Wolves fans recently bid farewell to Jack Hayward, the local businessman who rescued the club he supported as a boy and helped to lift out of the mire. Hayward, who died aged 91, represented the old type of club chairman and benefactor, the local man who wanted to put something back into the institution that captured his imagination in his youth. There have been plenty of them in football down the years – Jack Walker at Blackburn and Burnley’s Bob Lord spring to mind. And there are others who helped prop-up ailing clubs in their time of need – Ken Bates, not always a popular figure, certainly did his bit for Chelsea in that direction.
There was a time when the local businessman and his pals were enough to keep provincial clubs in clover. Then there were the super-rich (in relative terms) such as the Moores family in Liverpool, an empire built on the pools that benefitted both Everton and Liverpool. Today, if your chief investor isn’t an oligarch or oil magnate from the Middle East, it’s impossible to compete at the highest level.
Jack Walker was among the first really big spenders when he took over Blackburn in 1991. At the time, he really did seem like a breed apart from most club chairman and his capital injection not only built a better Ewood Park, but also enabled Kenny Dalglish to develop a team – built around the strike force of Alan Shearer (£ 3.3m) and Chris Sutton (£ 5m) that was good enough to win the title – which it did in 1995
Hayward invested something like £ 70m of his personal wealth into Wolves and never really saw much in the way of payback. In 2009, it was estimated that he was worth something like £ 160m, so the extent of his generosity is there for all to see.
Bob Lord was never as wealthy as either Hayward or Walker, but he was a big noise in Burnley, owning a chain of butcher’s shops. But Lord, never seen as a lovable figure, had vision and transformed his home town club. In 26 years, he presided over the club’s second Football League Championship, in 1960, developed a youth system that was the envy of many clubs, and made Turf Moor into a modern stadium that was back streets ahead of most rivals. He also pioneered the football specials, trains to take fans to away games. He loved Burnley even if people didn’t always appreciate his bluntness and stubbornness.
These benefactors were all pivotal in the history of their clubs, but compared to the new generation of club owners, it was all small beer – which is ridiculous when you consider the amounts involved. The problem is the benchmark has become very high and even clubs like Arsenal and Liverpool can no longer keep pace with the uber-rich from the steppes and the desert.
How it has changed – current ownership or influence versus the past
|2014-15||1970 – driving force|
|Arsenal||Arsenal Holdings Plc (maj. Shareholder Stan Kroenke (US) 66%)||Hill-Wood family|
|Aston Villa||Reform Acquisitions (Randy Lerner & Family) – US||Doug Ellis|
|Burnley||Mike Garlick – 47.33% shareholding (UK)||Bob Lord|
|Chelsea||Roman Abramovich (Russia)||Mears family|
|Crystal Palace||4 x local businessmen @ 25% (UK)||Arthur Wait and colleagues|
|Everton||Limited co. Bill Kenwright 25% shareholding (UK)||Moores family|
|Hull City||Assem Allam (UK-Egypt)||Needler family|
|Leicester City||King Power Intl (Thailand)||Shipman family|
|Liverpool||Fenway Sports Group (US)||Moores family|
|Manchester City||City Football Group (Anglo-Arabic – Abu Dhabi)||Alexander family|
|Manchester United||Manchester United Plc (US)||Edwards family|
|Newcastle United||Mike Ashley (UK)||Private limited company/Westwood family|
|Queens Park Rangers||Tune Group/Mittal Family (Thailand/India)||Jim Gregory|
|Southampton||Katharina Liebherr (Switzerland)|
|Stoke City||Coates family/Bet 365 (UK)||Albert Henshall|
|Sunderland||Ellis Short (US)|
|Swansea City||Swansea City Football 2002 Ltd (UK)|
|Tottenham Hotspur||English National Investment Company (UK) – 85%||Wale family|
|West Bromwich Albion||Jeremy Peace (UK)|
|West Ham United||Maj. Shareholder David Sullivan – 55.6% (UK)||Cearns family|