Chinese Whispers – Is Brentford Being Bought Into By The Far East?
Billy Grant digs a little bit deeper into the Chinese takeover rumours floating around about Brentford at the moment
The day after Brentford were reported to have lost £7.5m, and owner Matthew Benham’s investment in the club was reported at £90m, a tiny story appeared in a national newspaper outlining the fact that Brentford were supposedly being targetted by a group of Chinese investors, who were considering a takeover bid.
Members of the International Investor Group including Chinese businessman Chien Lee CEO of NewCity Capital (a private investment company with a focus in investing in the hospitality industry) are now reported to be interested in investing in Brentford. No strangers to investing in football, International Investor Group bought Nice football club in 2016 and currently own 80% of the French League 1 side. The team, who infamously rescued Mario Balotelli from Liverpool reserves last summer, is currently battling away at the top of the French league – creating real opposition for title contenders Monaco and PSG.
On hearing the words ‘takeover bid’!!???
Immediately alarm bells started to ring.
It’s been no secret that Matthew Benham has been open to the idea of looking for outside investment for the Brentford as the club looks to make push for the Premier League.
It’s also unrealistic for people to expect the club to lose £7m to £15m each year, with the owner pumping in £15m a season, without any eventual end result. So you could say that this moment was coming for some time.
But the biggest selling point for fans to tip their hat for any moves Brentford might make to ensure that they ‘fulfil the dream’ was the fact that Matthew Benham continued to run the club. Most Brentford fans feel comfortable with a true Brentford fan at the helm. Anything else, at this moment in time, would be a walk in the park in the dark.
At Beesotted, we heard a number of rumours a while back about outside investment. Even Rio Ferdinand was getting in on the knowledge. A good six months or so ago, we got word that he had mentioned a takeover at Brentford to one of our sources.
We though we would try and find out a bit more info so we tapped up a few of our Chinese contacts to see if we could get any more light shed on these Chinese takeover rumours.
And it seems that there is no smoke without fire. There is Chinese interest in Brentford. But as for a Chinese takeover???
This ‘takeover’ fact seems to be well wide of the mark with any possible deal looking more like a partnership than a buy-out – with the investor buying a load of shares and working alongside Matt Benham. The rumoured split is said to be 50/50 – equating to a £30m investment from the Chinese investors. And all the money talk seems to be ‘football team related’ as opposed to also property (ie. the ground) related, which is one good thing. The memories of Ron Noades and his ‘spending lots of money then his threat to then take Griffin Park in return’ still are very vivid for many a Brentford fan.
So what does this all mean?
We discussed these Chinese Whispers at length on this week’s Beesotted Pride Of West London podcast (click link below) and asked what it all means for Brentford and the fans?
Well, first of all. Nothing. As from what we have heard from our Chinese contacts, it’s very early days. There seems to have been a bit of sniffing around. A conversation or three. But Brentford are currently still 100% owned by Matt Benham. And the deal may not progress any further.
But looking ahead. Even if this Chinese deal does not come to fruition, the appetite is obviously there from Brentford to get financial investment. So we can only assume if it doesn’t happen now, a deal will happen within the next few years.
How do the fans feel about this?
The fear every football fan has is the fear of losing your club. Will the external money men come in and transform the club for the good? For the bad? Will the club lose its identity? What about the club ethos?
What do they want out of it?
And who will be in control?
As I said before, the majority of Bees fans are comfortable and happy with Matt Benham in control. He’s ‘one of us’ so the trust is there. Is this likely to change? There have been too many horror stories of investors getting involved in football and ruining clubs, so fans have a right to be nervous.
OK, if anything does happen, it may be deemed a partnership as opposed to a takeover. But what if Matt Benham decides to sell his shares five years down the line – then Brentford would be a club 100% owner by investors in the same way that Wolves and West Brom and Birmingham and Aston Villa are?
If so, is this a good thing?
Is this just the way football is going?
Do the fans have any say in this at all? OK, we don’t officially own the club, but we are a big part of it.
Will the club be talking to the fans and asking them?
We have contacts in the PSG Ultras (Auteuil end not Boulogne Boys by the way) who have spoken to us about the success of PSG, which has made them better as a club on the pitch, but stripped away any identity they had off it. We will be talking to them in the coming weeks about how the Qatari money has affected their football for good and for bad.
Lots and lots of questions. Not many answers as yet, but to be fair, it’s very early days.
Hopefully, as things unfold over the forthcoming weeks, months or even years, the fans will be kept fully in the loop.
No matter how much money a club may have, the fans are the centre of every football club. Without fans, football is nothing.
To ensure that Brentford continues to be the club that we all know and love, it’s absolutely essential that the fans are fully involved from very early in the whole proceedings of moving the club forward.
In the mean time, we wait with baited breath on the next instalment of this story to unfold.