Santa Clara – The 49 San Francisco players have increased their minority stakes at Leeds United FC in the Premier League as the NFL team moves to increase their global presence.
49ers Enterprises, the team’s sports and entertainment division, announced Monday that its investment has more than doubled in its third year of partnership with Leeds owner Andrea Radrizani.
The event features a growing presence of 49 executives to help manage the future of the EPL team, including a more friendly experience for fans and the development of business interests around Leeds Stadium known as Elland Road.
Radrizzani, an Italian sports media entrepreneur, said in an interview that he wanted to present “the Californian Yorkshire style. This is how I like to see our partnership.”
Paraag Marathe, President of 49ers Enterprises and Executive Vice President Soccer Operations, has been promoted to Vice President of Leeds. According to the announcement, 49 companies increased their shares from 15% to 37%.
Marath, who led the construction project for Levi’s stadium, said Leeds’ international stature has increased in the three years since the 49ers. He joined the team in 2018.
“It was just a quiet global fanbase,” he said. “They were waiting for the ignition.”
This sentiment was supported by first actor Russell Crowe, who said he grew up in Australia watching Leeds’ matches on TV. Crowe said he considered buying the team six years ago.
Crowe once said, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I firmly believe it’s the great sleeping dinosaur of English football.”
The club achieved most of its successes in the 1960s and 1970s. The past two decades have been tough for white fans. Leeds were relegated to the third division of English football, the first league, in 2007. They returned to the second division, or league, in 2010.
Leeds ended a 16-year drought and moved to the Premier League this season after winning the league.
Leeds (7-9-2, 23 points) are currently 12th in the 20-team Premier League for a season ending in May. He suffers from a series of three-game losing streak in all competitions leading to Tuesday’s match in Newcastle. It couldn’t have been worse than two weeks ago when the Fourth Division embarrassed Crawley Town Leeds 3-0 in the third round of the English national championship known as the FA Cup.
Such setbacks are not discouraging Marath. After 20 years working with 49 players, Marath went through tough times and made two Super Bowl appearances.
The 49 players bought a stake in the England soccer team a year after Radrizani became the main owner. Marath said the Ninir family had been interested in Blade for years.
He said, “They all had the bones of a strong big club.”
The potential is great because Leeds, in the middle of England, is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country but only has one football team, Marathi said.
London, for example, has nine teams that only play in the English Premier League or Champions League. Manchester has four famous clubs.
“You have a club and a history of success,” said a lament.
The 49ers’ partnership with British football is nothing new. According to data from the KPMG Football Benchmark, Americans have large stakes in the major soccer leagues in the United Kingdom, Italy and France.
The Glazer family, owner of Tampa Bay Buccaneers, runs Manchester United, one of the biggest teams in the league. Stan Kronk, owner of the Los Angeles Rams Arsenal, is another great English club. Shahid Khan owns the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham FC of London.
Then there is John Fisher, owner of Oakland Athletics, and San Jose Earthquakes who own a stake in Celtic FC in Scotland.
A CEO Billy Bean is part of a group that bought second-tier Barnsley football club in England in 2017. In September, he bought a minority stake in Alkmaar, the Dutch club.
Earthquakes CEO Jesse Fioranelli is embracing the global pollination process. After all, Fioranelli came to the Football League from the famous Italian team Roma.
He said the European environment is opening up to new owners who offer more than just a cash injection.
“That translates into playgrounds but also an administrative style,” he said.
He said the US’s data-driven approach works well with the traditional European way of managing a sports team.
“It’s the people’s business,” said Fioranelli. “Whether it is numbers or technical development, you have to put the person at the center of your project and try to create value.”
Radrizani has no illusions about the fast-paced Premier League title competition. Leeds will not spend the richest clubs on the best players in the world.
But he hopes to see Leeds move closer to the first division teams that include Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham.
“Sports isn’t always about money,” he said. “History has shown that with good strategy and good ideas, excessive results can be achieved.”
Radrizani remembers telling players and staff that they need to embrace the role of underdog.
He said they sometimes have to show some arrogance by respecting their opponent. “But to show that we are not afraid of anyone,” he added.
It looked more like an earthquake than the 49ers, whose five Super Bowl wins are part of the Bay Area tradition.
Al-Marathi said he is confident that the 49ers’ past successes will translate abroad beyond the marketing and regulatory aspects. He also did not rule out participation in the Major League Soccer, although Leeds is the main target at the moment.
“Whether it’s football or American football, it doesn’t matter,” he lamented. “It’s still a sports team. The engine is the fans. We’re just pilots trying to make things work.”