When Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson recently described his side’s chances of victory against Chelsea as a ‘David versus Goliath’ scenario in terms of resources, it summed up everything that has gone wrong with the English Premiership.
On this occasion Goliath comfortably triumphed 2-0 at the Riverside Stadium, but far from being just a result, it also signifies the monumental gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ in the top-flight – brought about by the invasion of billionaire foreign businessmen.
To say teams like Middlesbrough have nothing is pure folly given that they are run by Gibson, a successful local multi-millionaire. However even he is obviously starting to feel the pinch when competing with the £10.8billion fortune Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has to boost his club’s chances of glory.
His arrival set the trend which has also seen the likes of Malcolm Glazer take over at Manchester United, while fellow Americans George Gillett and Tom Hicks have pumped in a small fortune at Liverpool. Further down the scale and it is now no surprise to see Manchester City and Aston Villa flying high in the Premier League thanks to the respective billions of Thaksin Shinawatra and Randy Lerner.
These blokes even make the late Jack Walker look like a pauper and many attribute his money as the reason behind Blackburn Rovers’ Premiership title success in 1995.
You only need to look at the top and bottom of the Premier League to see what impact this invasion of foreign money men is having. Gibson’s Boro, Dave Whelan’s Wigan and Derby, whose chairman Adam Pearson is currently courting foreign investment, occupy the bottom three. Arsenal, with two billionaires vying to get into the boardroom – Alisher Usmanov and Stan Kroenke, Glazer’s United and the Abramovich-led Chelsea occupy the top three.
Are we heading towards a closed shop? How long will it be before the only way a club can enter the Premiership glory stakes depends on the owner’s background and how much money they have to throw around?