The Leipzig deal – in 2009 the energy drink conglomerate bought the playing rights of a fifth-tier side to gain entry to the German football pyramid – was controversial but is part of a new wave of multi-club ownership. Red Bull have teams in Salzburg (Austria), New York (United States) and Bragantino (Brazil), to provide revenue streams across the world.
Manchester City have gone one better, putting together a portfolio of 10 interconnected teams in New York, Melbourne, Japan, Uruguay, Belgium, China, India, Spain and extends as far as ES Troyes in the French second division. Even Watford’s owners, the Pozzo family are majority shareholders in Udinese and used to own Granada. Leicester City’s owners, the Srivaddhanaprabha family, also controls Belgian top flight side OH Leuven. Players are frequently ‘transferred’ between these teams, which more closely resemble franchises. Many see it as the future of club ownership, with differing rules surrounding who can own what across Europe.