Who is Vincent Tan: the flamboyant Malaysian owner of FC Sarajevo?

first_imgA great majority of successful businessmen mainly from Asia, Russia and the Middle-East have invaded the European football scene by buying and investing in football clubs across Europe. One could argue whether these businessmen use these clubs as a personal toy or whether they really feel compassion for the clubs. It is also questionable whether this relatively new phenomenon can be perceived as a blessing or a curse for European football. The saying that money is power is definitely true as it comes to football. As a result, competing with the big clubs has become severely difficult for the smaller clubs as the gap in financial terms continues to grow. Money is not an issue anymore for the biggest clubs in England, France and Germany while the smaller clubs have to be even more creative than before. However, this phenomenon seems unstoppable and is not only happening in the bigger competitions in Europe. The successful Malaysian businessman and investor Vincent Tan found FK Sarajevo in 2013 and became the owner of the club. Besides FK Sarajevo, Tan owns furthermore the Welsh football club Cardiff City FC, the Belgian football club KV Kortrijk and is the co-owner of Los Angeles Football Club in The United States. The 63-year old is the chairman of Berjaya Corporation Berhad with a net worth of $1.20 billion USD. According to Forbes, billionaire Tan is the 14th richest person in Malaysia and the 1533rd richest person in the world in 2015. Tan dropped 400 places since 2014 as property and other Berjaya Corp. investments fell but has nevertheless remained extremely wealthy. His choice to buy FK Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina is interesting due to the fact that the Bosnian football league has far less exposure than the big competitions in the rest of Europe. Could it be that he has sincere compassion for this club or is the club simply used as a trade house for players or, as a third possibility, is it just his personal toy? In other words, what were his motives to buy FK Sarajevo? An important aspect to mention is that FK Sarajevo was near bankruptcy prior to Tan’s overtake in 2013. From this perspective, Tan stepped in at the right time. According to his own statements, he wanted to provide the opportunity for players of Sarajevo to play for Cardiff City in the English Premier League. He furthermore stated that: “we also want to build a football academy that will attract the most talented players from all Bosnia and Herzegovina. We will offer them excellent conditions for training and will enable them to play in one of the best leagues in the world. Bosnia is full of talents. We have already concluded an agreement on cooperation between the two clubs. Cardiff City will also provide technical support in building an academy, we will play friendlies, exchange players and organize joint training camps.” Tan is investing a great amount of money in the club and this two-year investment is paying off. FK Sarajevo is currently the highest ranked team of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the UEFA rankings and are the one of the three ordinary members of the European Club Association (ECA) accompanied by FK Željezničar and FK Široki. More funds, financial fair-play and insurance for players during world and European football championships are numerous advantages of being a member of the ECA. Furthermore, after an eight-year drought of league titles, Bordo-Bijeli managed to win the national league title of 2014-2015. As a result, FK Sarajevo performed on the international stage in the Champions League qualification but were unable to eventually qualify for the Group stage. Due to the recent successes, the club also attracted a great sponsorship deals with Turkish Airlines and Visit Malaysia. His investments are not solely restricted to FK Sarajevo and football. As a result of the floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early summer of 2014, he donated a personal amount of €114,000, while the people of Malaysia raised a total of €169,000 towards Bosnia’s flood relief fund. This money has primarily been invested in two hospitals in Doboj and Maglaj as these two cities suffered the most from the floods. Tan stated: “because of my involvement with Sarajevo Football Club, when I heard about the floods, I urged the Sun newspaper to run a campaign to raise donations to help Bosnia.” The Malaysian businessman is also investing money in facilities like football academies on the outskirts of Sarajevo. These non-football investments might indicate that he does not perceive the club solely as a personal toy but feels engagement that goes beyond FK Sarajevo. Despite the fact the Vincent Tan will always be a businessman, it seems that he has compassion for the club and the country to some extent. However, of all the clubs he owns, Cardiff City FC is the number one priority due to its exposure and market size in England. The exchange of talented players between Cardiff and FK Sarajevo will remain the most important objective in the near future. Investing in football in Bosnia and Herzegovina is explainable as the country is enriched with some talented players and it is, at the same time, less expensive to build all sorts of facilities than it is in other European countries. Bosnian football players can be contracted by Cardiff City for a relative low fee and can be sold for a large fee as players show their skills and abilities in England. By buying clubs in smaller and cheaper competitions, the possibility arises to create a potential pool of players who can easily be contracted. This also provides the opportunity to trial more players, in this case for Cardiff City, as costs are low which covers potential failures. Therefore, FK Sarajevo also seems to be an interesting trade house for Vincent Tan. The future will tell whether this will be a successful project or not but it seems that Tan has chosen the right path as his investment is paying off so far.Written by Dustin Giellast_img read more