HomeSportsTom Brady's Blues: Birmingham's relegation proves fame is no guarantee of success

Tom Brady’s Blues: Birmingham’s relegation proves fame is no guarantee of success

<span>Birmingham City were relegated to League One on the last day of the Championship season.</span><span>Photo: Mike Egerton/PA</span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/o78aomP0K1KCdh6WUtw1xw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_guardian_765/15debf2c937a7fd 0b6df11c776e67419″ data-src= “https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/o78aomP0K1KCdh6WUtw1xw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_guardian_765/15debf2c937a7fd0b6df1 1c776e67419″/><button class=

Birmingham City were relegated to League One on the last day of the Championship season.Photo: Mike Egerton/PA

Tom Brady was nowhere to be seen as Birmingham City dropped to the third tier of English football. The next day, however, he was in Los Angeles for Netflix’s The Roast of Tom Brady, a live TV special that featured Bill Belichick, Kevin Hart and many others bringing in the seven-time Super Bowl winner.

“I see your football team has dropped another level in the English Football League,” Belichick, Brady’s former coach, said from the podium. “For those unfamiliar with English football, thanks to the intricacy of their obscure regulatory system, I’ll put it for you in English: they suck! It’s not that easy to lead a team, right Tom?

Whatever Brady’s shortcomings as the minority owner of Birmingham City, The Roast of Wayne Rooney would likely be more popular at St Andrew’s given the former England striker’s role in the club’s relegation. Blues were sixth in the Championship when manager John Eustace was sacked in October. However, under Rooney they plummeted and lost nine of fifteen games. He only lasted 83 days, the club’s season never really recovered and their fate was sealed on the final day of the season.

Few clubs would have hired Rooney in Birmingham’s situation. Eustace got Blues moving in the right direction, while Rooney was largely unproven as a manager at Championship level. However, the gloss of celebrity proved irresistible to an ownership group that already had stars in its eyes following Brady’s arrival (the club, under different ownership, made a similar mistake in 2016 when replacing the successful Gary Rowett with Gianfranco Zola, who won subsequently only two of his 24 games in charge).

Related: Should other clubs chase Wrexham’s American success story?

Birmingham City is not the only English club with a famous owner. In fact, Blues’ relegation came on the same day news broke of Will Ferrell’s investment in Leeds United. The Anchorman star – who was a guest at Brady’s Roast – joined Russell Crowe, Michael Phelps, former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook and golfers Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas as investors in 49ers Enterprises, the ownership group that invested in Leeds in 2018. star JJ Watt is co-owner of Burnley, which looks set to leave the Premier League this season. Actor Michael B Jordan has a stake in Bournemouth. Then of course there’s Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney who bought Wrexham and made the Welsh club the subject of the hugely popular docuseries Welcome to Wrexham, which has just started its third series.

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In Wrexham’s case, streaming numbers have come with successive promotions, meaning they face Birmingham in League One next season. In other cases, however, glitz and glamor has not brought success. That certainly applies to Blues (in fairness to Brady, his ownership stake is reportedly only 5%, and it’s doubtful he makes the day-to-day decisions at the club).

Of course, celebrity ownership is nothing new in English football. Sir Elton John owned Watford for more than ten years and achieved great success. He took the club from the fourth tier of English football to the top in just five seasons. Reynolds and McElhenney have to take that into account. Delia Smith is still the joint majority shareholder of Norwich City.

However, those owners were fans of the clubs they ultimately bought. They already had a connection with the local community. Now football clubs are investment opportunities in a global market. For a Hollywood celebrity, a stake in an EFL team is simply part of their portfolio, which could also include a tequila company and a sneaker brand.

The number of celebrities in English football has grown as the sport has woken up to the power of content. When that content is placed at the heart of a wider strategy, celebrity ownership can make sense – there’s an element of PR in Welcome to Wrexham, but McElhenney and Reynolds play an active role in the running of Wrexham, and there’s no doubt that the club has been better off since then. they took over. However, what is Birmingham’s strategy with Brady as owner, even with a smaller stake than McElhenney and Reynolds? What exactly does he bring to the table as a passive investor who may or may not show up to sign autographs, kiss babies or buy drinks once or twice a season?

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“As chairman of the advisory board, Brady will apply his extensive leadership experience and expertise to various areas of the club, including working with the sports science department to advise on health, nutrition, wellness and recovery systems and programs,” Birmingham wrote in a statement accompanying the announcement of Brady’s investment.

Is there any evidence of Brady’s on-field wellness expertise? Have strawberries been demolished from the club canteen?

While celebrity ownership works well in the US, where sports are generally considered part of the entertainment landscape, it is a trickier fit for English football. Clubs are so deeply entrenched in their communities that the arrival of a new celebrity owner barely registers. Will Leeds sell more tickets now that Ferrell has a stake? Is the idea that fans will be so impressed that they will spend more money in the club shop? You shudder to think of the half-and-half scarves from ‘Stay Classy’.

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Cynically, some investment groups may push celebrities to buy a stake in their clubs to give the impression of ambition, without backing it up in any meaningful way. After all, it’s easier to email a pitch deck to an actor or NFL star than it is to build a strong front office and scouting network. If Birmingham City had done the latter, they might have stayed in the Championship.

Birmingham’s owners Knighthead Capital Management have made a stronger impression off the pitch than on it. The club has plans to build a new stadium and has already purchased land for the project. This is in addition to renovation work on Birmingham’s existing stadium, which was in a state of partial neglect when the new owners arrived last summer. They have also invested in the club’s charity, which lay dormant under the previous ownership, and are helping disadvantaged families in the area, whether they are Birmingham fans or potential supporters in the future.

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“The bond that is forming between owner and fan base is already enormous,” says Chris Goulding of the We Are Birmingham podcast. “Despite dropping to the third tier again, there are fans from most generations who believe this is the most optimistic they have ever felt about our future.”

Many fans believe that the club is heading in the right direction in the long term and that Birmingham could be on the same trajectory as Ipswich Town, who went from League One to the Premier League in two seasons. And it’s not like Brady’s greatness is expected to make a difference in the results.

“The shares really just feel like a sign,” says Goulding. “His friendship with Tom Wagner seems more like the reason for his involvement. Whether its sporting prestige can undergo any meaningful adjustment remains to be seen. I’m not sure if he’ll make too many visits to the club next season when we host the likes of Cambridge and Exeter, but you have to wonder if Wrexham’s visit might turn into a celeb-fest.’

Either way, Knighthead’s legacy will be defined by what happens on the pitch and the New York-based investment fund is undoubtedly off to a bad start. While mistakes have been admitted – “we made one decision that we wouldn’t have made if we went back in time,” Wagner said of Eustace’s firing and Rooney’s hiring – they were made. And it is far from guaranteed that Birmingham will recover quickly. League One is a quagmire that big clubs can get stuck in – just ask Portsmouth.

English football is having a moment. Stars will continue to invest in clubs. Ferrell won’t be the last celebrity to get involved. Boardrooms across the country are starting to resemble the couches of late-night chat shows – or a Netflix roast, in the case of Birmingham. However, not every celebrity-owned club can be a Wrexham. The relegation of Brady’s Birmingham highlights that.

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