Professional wrestling and soccer are two realms that simply do not mix (despite my unsuccessful attempts).
Sure, they both involve thousands of spectators cheering on their favourite stars—who in turn spend much of their performances rolling around, feigning injury—but beyond that, the similarities are scarce.
Which is why it may come as something of a surprise to hear speculation that could soon see the paths of these two strangers cross.
World Wrestling Entertainment owner Vince McMahon has been linked with a shock move to take full ownership of Premier League side Newcastle United in what would be one of the biggest shocks to world football ever seen.
McMahon is reported to be interested in purchasing the club from current owner Mike Ashley, and a bid could materialize in the not too distant future with the Londoner reportedly keen to sell the Magpies.
Now first of all, let me fill in those who aren’t familiar with world of English soccer.
Newcastle (all one word) United are a Premier League team currently sitting ninth out of 20 in the 2013/14 standings.
Nicknamed the Magpies after their black and white striped shirts, in total they’ve won the English top division on four separate occasions. However, recent success deserts them—the last of those four League triumphs came almost 87 years ago in 1927. Thus they’re by no means one of the top sides of the modern era, but the city itself is one of the UK’s largest and most colorful.
Anyway, enough of the history lesson—back to the topic in hand. It’s something of an unexpected link, but foreign ownership (particularly from the U.S.) is fast becoming a growing trend in the English Premier League.
So could we soon see Mr. McMahon in charge of the Northeast club?
For starters, we’ve seen U.S. ownership work out well for Premier League clubs in the past. Boston Red Sox chiefs John Henry and Thomas Werner currently own fourth-placed Liverpool FC, while reigning champions Manchester United are presently in the hands of Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer and his family.
The Glazers ownership was initially opposed due to fears of increased debt, however United are currently ranked the fourth richest side in the entire world with revenues of over $582 million, per BBC News.
Not bad, huh?
Other sides including Aston Villa, Sunderland and Fulham are under American ownership, while St Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is now the majority shareholder of London side Arsenal.
Long story short, U.S. ownerships have worked before so there’s no reason why it can’t work again.
Furthermore, Newcastle’s current owner—British businessman Mike Ashley—is not the most-loved man within the city. Famed for necking a pint in the stands and braving freezing conditions to don the club’s shirt, it’s Ashley’s history that doesn’t endear him to the Newcastle faithful.
A Londoner born and bred, he encroached on Northern territory with his ruthless acquisition of JJB Sports and has been regarded as an unpopular figure ever since.
So it’s certainly possible that the Newcastle fans will welcome McMahon but would this really be a venture that the WWE Chairman would be keen to pursue?
More often than not, foreign ownership in the Premier League tends to be for the purpose of pleasure rather than business.
The likes of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, and the Abu Dhabi royal family at Manchester City, have each used their football clubs as more of a toy than as genuine profit-hunting business projects. The latter’s losses of roughly £75 million in the 2013 summer transfer market are testament enough to such a sentiment.
And if there’s one thing that McMahon is it’s a businessman. You can almost guarantee that he won’t want to incur such losses if he were to take charge at Newcastle.
And while it may be possible to overlook such costs and attribute McMahon’s interest to a pursuit of pleasure—why would he purchase a soccer club of all things? It’s certainly a rather random passion to have suddenly emerged at the ripe old age of 68.
Then there’s also the argument that McMahon could use Newcastle to expand his sports entertainment empire. St. James’ Park stadium holds over 52,000 spectators—leading some to speculate that Vince could use this venue as a method of further tapping into the British wrestling market.
But an open-air stadium in the UK is hardly the ideal location for a wrestling show—particularly when temperatures in Newcastle regularly touch freezing in the winter months.
It’s an arrangement that could work but one that seems risky. And Vince McMahon didn’t get to where he is by taking chances that don’t make good business sense.
While it may not be impossible, it certainly seems improbable. Few men have managed to turn modern day soccer clubs into viable profiteering businesses and even fewer have done so at the age of 68 with no prior experience.
As much as I’d love it to happen—and trust me, I would—for me this one seems a little too farfetched.
But what do you guys think?
Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts on the article and any of the points covered. And here’s to hoping Vince proves me wrong!