- Words Matilda Carnall
As more and more celebrities from Ryan Reynolds to Jay-Z pour their cash into UK football teams, we dig into why celebs are going gaga for the pitch.
In an unexpected development in the world of football, it has been reported that Jay-Z is interested in buying Tottenham Hotspur FC – despite being a fan of north London rivals, Arsenal. The news arrives as more and more celebrities make their move into football, substituting athletic prowess with pocketfuls of cash to inject into teams from the bottom all the way to the top Premier League sides.
Just last month, Stormzy sunk his teeth (and royalties) into AFC Croydon, becoming joint owner alongside Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha and former Crystal Palace kitman Danny Young. While the three-man consortium seemingly acquired the team as a tribute to their shared hometown, other club purchasers have done so for less obvious reasons – especially those across the pond.
NFL superstar Tom Brady just bought a minority stake in Birmingham City and became their new advisory board chairman. And, back in December, Michael B. Jordan bought shares in AFC Bournemouth off the back of partner, Las Vegas-based businessman Bill Foley. Meanwhile, in a surprising show of big fish in a tiny pond, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenny acquired Wrexham FC, a small team in Wales, in 2021. Welcome to Wrexham was thus born, a Disney+ docuseries based on the Hollywood pair’s attempts to revive the third-oldest professional association football team in the world. With no prior experience but a keen interest to connect with the sport, since the deal in 2021, the duo have brought in a huge income hike from merchandise, media rights, and sponsorship.
The question still stands, though, why are stars buying football teams? While McElhenny was said to be inspired by Sunderland ‘Til I Die, as well as the influence of Humphrey Ker who would watch association games in the writers’ room of Mythic Quest, the general consensus seems to be a combination of money, love for the game, and to enhance their international image.
Ownership in football clubs is a lucrative business; despite it being a long-game investment that can take years to see financial returns, Hollywood stars have the means to wait it out. It’s also a decent move from a marketing standpoint – you’re using your money for the better by helping to bring success to a team – no matter how big or small.
It’s not a new fad, either, even though the number of Hollywood dwellers dipping into footie is certainly on the rise. Elton John became chairman and director of the then-Fourth Division Watford FC in 1976, having supported the Hornets since childhood. Today, he’s still honorary life president, having owned the club twice, and continues to show his lifelong support. Lebron James, from a somewhat different kettle of fish, owned a minority stake in Liverpool for over a decade, and even American sweetheart chef Delia Smith has her foot in the door, being the joint majority shareholder of Norwich City with her husband.
A growing number of celebs are turning their attention to The Beautiful Game – and finding new revenue streams in the process, which means that struggling teams are getting the energy boost they need to survive, while higher League teams continue to succeed from the ongoing support, which can only be a good thing. Plus, if it means we’re any closer to Beyoncé moving to London for Jay-Z’s new Spurs venture, we’re all for it.