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Do football Club owners create Value?

Bull, Mike and Whittam, G (2016) Do football Club owners create Value? In: 8th International Social Innovation Research Conference, 05 September 2016 - 07 September 2016, Glasgow. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Schumpeter suggests that the role of the entrepreneur is to create greater value. This paper focuses on football, and football club owners in questioning and contesting not just if club owners create value – but more specifically, value for whom? And at what cost? The questions bring to the fore commodification and a profit maxim versus community asset and a utility maxim. We question the current pursuit of football clubs where owners have sidelined the indigenous fan base to satisfy their thirst for global market growth, at the expense of heritage and social value of the ‘club’. There have been various critical papers written on the subject of the changing nature of professional football, however, little has been written on this topic from a social value perspective. Therefore, whilst focussing on football club owners, our research questions commodification of public utility in the pursuit of globalisation through the commercialisation of clubs and the capitalisation of supporters as club assets to the detriment of social and cultural value. Our theoretical framework utilises Parsons’ systems theory, in particular, Groen et al’s (2008) four capitals adaptation to analyse 'sustainable value creation' (a blend of strategic, economic, cultural and social). Groen et al’s model is used to map ownership of each of the 44 clubs in the top 2 divisions of English football. Following this we draw attention to some examples in highlighting different forms of ownership. Our findings suggest the main current of ownership is in transition and movement towards economic and strategic capitals, which we argue is unsustainable as it comes at the expense of other forms of capital. The mobility of ‘charlatan entrepreneurs’ in this industry is a major concern to us as academics and football supporters. Although the work of unscrupulous owners in football is nothing new, our approach is. We highlight the finite balance between the four capitals that as Groen et al claim, should balance in order to achieve (blended) sustainable value creation, where the changes in football club ownership are putting the sport in a precarious position.

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