Walsall taken over – another US investor in English football

WALSALL FOOTBALL CLUB have surprisingly been taken over by US investment company Trivela Group LLC of Birmingham, Alabama. The company have acquired 51% of the club’s shares from Leigh Pomlett, who decided to end his three-year tenure as owner. Pomlett took over from Jeff Bonser and is a long-time supporter of Walsall. Only a few days earlier, Pomlett told the local media that he was still proud to be chairman and that the club was “league one and above”. He now believes Trivela are the “right group with the right vision to help take the club forward”. The sum of money involved has not been disclosed.

Not a lot is known about Trivela, although it is common knowledge they were formed in 2021 with the mission of,  “creating enduring value through the acquisition and management of association football clubs”. Their team includes Benjamin Boycott, Kenneth Polk and vice president of global football, Matt Jordan. Polk is CEO of Arlington Family Offices, a firm that manages some US$ 12 billion of capital for wealthy families.

Walsall seems to be their first investment, but reports suggest this is the start of the construction of a multi-club model. Their arrival is another example of American investors snapping-up EFL and Premier clubs. US owners are rapidly becoming the most influential segment in English football.

Trivela have, apparently, injected cash into the club for strategic investment. It remains to be seen if they will adopt the date-driven approach which seems to characterise many US football club owners.

Walsall have spent the last three seasons in League Two, finishing 16th in 2021-22. Despite a mediocre period, the club’s home attendances were over 5,000 which was an improvement on 2019-20 and 2018-19. The club has been prudent compared to many of its rivals, and although this has meant they came through the pandemic relatively unscathed, fans have accused the current regime of lacking ambition.

Nevertheless, Walsall have reported a profit for 16 consecutive seasons, including a pre-tax profit of £ 13,000 in 2020-21 and £ 25,000 in 2019-20. Their turnover was a modest £ 4.2 million, compared to £ 5.6 million in 2019-20 and £ 6.7 million in 2018-19, an understandable development given the affect of the pandemic of gate income. Walsall’s wage bill was £3.1 million, more than 10% lower than the previous season, but 74% of income versus 62% in 2019-20.

With the arrival of Trivela, Walsall fans will be hoping for fresh impetus and more resources to build a better team on the pitch. The first phase of the transaction is taking a 51% stake in the club, followed by a second phase in which a further 25% will be acquired. An important part of Trivela’s takeover will be the purchase of the Bescot stadium freehold from past owner Bonser.