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Why 3rd party ownerships could actually serve to benefit football

Queens Park Rangers look set for a Premier League return for the first time in fifteen years after what has been a superb season under Neil Warnock. But despite the club’s dominance of English football’s second tier this season, Rangers could see their automatic promotion challenged by the Football Association relating to seven charges of an alleged third-party agreement regarding the midfielder Alejandro Faurlín, with a hearing set to take place on May 3rd.

If found guilty of any or all of the counts, the sanctions range from a warning to a points deduction. The club have remained overwhelmingly confident that they will not be deducted points throughout the process to date, and it is hoped their superior tally will buffer any points sanctions they could be faced with.  We will have to wait patiently before discovering the club’s punishment, and it will be interesting to see which precedents the FA employ to put QPR’s offences in to context. There are several recent incidents where the issue of third-party ownership has provoked a major point of contention, but why are its benefits so quickly ignored by the English FA? And is there any way some of the principles which motivate such a culture across Europe and South America could be used to some of English football clubs’ advantage?

The Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano transfers to West Ham in 2006 first brought the issue to English football’s attention, particularly as both players at the time had been linked with the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United and had apparently been signed for as little as £12million. No disrespect to the Hammers, but in hindsight, Tevez’s assertions at the time that, “other clubs in the Premier League and Europe were interested in us but when we met Alan Pardew he made us both really feel wanted,” with Mascherano adding: “Pardew talked about his vision for us and the club and we both became very excited,” are a little difficult to take seriously considering what we now know.

A tumultuous and prolonged saga to determine a punishment for the Upton Park club ensued, and the Premier League decided to fine them £5.5million and refrained from invoking a points deduction that many had thought justified at the time. The fact that Tevez was allowed to stay until the close of the 2007 season raised eyebrows, but the Argentine actually contributed 3 goals as West Ham won their final four games to avoid relegation, and was undoubtedly the most significant factor in the club’s survival. The Irons have endured a turbulent few years since, a marked contrast from the optimism of the day when both Argentines arrived in East London, but at least their fans can recall the year when two of the most sought after properties in world football opted to play for West Ham above a host of others, and how one of them single-handedly saved the club from Premier League relegation.

Wouldn’t all fans of clubs with a similar stature to West Ham welcome a situation whereby some of the most exciting talent could be enticed by sharing the players fee with private investors and therefore reducing the risk should the player fail to make an impact? Although investment funds which are set up intentionally to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the global football transfer market are often observed with caution and suspicion, they have the power to afford lesser clubs the opportunity to use some of the best talent. Even though players future transfer activity would remain in the control of the investors, the club still benefit from adding previously unattainable quality to their squads which only serves to the fans’ advantage.

In June last year, Kia Joorabchian, the man who brokered the deal for Tevez and Mascherano to sign for West Ham, secured a 50% share in Brazilian midfielder Ramires, with a further 30% owned by agent, Pini Zahavi. When the player completed a move to Chelsea two months later for a fee of £17million, Joorabchian pocketed a reported £6million as part of the deal which took Ramires to Benfica from Cruzeiro the previous year. Benfica were essentially taking a risk on the player’s talent by fronting a percentage of his transfer value, reaped the most out of Ramires’ abilities during a successful League-winning campaign, and received a reasonable amount of his future transfer fee based on their original investment.

The Premier League’s cautious approach to the issue of third-party ownership is perfectly understandable considering these principles exacerbate the trading of human beings and fail to reward the efforts of smaller clubs in developing young talent. However, there are several ways whereby player ownership by private investors can serve to benefit football, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a middle ground reached in the coming years facilitating the easing of the Premier League’s currently rigid rules.
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Article title: Why 3rd party ownerships could actually serve to benefit football

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