Most Controversial Football Club Owners
Most Controversial Football Club Owners Of All Time

The list will blow your mind

Joe Lewis, the 86-year-old Bahamas-based billionaire owner of Tottenham Hotspurs, has been indicted for 16 counts of securities fraud and three counts of conspiracies by the US attorney in Manhattan. The indictment noted that Lewis made billions in his fortunes by revealing secret trading information to his associates. Lewis used the tip-off from board members to inform his close ones about when to buy and sell the shares. Lewis persuaded his girlfriend to buy $700,000 of shares in Solid Biosciences and cautioned his two pilots to sell their shares of Australian Agricultural Co. because of the potential loss.


As soon as Lewis’ indictment came out, all eyes were directed towards the future of Tottenham Hotspur. But they have separated themselves from Lewis, even though he still has some shares in the club. “Tottenham Hotspur Limited has filed changes to its register of persons with significant control (PSCs) following a reorganisation of the Lewis Family Trusts. The new PSCs of the company are the officers of the family’s discretionary trust,” said the club’s spokesperson.


Lewis, however, is far from the most controversial owner. We look at some of the most notorious corporates that are ruling the roost in European football.


The Glazers Family, Manchester United



If the history of Manchester United under the ownership of The Glazers is ever written, the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson will be the perfect demarcating point. The trophy-laden era under Ferguson did well to paper the cracks in the wall. Once Ferguson retired, the club fell from grace, and all the years of financial neglect and mismanagement came to the fore.


Since then, the fans have consistently been at loggerheads with the Glazer, and they have registered their protest in various ways. The Glazers are accused of playing with the emotions of the fans, and using the club as a proxy to fulfill their debts.


The animosity intensified when it was revealed that Ed Woodward, the henchman of The Glazers, was a key figure in hatching the plot for European Super League.


Roman Abramovic, Chelsea



A ruthless owner and an astute businessman, Roman Abramovic made Chelsea a world-beating club in a very short span of time. What separated Abramovic from the likes of The Glazers and Qatari owners is the connection he was able to forge with the club supporters. It’s hard to find Chelsea fans, even the politically conscious ones, who don’t harbour love and admiration for this Russian oligarch. What’s harder is to find someone who thinks Abramovic is a clean businessman. Corruption charges against him kept mounting as fungi deposit on a slice of stale bread.


Abramovic confessed to rigging the deal with the Russian government, to whom he sold a company he bought for $250m at $13bn. He was also accused of getting multiple favours from the Russian government in the build-up to the 2018 World Cup. During his time at Chelsea, the Russian billionaire secretly funded the acquisition of a Dutch football club. Abramovic didn’t bother to renew his UK Visa after its expiration in 2018. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Abramovic was sanctioned and his assets were frozen by the UK. 


Qatar Sports Investments, Paris Saint-Germain



If there’s a face of sportswashing that is sweeping not only football but other sports across the world, it has to be Qatar Sports Investments. They triggered took this phenomenon with the extravagant acquisition of Paris-Saint Germain, and then spent lavishly on some of the hottest properties in the world football. The iconic troika of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and Lionel Messi is a testament to their owner’s gargantuan financial muscle. Every loophole in financial regulations has been meticulously found and exploited by the club.


Sheikh Mansour, Manchester City



How competitive the modern football has become? So much so that some clubs are now willing to pay the human rights violation as a price for those glittery silverware. Success has come thick and fast, ever since Manchester City were acquired by Sheikh Mansour, the Man City’s owner whose family rules Abu Dhabi. They won multiple Premier League titles, and ended their agonising wait for the Champions League glory this year, and will go down among the most dominant footballing entities. But that hasn’t deflected the abysmal human rights record and financial malpractices of their owners. 


Earlier this year, the club was accused of over 100 financial breaches from 2009 to 2018. They tried to dupe the regulatory bodies by showing overestimated revenues and underestimated expenses. Amnesty International accused Sheik Mansour of using the sporting success to hide the “deeply tarnished image” of the state. 


Public Investment Fund, Newcastle United



After Abu Dhabi and Qatar, it was Saudi Arabia that decided to take its share of pie in the European football. The Public Investment Fund, a Saudi-led consortium, completed the historic takeover of Newcastle United in 2021. 


“Instead of allowing those implicated in serious human rights violations to walk into English football simply because they have deep pockets, we’ve urged the Premier League to change their owners’ and directors’ test to address human rights issues,” Amnesty UK chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said about this deal.

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