Fans of the hugely popular podcast – Serial – can relate to the mind boggling nature of coincidences. When is a coincidence really just a coincidence & when is it a worrying sign of a tangible connection?
Word came out yesterday that there maybe, in a roundabout way, a connection between Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver & Sports Direct. Then the story turned into messy exaggerations – Mike Ashley has a license to exclusively manufacture Phoenix Suns jerseys??? Wait, what!? I thought that was Adidas???
Is Sarver some sort of Trojan horse designed to perpetrate the gates of Ibrox?
Let’s address some facts…
Antigua Apparel is a leisurewear company that predominately focuses on the production of golf clothing. It is located in Phoenix, which is a huge golfing destination. The company has a licensing agreement with the NBA, along with the NFL & the NHL, to use team logos on their leisurewear.
Antigua Apparel was acquired by Mike Ashley & Sports Direct in 2003. For the record, Antigua’s connections with the NBA pre-date Robert Sarver & date back to the 1990s.
So yes, they have the right to produce clothing with a Phoenix Suns logo on it, or even a Dallas Cowboys logo (oooh…Charles Green is behind it all) or even, yes, an Edmonton Oilers logo? Want to play golf wearing a New York Jets logo? Antigua’s got it.
So, they can produce golf shirts with any NBA, NHL, or NFL logo on it. I can see why Mike Ashley would want a piece of that. What man wouldn’t want to play 18-holes proudly wearing the logo of the Los Angeles Kings….or the Phoenix Suns.
Admittingly, it is a unsettling fact that the company, that Ashley acquired, is located in the backyard of Rangers latest wannabe owner. The last few years have created a good deal of cynicism among even the most forgiving Rangers fan & this connection is too alarming to brush off.
It is, indeed, a case in which a coincidence does more then raise eyebrows.
Visions of Ron McPherson, the president of Antigua, pulling aside Sarver in the steam room of an Arizona country club begin dancing around your imagination, right? “So, if I scratch your back, will you scratch mine??” Right?
But, what if a coincidence is just a coincidence? What if Robert Sarver’s public statements, provided to the Stock Exchange, are indeed truthful? What if he is just a billionaire soccer dad who wants a new toy to show off to his family & friends? He wouldn’t be the first, nor the last, to get his rocks off by playing with a sports franchise.
The critical variable to keep in mind here is the involvement of former Rangers defender David Robertson. The idea that Robertson, who helps run a youth soccer academy in Phoenix, was coaching Sarver’s sons & developed a cordial relationship with a major sports owner is not a coincidence. It’s a tangible fact. The idea that an American professional sports owner would discuss his desire to join the ever-growing club of American owners of European football teams with a former professional footballer seems plausible. Robertson planting a seed in Sarver’s head of a potential Champions League team being sold for a rock bottom bargain price, is extremely digestible to believe. It all seems so normal. Like a natural progression of connected events that makes the world seem so small.
Don’t forget that Boston Red Sox owner John Henry paid £300 million for control of Liverpool. You could get your own Champions League club for £18 million, maybe £25 million. Chump change for some.
Investors like Henry & Sarver are not looking to pad their pockets on these deals. If they want to make more money, they will do it the way they have always done it – in Sarver’s case, he would open a new bank.
Banking is a lucrative investment…owning a sports franchise is not. Even the profits of the Phoenix Suns, only add up to $13 million. The profit margins creep into the billions for Sarver’s Western Alliance Bank.
Sarver is not doing this for the money. Is he trying to gain control in some sort of covert ploy to hand over control to Mike Ashley? I’m starting to believe that Oliver Stone would shy away from depicting this supposed swarmy back-channel discourse. Maybe we’ll be fooled again but it seems like sometimes a coincidence is just…a coincidence.
Of course, it is understandable for Rangers supporters to decry ‘smoking gun’….we’ve been burned before. But, then again, rationality may expose that the Antigua Apparel connection to Sports Direct may just be a ‘red herring’ that helps derail a deal that may have truly benefitted a financially crippled club.