Book review: Caesars, Saviours & Suckers

August 2, 2017 No Comments »
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Surveying 10 football clubs, at the whim of foreign owners, Bob Holmes’ book details the stories of the good, the bad and the ugly stalking the game



Football’s changed. It’s not what it used to be. It’s all about money… Let’s be honest, many things have changed since the creation of the Premier League — the internet, house prices, politics, the size of Cadbury’s Crème Eggs.

The success of English football — namely the Premier League, and certainly not the England national side — has been phenomenal. And the international interest in investing in the UK has not been specific to sport — many of our best-known industries and brands are now foreign owned; many good, many not so much.

So foreign owners in football is not necessarily a bad thing and Bob Holmes’ book — subtitled ‘the good, bad and ugly of football’s foreign owners’ — acknowledges that. Indeed how many Chelsea fans or Man City fans regret their takeovers? Similarly, while it’s nice to be nostalgic, there’s no issue with a globally popular industry having globally interested finance.

Of course, there are always many different outcomes — some owners are good, some owners are just terrible; and it doesn’t matter where they’re from. And nicely bookending the Fawaz Al Hasawi years, Nottingham Forest fans are only too familiar with an egotistic, shambolic regime that really was only in it for the fame and money. Similarly, some just don’t work out despite best intentions.

As the introduction states: ‘The verdicts are as mixed as their motives and the jury is still out in some cases. Overall, the successes far outweigh the crackpot moments and the Premier League would not be a must-see for a sizable chunk of mankind without them. But what is becoming increasingly apparent is the widening disconnect between owners and fans. Successes on the field and on the balance sheet are not always in tandem, and sometimes the very DNA of the club will feel tampered with.’

However, like any journalist, Holmes is interested in the story — and the 10 clubs he’s chosen have some ‘cracking’ ones to tell. From Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers to Notts County, Portsmouth and Queens Park Rangers, it’s a great job of revealing as much as possible of the inside story with detailed research and telling quotes from well-placed sources.

The story of Nottingham Forest is wrapped up in 48 pages of the 364-page book but does a good job of summarising the increasingly desperate and disastrous Fawaz years. Contrasting the shambolic post-Cloughie era, culminating in the ill-fated Gang of Four consortium, with the Nigel Doughty years and the subsequent five years, Holmes — if you can bear it — reminds us of the City Ground’s misfortunes.

The chapters on the other nine clubs are an interesting counterpoint in how bad — or good — things could have been. And as Forest turn from one foreign owner to another, there can be — as it currently stands — no clearer example of the difference between a good owner and a terrible one.

Caesars, Saviours and Suckers: The Good, Bad & Ugly of Football’s Foreign Owners is available from Amazon from £9.99.

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