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    Entrepreneurial Charlatans?- The selling of the soul of Football Clubs

    Bull, Mike and Whittam, G (2014) Entrepreneurial Charlatans?- The selling of the soul of Football Clubs. In: ISBE's 37th Annual Conference, 05 November 2014 - 06 November 2014, Manchester. (Unpublished)


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    Objectives: Schumpeter suggests that the role of the entrepreneur is to create greater value. Using the example of ‘the business of football’ the paper argues that whilst in some cases the selling of professional football clubs to entrepreneurial owners may result in increased commercialisation and profitability - is this always creating greater value? We question the current pursuit of football clubs where owner-entrepreneurs 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’. Prior work: There have various critical papers written on the subject of the changing nature of professional football, however, little has been written on this topic from an entrepreneurial perspective. Approach: This paper offers a theoretical perspective suggesting that ‘entrepreneurs’ who take acquisition of a professional football club may undermine the value of the club and accordingly be termed; ‘entrepreneurial charlatans’. Results: By analysing the activities of ‘entrepreneurial charlatans’ the paper finds that rather than adding value these entrepreneurs are subtracting value, which is having a damaging impact on the individual club level in terms of a ‘glass escalator effect’ with entrepreneur-led parachute finance, creating unsustainable clubs and also at the national level in creating unbalanced leagues. Implications: Whilst the governing bodies of football clubs have certain regulations applicable to the running of football clubs these tend to be ineffective in curbing entrepreneurial charlatan behaviours, such as ‘heritage stripping’ (rebranding) and debt finance. In terms of supporters, they cannot as easily move from Tescos to Sainsburys like supermarket shoppers. We highlight the subtraction of value and the ‘voice’ of the supporter. We question if owner-entrepreneurs of football clubs are capitalising on the perceived values of their clubs for global adoration to the detriment of the foundations of the football clubs social values themselves – have they ‘sold the soul’? Value: This paper contributes to the underpinning literature by questioning the ‘added value’ that entrepreneurs have made in the business of football. Indeed the paper develops a new concept, that of the ‘entrepreneurial charlatan’, people who seek to create greater value yet rather than add value to an asset, in the football club context, they subtract value.

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