Why Crystal Palace should be wary of American Investment
Joshua Harris, above, is an American billionaire seeking to purchase 18% of Crystal Palace. He currently owns a basketball team and a hockey team in the United States.
It is the dream of many a fan of a mid-table club: the takeover by a new owner prepared to invest significant amounts of money. The ennui of the annual fight towards safety from relegation is replaced by dreams of cup runs and European nights. Crystal Palace, a club certainly in the ascendancy, have been given a further boost by reports that American investor Joshua Harris is poised to finalize the purchase of an 18% stake in the club. While supporters of the Eagles have every right to be excited about the cash influx, an examination of recent American investments in Premier League clubs could be a cause for caution.
Following Malcolm Glazer’s 2005 takeover of Manchester United, the Red Devils have captured five Premier League titles, three League Cups, and one European Cup. However, fans have repeatedly criticized the American financiers for over-commercializing the club and not investing as much money in the squad as rivals such as Manchester City and Chelsea. Similar critiques have been levied against Stan Kroenke since he became the leading stakeholder in Arsenal in 2009, although consecutive FA Cup titles have alleviated some of the concern that the club is perennially underachieving.
Compared to the other three Premier League clubs in which Americans have invested, Arsenal and United are massive success stories. Ellis Short gained a controlling interest of Sunderland in 2008, but the club remains in a constant battle against relegation amidst persistent rumors of a ruinous dressing room drinking culture. Randy Lerner managed to enjoy some success after taking over Aston Villa in 2006, but since Martin O’Neill’s departure the Villains’ fortunes have declined precipitously, and are currently facing the prospect of a first relegation in three decades. Shahid Khan purchased Fulham in 2013 at which point the Cottagers promptly dropped to the Championship, where there have been few signs of a swift return to the top flight.
Recent examples of regression after American investment in a Premier League club are alarming, but it is quite plausible that Palace would use any injection of capital to consolidate their position as a top-half side and challenge regularly for cups and Europa League qualification. An expansion of Selhurst Park as well as upgrades to the academy setup and training facilities could be wise improvements indicative of a longer-term approach. If Harris’ investment is approved, the decision-makers at Crystal Palace would be wise to study the successes and failures of the five Premier League clubs that have seen significant American investment. Where the club decides to invest any potential influx of cash could be critical to its long-term future.
By Daniel Schulwolf, an American follower of the Premier League. You can follow Dan on Twitter: @Dan_Schulwolf.