Football is a tale of two financial worlds

Cantillon: What is it with Irish property investors and unfashionable UK football clubs?

There is another less-gilded level to the beautiful game. And there always seems to be Irish businesspeople sniffing around it. Photograph: Getty Images

There is another less-gilded level to the beautiful game. And there always seems to be Irish businesspeople sniffing around it. Photograph: Getty Images

 

When Real Madrid and Juventus clash on Saturday some of the most expensive footballers on the planet will take to the field: Gareth Bale (if he overcomes injury), Gonzalo Higuain and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo. The combined starting lineups could be worth close to €500 million.

There is another, altogether less-gilded level to the beautiful game, however. And there always seems to be Irish businesspeople sniffing around it.

Low-profile Meath auctioneer and property developer Anthony McMullen has in recent weeks attempted to buy AFC Telford United, which plays in the sixth tier of English football.

According to local reports, McMullen wanted to buy a 51 per cent stake and offered Telford £250,000 upfront, or up to £20,000 per month to build up his stake.

Telford has previously experienced financial difficulties, and wants to raise £500,000. It has already raised a portion of that by selling 35 per cent of the club. Apparently the talks between McMullen and Telford last month went badly, and they have rejected his approach.

This appears to be the fifth club that McMullen has attempted to buy, often in deals fronted by Roddy Collins. He made a play for Longford Town during the crash, but was rebuffed.

Then he tried to buy Scottish club Gretna. Then Rotherham Town. He succeeded in buying a 50 per cent stake in Scottish club Livingston, but failed with a bid to take control of the lot. It has since been taken over by other investors.

Umbro Ireland’s John Courtenay once owned Carlisle, while Irish-Spanish property magnate Darragh MacAnthony chairs Peterborough. Then there is the Irish Drumaville consortium that once owned Sunderland.

What is it with Irish property investors and unfashionable British football clubs? Football investments are for love, but definitely not for money.

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