The Americanization of the Premier League

Valentin Siskind and Mohammed Arham

The English Premier League is widely regarded as the most competitive and enthralling football (soccer) league in Europe, rising to the pinnacle of the sport. Football as a whole has steadily increased in popularity in the United States, with a single Premier League fixture between Arsenal and Manchester United receiving over 2.2 million views.

Chelsea’s spending spree casts an image of a spoiled child.

By the end of the recent January trade deadline day, Chelsea Football Club (FC), under their new American owner Todd Boehly, spent over $600 million over the course of two transfer windows. This ridiculous sum was spent on young players in an effort to rebuild a squad that had been debilitated by injuries and age. Boehly acquired the club in May 2022 for $5.25 billion, making Chelsea the fourth of the “Big Six” Premier League teams to be owned by Americans, alongside Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal.

Many Premier League fans aren’t in favor of the way that American owners are transforming the football landscape of England’s top division; Chelsea’s spending spree casts an image of a spoiled child getting whatever toys they desire without working and winning for their success. Other teams’ fans, like Manchester United, have had long-standing tensions with their club’s owners, as the Glazer family’s 2005 acquisition of United paved a path to years of debt and hardship for one of England’s most historically successful teams.

Another English club suffering from American ownership is Liverpool FC. Current owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG), who also own the Boston Red Sox, have conveyed their interest in selling some or all of their stake in the club. Recent reports have come out stating that FSG has focused on repaying debts, which potentially maximizes profit from their investment in Liverpool, instead of bolstering the squad. This is having dire consequences as the team currently sits 10th in the Premier League, a far cry from their previous stature as Champions League finalists just the year before. Owners like FSG see teams as business opportunities instead of historic, culture-filled institutions with thousands—if not millions—of passionate fans around the world.

However, there is a glimmer of light in the darkness of American ownership in British football. In November 2020, Ryan Reynolds’ acquisition of Wrexham AFC was backed by 98.6% of the club’s Supporters Trust. Through his role as co-owner with Rob McElhenney, the pair have given the 5th division Welsh club a place in the global spotlight, with the docuseries “Welcome to Wrexham” drawing thousands of new fans to the club. Wrexham’s Football Association cup tie against Sheffield United was the most viewed match of the weekend, surpassing games played by Liverpool, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, and other top European teams.

Football has only been getting more popular in the US, with the women’s National Team success and the men’s run into the 2022 World Cup feeding fans’ excitement across the country. The US jointly hosting the next World Cup with Mexico and Canada will only add fuel to the fire of American passion for the “Beautiful Game.”

This article also appears in our February 2023 print edition.