The acquisition of ownership of Chelsea Football Club in the summer put American Todd Boehly in the spotlight. Boehly, front man for a consortium of investors, now runs one of the most visible clubs in the world.
Just a few months after taking over, Boehly jumped headfirst into club management. More recently, he has made some controversial statements about the future and health of English football.
On Tuesday, Boehly suggested the Premier League introduce an American-style “All-Star Game.” The idea pits northern clubs in Manchester or Liverpool and the Midlands against those in London and the south. Ideally, the American wants the game in preseason, using the proceeds to fund clubs further down the league pyramid. This is badly needed, but could perhaps be better achieved in other ways. For example, Premier League clubs themselves can commit more money to grassroots efforts and lower leagues.
In addition, Boehly also raised the idea of a “playoff” for relegation, similar to that of Germany. He echoed those thoughts for European venues, a platform used in the Netherlands.
Boehly’s Chelsea unveils something new for American ownership in soccer
The previous high-level experience in the sport that Boehly boasts is managing the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball. It should be noted that the All-Star Game is a concept that originated in baseball. Traditionally, baseball prioritizes the regular season more than other American sports. More recently, however, MLB expanded its playoff structure, taking some of the importance out of the regular season.
In particular, the suggestion of the All-Star Game caused controversy in the United Kingdom. Even Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp denounced the idea after their Champions League victory on Tuesday. The idea doesn’t seem like a start, but it’s critical to assess why Boehly would do it in the first place.
To truly understand Boehly’s suggestions, we need to review his first few months in charge of Chelsea. Also, examine the long-term ownership goals that he and his group want. His management is likely to be very different not only from his predecessor at Chelsea, Roman Abramovich. Boehly’s time at Chelsea will be unlike that of other big club ownership groups.
Initially taking control, Boehly decided to fire all three of Chelsea’s top executives. He did so without designating logical replacements. Rather, the American took the reins, albeit only temporarily, on the sporting side of the club. He bought and sold players in the same way that long-term executives or sporting directors would at clubs comparable to Chelsea. Boehly did this despite having no experience in European football.
Boehly’s summer of transfer fees and the quick trigger of manager Thomas Tuchel’s sacking has many in the UK media upset. For example, popular pundit and former Manchester United player Gary Neville has complained that Boehly is playing a real-life version of “Football Manager.” From the point of view of the seasoned analysts of the English game, Chelsea overpaid for several transfers. Instead of plugging holes in the squad, he added pieces to a side that overloaded certain positions.
To be fair, Boehly inherited an unbalanced team. However, he has become even more out of control since taking over from him.
A key factor to understand when evaluating Boehly is that his group is largely private equity and investment banking. Clearlake Capital, Boehly’s group, differs from other US investors in the big clubs. The objective is to increase the value of the asset they have bought, rather than short-term profits and float a club publicly.
This makes Chelsea’s business model different from that of the Glazer family at Manchester United, for example. The desire for short-term profits and annual dividend payments are at the heart of Glazer’s management at United. However, Boehly appears to be a long-term player. He wants to increase the value of the asset he manages for the consortium he represents.
This also explains his quick-activation appointment of Graham Potter from Brighton, a manager who is a stylistic builder, rather than a short-term results-oriented one.
Premier League All-Star Game
The suggestion of an All-Star Game to fund the pyramid is largely about increasing Chelsea’s value. Strengthens the health of the pyramid of English football. Boehly, unlike other American owners, wants a healthy structure. Therefore, the assets he manages continue to appreciate in value.
This is a different approach from other American owners, such as FSG in Liverpool and the Glazers. In fact, the Glazers were the masterminds of the infamous Project Big Picture. This 2020 proposal targeted five major Premier League clubs for an even bigger financial advantage over the rest of the pyramid.
“I think it’s incredibly arrogant to talk about a league you don’t know…”
Thierry Henry and @Carra23 are not in favor of Todd Boehly’s All-Star Game idea. 👀 pic.twitter.com/JqipSCFvvE
– CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 14, 2022
Boehly’s All-Star Game suggestion is ludicrous on an already packed schedule. His playoff suggestions rankle traditionalists nationally in the sport. But fundamentally, he is looking at this from a different angle than the owners of Liverpool and Manchester United in the United States. Boehly is probably looking at Manchester City’s stability with its declared “holistic” approach as a model to emulate. However, given his background in American sports, he comes with the usual American sports tips.
It’s easy to dismiss Boehly’s All-Star Game and playoff ideas as standard Americanization. It is much deeper than that. His recent suggestions are irritating and ultimately unnecessary. Unlike some of Boehly’s American-owned counterparts, he is considering a long-term project. That project focuses on increasing the visibility and, consequently, the economic viability of the English game.
He believes this will ultimately benefit Chelsea and the investors it represents going forward.