Club owners must ‘protect’ the English game, says Leeds United co-owner Paraag Marathe

Paraag Marathe (grey suit) is the vice-chairman of Leeds United and chairman of US co-owners 49ers Enterprises

Leeds United’s American vice-chairman says English football is so “special, unique and rare” that club owners must respect and “protect” it.

The Elland Road club is one of 10 in the Premier League that are owned or part-owned by Americans.

Gary Neville called US investment in English soccer a “clear and present risk” to the game.

But Leeds vice-chairman Parag Marathe said he was a big fan of English football “as it is”.

“As far as I’m concerned, I don’t claim to know all the history and cultural stuff about what makes English football special, different and unique,” he told BBC sports editor Dan Roan on The Sports Desk podcast.

“However, I’m learning a lot about it and more importantly, I have a lot of respect and appreciation for the current set-up as it is.

“The pyramid of English football and promotion and relegation and everything that goes with it, even calling the fans ‘fans’ or even ‘supporters’ is almost a misnomer because these are clubs that are owned by people’s families. .

“These are clubs that belong to towns and communities in the same way you would talk about a little brother, a little sister, a mum or a dad, you talk about your club. You can make fun of your club inside your home, but outside your home, if someone talks bad about your team, you will protect it at all costs.

“This is just different, and I respect it so much and want to protect what it is.

“If something changes the sanctity of what it is, I’m not a fan of it. and supports it.

“It’s a very special, unique thing that no one else in the world has.”

Marathe is also chairman of 49ers Enterprises, the investment arm of NFL side San Francisco 49ers, which now owns a 44% stake in Leeds.

49ers Enterprises has an option to buy a majority stake from Leeds’ principal owner and chairman – Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani – in 2024.

Meanwhile, with Bournemouth being bought by American businessman Bill Foley, and Everton also holding talks with American investors, 12 Premier League clubs could soon be owned or part-owned by Americans.

The strong presence of Americans in the English game is not easy for many after the attempts to change the game in recent years, with the former England and Manchester United defender. Nevilleexternal link saying that American owners “just don’t get it and think differently.”

His words came as Chelsea owner Todd Boehly proposed an American-style “All-Star game” in the Premier League – an idea which failed to impress many, including Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

The bid to launch Europe’s Super League in 2021 saw three owners or co-owners of America’s Premier League clubs – Manchester United’s Joel Glazer, Liverpool’s John W Henry and Arsenal’s Stan Kroenke – part of the ill-fated organisation’s leadership team .

But Marathe says others should stop trying to “fix” football in England.

“Again I’m just going back to the history and culture of English football, it’s something that’s very special and rare and it works,” he said.

“And English football has its own version of different things. You have the FA Cup and different things like that which gives everyone a chance, a small club in a little-known part of the country can win the FA Cup and the source of pride that comes from it, and there is money that comes with it as well.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it. It works here, it’s special, it’s unique and it’s rare, and you don’t want to take away whatever that aura is that makes it rare.”

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