What would you rather own – a newspaper or a football team?

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80 odd years ago, if you wanted power and influence, you could do worse than buying a newspaper or two. Lord Beaverbrook did it. Lord Rothermere and Lord Northcliffe did it.

Almost all of them were in it for the power as much – if not more – than the money. News gave them access to politicians. News made them a ‘representative’ voice of the people. At one stage, news and politics even merged – with Beaverbrook’s Empire Free Trade Crusade in 1931 which campaigned for the British Empire to become a free trade bloc (from which came the famous Stanley Baldwin quote about the power of the press as “Power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”).

Now, if you’ve got money to burn, you buy a football team (or a Formula 1 team). First Roman Abramovich with Chelsea, then Thaksin Shinawatra with Manchester City, and now Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim – again with Manchester City. Each of them less interested in making money than in buying prestige and status on the world stage (see Martin Samuel today on ‘Profits of Doom‘).

OK, it’s not the same sort of influence, but it does say something about the nature of 21st century power. How global it is. How commercial it is. And how important fame is – even to people with lots and lots of money.

Who wants to end up like Conrad Black? Would you really want to own Trinity Mirror or Johnston Press?

And how can anyone who watched last month’s Beijing Olympics question the relationship between sport and power?

Still, imagine if Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim bought The Daily Mirror – imagine the signings he could make…

Written by Martin Moore

September 3rd, 2008 at 11:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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