Come on you, Amazon. Get stuck in, Apple. Knock it long, Tesla. Even if you have a direct investment in these companies, do you find yourself cheering them on at their office at 3pm on a Saturday? Or if you’re in Asia, staying up long into the night to keep track of their results? At most, you’re checking them the following morning, but football is different, somehow. It probably does not bear thinking about but if you’re a fan of a football team, with a few notable exceptions, you’re essentially a fan of a business. While the worlds of business and sport have blurred to the point where you’re never far from some nerd telling you about a football club’s net spend, it’s not something any of us like to think too much about. The league table might still be more important than the Forbes rich list for fans but the crossroads of sport, business and politics is a car crash. Wigan triumphing over adversity but EFL has to answer Instead of rubbernecking, though, the relationship between fans and teams is one where blind eyes are turned. How else can you explain some of the things that go on? The response of Newcastle United fans to the failed takeover by a Saudi Arabian-backed consortium is a case in point. The Toon Army has bombarded social media with calls to allow the consortium to take over the club after they pulled out of a deal. “When I read about the redundancies, as an old Gooner, my heart sank.” “This is a complete PR disaster.” “I’m used to my club, The Arsenal, doing things the right way.” #Arsenal legend Perry Groves is fuming with his former club’s redundancy plans pic.twitter.com/j4UNBlSL25 — talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) August 7, 2020 Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners was leading a £300 million buyout, funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That’s the same MBS that the US Senate adopted a resolution holding him responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The prospective owners pulled out after “an unforeseen prolonged process” amid pressure on the English Premier League from human rights groups and a Qatari television partner. Now, with Magpies fans raging online (largely because Manchester City are owned by Abu Dhabi) there is a petition doing the rounds calling for clarity and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has joined calls for the EPL to make a statement. Why amid a pandemic the PM has time to offer an opinion on football ownership is a different issue, but having seen him at Soccer Aid he would be better off leaving football well alone. Are Wigan Athletic woes just Birmingham City 2.0? Amnesty International, who were among the loudest voices to oppose Newcastle’s potential takeover, have written to the EPL asking them to update their “hopelessly unsuited” Owners’ and Directors’ Test to take human rights abuse and sportswashing into account. The current test does not mention “human rights”, but even where there is no state-sanctioned sportswashing there are issues with ownership. Arsenal, owned by the US-based Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, announced that the Covid-19 crisis will force them to sack 55 staff. This is the same club that is reportedly ready to offer Chelsea’s Willian a three-year £100,000 per week deal. The Brazilian turns 32 on Sunday. This is the same Arsenal who pay Mesut Ozil a reported £350,000 per week and do not play him. There are those who have pointed to the German’s wage in relation to the impending dismissals but it’s symptomatic rather than causal – the club can still afford to pay Willian even if they cannot pay their staff, after all. Ozil was vilified earlier this summer for being one of three players who refused a pay cut. The other two remain unnamed but Ozil is chastised for his stance, despite ESPN reporting that he offered to take a higher pay cut if the club said what they would do with the money. He may have had a point. Even much-lauded Liverpool fell foul of fan ire for furloughing staff before a backlash-fuelled U-turn. Long gone are the days when the local boy done good ploughed his money back into the club. While the emotional attachment to football clubs has not diminished, the club’s role as a community asset has long diminished. Finger-pointing, the Philippines and EFL – what happened at Wigan? Football clubs are businesses first and foremost, and therefore susceptible to everything that goes on in the business world. Take Wigan Athletic, who lost their appeal against a 12-point deduction for going into administration. They were taken over by Hong Kong-based International Entertainment Corporation, who sold them to Next Leader Fund in June. At the time, IEC and NLF were both majority owned by professional poker player Stanley Choi Chiu-fai. He dropped NLF once the takeover was confirmed, and Au-yeung Wai-kay subsequently dropped Wigan days after apparently spending £40 million plus on the club. IEC’s share price soared after selling the club, from which Choi stood to make £40 million for himself. Wigan, meanwhile, are looking for a new owner, manager Paul Cook has left and the best players are following him out the door. And they will play in League One next season. No wonder that Wigan fans, among others, are leading calls for the English Football League to amend the Owners’ and Directors’ Test. Foreign owners get a bad press and none more so than the Chinese, something that is unlikely to change in the current climate, but they are far from all bad. Fosun-owned Wolves are in the last eight of the Uefa Europa League, where they could meet Suning-owned Inter Milan. Chinese-owned clubs making mark in Europe like never before The Milan side have just signed Alexis Sanchez from Manchester United and have been linked with Lionel Messi should he leave Barcelona, but still coach Antonio Conte complains about the owners, which seems a bit rich. The truth is, in the business of football, we fans are often more invested than any owners.