Life has been bizarre lately for Rangers supporters. There has been a steady influx of something called -‘hope.’ Not so much on the pitch, with the departure of Lewis Macleod & the cryptic goal non-celebration by Lee Wallace – strangely this newfound sense of a hope is emerging off the pitch. I know…it’s weird, right?
The steady flow of positive news – investments from the Three Bears, Dave King, & now news that Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver wants to invest – has fans head’s spinning in an afterglow of warm-fuzzies.
American sports owners are a curious bunch — this billionaire boys club don’t necessarily get into the ownership of franchises as a means of making huge profits. If they want more money they’ll drill for more oil, or in Sarver’s case – open a new bank. No, owning a sports franchise is almost like having a bright, shiny toy that they can show off to their fellow billionaires. They get to show-off & in some cases they get a whole lot more fame & notoriety then they would as a CEO of a bank.
Soccer is hot in America…& it’s not just 20-somethings who are becoming obsessed, it’s the billionaire boys clubs as well. The owner of the Denver Nuggets & Colorado Avalanche also owns 2/3 of Arsenal. The owner of the Cleveland Browns owns Aston Villa, the Glazers own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers & Manchester United, & John Henry owns the Boston Red Sox & Liverpool.
It’s officially become a ‘thing’ in this circle of ridiculously rich Americans. Sarver wants to join the club & the price tag – currently £18 million ($27.6 million) – is chump change compared to the $300 million Henry paid for Liverpool. The profits aren’t comparable between an EPL team & Rangers, but the sense is that this would only be the beginning of investing in European football for Sarver.
It would be reassuring to Rangers supporters to have King & Sarver working together to right the ship at Ibrox & both would appear to have the best of intentions. Go figure.
So what kind of owner is Sarver?
Jeffrey Sanders, the editor of Valley of the Suns – a blog that covers the Phoenix Suns, spoke to Rangers Report about Sarver’s tenure with the NBA team. “Robert Sarver has come a long way as the Suns owner.”
“He started off right when the Suns “run’n’gun’ dynasty with Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion took off. The Suns were never able to win a championship… never even made it to the Finals, despite winning 50 plus games nearly every year during a seven-year span.”
“Some of that was due to bad luck in the playoffs such as injuries and suspensions, but some of that is also due to mistakes Sarver made with the payroll.”
“The biggest one was the contract dispute with Joe Johnson, a NBA All-Star if you are not familiar. Reportedly, the contract squabble was over a few million dollars, but stubbornness prevailed and Sarver traded him – something many Suns fans are still bitter about.”
“There was also a stretch where Sarver traded his draft picks year after year to save a few bucks.”
“These actions led Suns fans to label Sarver as ‘cheap’. In reality, Sarver’s Suns team were always above the salary cap, and he had to trade draft picks and such in order to not pay a luxury tax.”
“In recent years, the Suns have been in a rebuilding process & and I have seen much maturity from Sarver as an owner.”
Before the 2012 season, the Suns brought in two free agent point guards, Goran Dragic and Raymond Felton. Our general manager (who has since been replaced) wanted Felton, while Sarver wanted Dragic.”
“Sarver himself struck a deal with Dragic in the Suns parking garage, which turned out to be an amazing move. Dragic was last year NBA’s Most Improved player, and he is one of the up and coming guards in the league. Felton meanwhile has deteriorated into being nonexistent. If Sarver doesn’t step in then the Suns would have been in NBA purgatory if they signed Felton.”
“The point is, Sarver cares very much about winning.”
“He attends all home games, and is usually seen in the locker room after games talking to players. His problem early on was he was “too hands-on” as an owner if that makes sense.”
“He has matured greatly as an owner in knowing when to step back and when to make his voice heard. Sarver’s reputation with the fans is much better than it was, say three years ago, though there is still a fraction that blame him for the Suns never winning a title during the Nash years.”
“Sarver’s priorities have always been about winning.”
“I don’t follow soccer or know anything about his interest in this club, but if that team is looking for an owner that cares then they are in good shape.”
That’s the thing about American owners…they want the biggest, shiniest toys that they can show off. Opening a new bank just doesn’t have the same glamor of buying into a potentially perennial Champions League club.