies between group clubs, whilst I'm sure a management consultant would happily go wild with Powerpoint, in truth they are somewhat limited given cross-border complexity (despite the very high fixed costs of running a club). One might imagine the possibilities of say a centralised online operation for tickets/retail, or the benefits of a centralised scouting system for example.

Negotiating power for commercial deals would be enhanced when representing several clubs, but it would hardly be formidable in the face of the type of global brands all owners crave.

Yet if the owners wish to maintain the option to exit from any of the clubs if a suitable offer is received in short order, then does it make sense to make the clubs less independent operationally than they otherwise would be?'