Chapter 1: A climacteric of corporate crisis and over-reach
In 1983 the directors of a middling English, top-tier football club, Tottenham Hotspur, scented the wind of market forces stirred by Thatcherite economics. They converted the club’s status into a public limited company (plc). By the attendant listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) they aimed to bring in millions of pounds from a share issue. This income could be used to ‘buy’ expensive, quality players to give the team a competitive edge in fighting for trophies. The scheme succeeded in attracting some new capital, but not for winning many trophies. By 1999 twenty top clubs in professional English football had become plcs. The collapse of the international investment bubble in 2000, and clubs’ inability to convert massive TV incomes into consistent share dividends, diminished the attractiveness of corporate status. Most clubs subsequently ‘de-listed’ but their removal into the sphere of big business was irreversible. Many became private businesses bought and owned by rich benefactors, speculators or overseas corporations. Some, like Manchester United, continued listing to exploit their international brand recognition and tap more overseas investors. As of 2014 Manchester United was listed on the New York stock exchange (NYSE) had an income of £420 million, operating costs of £373 million and debts of £350 million. Directors were exultant about selling the brand to mass audiences in North America and more shares to investors on the NYSE (Guardian 2014).