Gary Neville suggests Leeds United future owners 49ers Enterprises represent danger to English football
Leeds United aren’t quite there yet but they’re almost a club that’s controlled by Americans.
In November 2021, 49ers Enterprises increased their stake in the Elland Road club to 44 per cent and have plans to complete a full takeover in the coming years.
The US group, who are the investment arm of American football franchise San Francisco 49ers, have the option to buy Andrea Radrizzani out of Leeds United by January 2024 with The Athletic reporting there’s a clause worth over £400million in their agreement with the Yorkshire club’s current chairman.
Since the 49ers increased their share of the ownership at Elland Road, Wisconsin-born Jesse Marsch has been brought in as manager and two USA internationals have been signed in the form of Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams.
It’s clear that the Americans are taking over not only in the boardroom but on the pitch too and former Manchester United right-back Gary Neville has offered a big warning about the increasing influence on the English game from across the pond.
Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United are all, in one way or another, owned or part-owned by Americans.
Todd Boehly became Chelsea’s chairman earlier this year and he’s proposed some radical ideas to reform football in England, from playing a North v South All-Stars game to suggesting a relegation play-off tournament.
It’s all nonsense and obviously the kind of thing an American would want in the Premier League if they weren’t calling for relegation to be scrapped entirely and force forward something as controversial as the closed-shop idea of the European Super League.
Either way, Neville isn’t impressed and has tweeted a warning for clubs who have an American influence in their boardroom.
Writing on Wednesday (14 September), he said: “I keep saying it but the quicker we get the Regulator in the better.
“US investment into English football is a clear and present danger to the pyramid and fabric of the game.
“They just don’t get it and think differently.
“They also don’t stop till they get what they want!”
Paraag Marathe, the president of 49ers Enterprises and Leeds vice chairman, hasn’t done anything to suggest he’d want a seismic shake-up of English football in his time on the board at Elland Road.
Speaking to LeedsLive last year, he basically rubbished the notion of the European Super League, placing a lot of importance on the fans of football clubs.
He said: “The one thing that I’ve seen that maybe doesn’t work as well is when people have a little bit of an emotional detachment from the club they’re investing in and they see it purely as a place to park money or to make an investment. You have to care. Anything that you do or anything that you want to build, you have to have passion. If you don’t have passion then don’t put a dollar into it.”
Neville may have a point about the likes of Boehly and the Glazer family.
But he shouldn’t paint all American owners in English football with the same brush.
In other Leeds United news, some major injury news for the senior team has been dropped this week ahead of the Under-21s playing.