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Volume 7 No. 149
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Buyers Eye Lower-Level Football Clubs In Order To Crack EPL

Compared to the ultra-expensive EPL, acquiring a club in one of the leagues overseen by the English Football League is becoming an increasingly interesting proposition for foreign buyers. "There is no doubt that Premier League clubs are exceptionally expensive; just look at the investment that has gone into Manchester United and Liverpool," EFL CEO Shaun Harvey said on Wednesday at SBJ's Dealmakers in Sports conference in N.Y. The EFL encompasses the three levels of professional football underneath the Premier League in England and Wales. Harvey: "For the 72 clubs across the English Football League, the Premier League can be on the horizon, as well as the goal of increasing their financial value, as well as the status that it brings."

Recent investments into teams in the EFL pyramid by American owners include Shahid Khan's '13 acquisition of Fulham, which was promoted to the EPL this season. Also, Wes Edens in July acquired a portion of Aston Villa, which plays in the League Championship. "Each club has different aspirations. For some it's promotion; for some it's just to stay in the league; for some it's to benefit their community," Harvey said. "My mandate is, what can be done to the benefit of the collective."

Meanwhile, the EFL's recent five-year deal with Sky Sports was valued at more than $764M, an increase of 35% over the previous deal. The league also holds central sponsorship rights for the collective clubs, from which it distributes to each club. But while many new owners in lower-level football are keen on chasing promotion to the EPL, Harvey noted that there is the opposite operation risk. "If you're going to look at the big upside of promotion, you also have to recognize the downside of relegation," he said. "Last year's prize for getting promoted to the Premier League was 175 million pounds, but the hidden fact of that is that you have to spend the majority of that to compete in the Premier League."