Dein predicts more foreign buy-outs

UP TO THREE more Premier League teams will come under foreign ownership within the next year, former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein predicted last night.

Dein left Arsenal under a cloud six months ago after irreconcilable differences with the board regarding overseas investment and subsequently sold his 14% stake in the club to Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov for £75million (€107.8m) with a view of eventually returning to the club.

Such hopes appeared to have been dashed by the recent ‘lockdown’ agreement announced by the remaining board members, which all but squeezed Dein out.

But he is still highly regarded in football’s corridors of power and was a key speaker at the International Football Arena in Zurich.

Still fiercely in favour of foreign investment, Dein said it was only a matter of time before more Premier League clubs fell into foreign ownership.

Without identifying them, he said: “I can tell you now that two or three clubs are looking for new owners and that this will happen within the next 12 months.”

He also insisted foreign players were good for the game despite recent calls for a quota on overseas imports.

“I understand the argument for home-grown players but the game has moved on,” Dein said.

“Why is the Premier League so successful? Because it has brought the best players in the world to England.”

“Does anyone worry that Cesc Fabregas is from Spain or Michael Essien is from Ghana? Fans are only interested in one thing — a winning team.

“Virtually 60% of the players in the Premier League are from overseas. You can’t say it’s fine to have that but not to have foreign ownership too.

“The Premier League is a hot product. I have not come across one billionaire investor who is in the game for anything other than the enjoyment of the sport. They are not there to rape the club.”

Dein warned, however, that unless ticket prices come down over the next few years, grass-roots fans would suffer.

He said: “If we are not careful, we will price out a whole section of society. It’s a sad indictment if you take a way a whole layer who can’t afford to go.

“With all the monies coming in from TV, sponsorship and investors, something has to go back to the fans.”

Speaking on the same forum as Dein, Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon said many of today’s club owners were far more scrupulous than their predecessors.

“It’s a wrong assumption to say just because they don’t come from England they are rotten,” said Kenyon.

“We have got to be careful because there were people from England running clubs who were rogues and vagabonds. Football always talk about the past being better than it is today and a lot of it wasn’t.”

Tottenham sporting director Damien Comolli is confident Dimitar Berbatov will not be looking to move in January following a meeting with the Bulgaria striker’s agent.

“It is simply not an issue,” said Comolli. “I met with Dimitar’s agent and he assured me Dimitar is not looking for a move and wants to concentrate on helping the team push up the table. He is on a long-term contract with us and Juande (Ramos) sees him as an important part of our plans.”

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