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The Richest Men in British Football

The money going round in the Premier League is now so dizzying, it's almost impossible to comprehend. In the 1980s and 1990s, when a very rich man such as Rupert Murdoch, Alan Sugar or Robert Maxwell decided they wanted to be involved in football, there was an almighty fuss. Each of them had vastly different agendas and results, but they were all under the microscope.

There's still a fuss when an Usmanov or a Glazer bulldozes his way in. But what's remarkable is how many billionares now buy into English football (and not even just in the Premiership) with few eyebrows even being raised any more. Take a look at the list of the richest after the jump.

Some of those names we are very familiar with; some seem obscure. I knew Tottenham's Joe Lewis, a caterer who lives in the Bahamas, was very, very rich, but I didn't know he was in Abramovich territory, for example.

All this investment is no wonder, of course, when even the Coca-Cola Championship and Carling Cup rights can be for over sold for $500 million. The exploding value of British football isn't news, but it still manages to blow my mind from time to time.


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John Terry turned out to be the wrong target when football was thrust into the
line of fire for paying “obscene†wages. For it seems that young footballers with
their designer clothes and “Baby Bentleys†are being nudged out of the training
ground car park by a battalion of ageing billionaires in their chauffeur-driven

Football's Rich List, drawn up by FourFourTwo magazine, reveals today that only
14 players are among the 100 most wealthy people in the sport. Terry, who took
the brickbats handed out by Gerry Sutcliffe, the Sports Minister, last week only
just squeezes on to the list in 95th place – a relative pauper, even if he is on a
reported £130,000 a week, by the standards of a sport where the top ten
measure their fortunes in nine figures and more.

They are the investors moving into football with their huge chequebooks and
inflated egos. The Rich List shows that the top ten wealthiest men in football are
worth a collective £27 billion, an astonishing sum that would make a small
Eastern European country envious.

Roman Abramovich, Chelsea's Russian owner, remains at the head of the field
with his £10.8 billion fortune, while the reclusive Joe Lewis, the East End
entrepreneur worth £2.8 billion and with a controlling interest in Tottenham
Hotspur, is second on the list. Alisher Usmanov, another Russian billionaire
whose net worth is calculated at £2.76 billion, moves into third place after
spending the year stalking Arsenal, while his rival for a seat in the boardroom at
the Emirates Stadium, Stan Kroenke, ranks eighth – but then the American is
worth “only†£1.2 billion.

Bernie Ecclestone, better known for his love of fast cars and as the commercial
brains behind Formula One, enters the list at No 4. He is the long-time Chelsea
supporter who used some of his £2.5 billion fortune to rescue Queens Park
Rangers this season.

David Beckham is the highest-ranked player and he scrapes into the top half at
No 45. But Brand Beckham stands alone as a one-man business empire backed
by the quest for global domination of Victoria, his wife and Spice Girl. Their joint
wealth is calculated at £112 million, three times more than Michael Owen, the
second-highest footballer on the list.

Beckham's vast array of personal commercial deals, underpinned by his £25
million-a-year contract with Los Angeles Galaxy, pitches him into another
earnings stratosphere. In any other area of business, Owen would be
considered an extremely wealthy man, proving to be a shrewd investor to build
up a fortune worth £37 million, but even that sum would not be enough to allow
him to buy his way into most boardrooms in the Barclays Premier League.

The biggest surprise is that Robbie Fowler, who is plying his trade with Cardiff
City, remains third on the list of richest footballers, years after his glory days with
Liverpool. Fowler has proved more astute with his money than he did with
handling football authority and his bank balance of £30 million has been
strengthened by a huge property portfolio built up around the North West to the
extent that a favourite chant with Manchester City supporters used to be (to the
tune of Yellow Submarine): “We all live in a Robbie Fowler house.â€

The new breed of footballer shows signs of following their lead: Rio Ferdinand,
the Manchester United and England defender, hired Pitch PR, a top City public
-relations firm, to explore how he could expand his interests for the future.

For the rest, though, it is often a case of turning up and taking the money. With
an average age of more than 61, the top ten wealthiest men in the Rich List are
the grey-haired rulers of the sport, who decide which players get the huge
wages that so enraged the Sports Minister.
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