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‘I don’t work for ultras’ -owner Textor Q&A

‘I don’t work for ultras’ -owner Textor Q&A

Crystal Palace's biggest shareholder John Textor, the US businessman
US businessman John Textor is the biggest shareholder and co-owner of Premier League club Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace co-owner John Textor is the club’s biggest shareholder and his Eagle Football Holdings has about a 45% stake in the Premier League outfit.

His company also has majority stakes in French giants Lyon, Brazil’s Botafogo, Belgian top-flight club RWD Molenbeek and US academy side FC Florida.

Palace recently appointed new manager Oliver Glasner to replace Roy Hodgson amid supporters displaying frustration with the way the club is being run.

In a rare and revealing interview, Textor spoke to BBC Sport about his love of Palace, fan protests, his relationship with chairman Steve Parish, why he admires Glasner, and multi-club ownership models.


On being ‘in love’ with Crystal Palace

I don’t manage Crystal Palace. I’m in a weird spot as a multi-club person. Crystal Palace is my first investment. My boys are in love with the team, I’m in love with the team, I’m in love with the general culture of Crystal Palace.

Am I as passionate about it? Quietly when I watch the games, but I’m not responsible for it. The collaboration has been great for me. I work very closely with [sporting director] Dougie Freedman and [chairman] Steve Parish and I pick off the situations.

When I came in at Crystal Palace, my capital helped them complete the academy, which was Steve’s [Parish] project which predated me.

With Doug and Steve’s leadership my capital helped bring Marc Guehi, Michael Olise and a lot of terrific players. I was one of four votes helping to endorse those selections, they weren’t my selections.

On ‘nonsense’ Palace fan banners

Crystal Palace fans hold up banners directed at co-owner John Textor in 2023
Crystal Palace fans hold up banners directed at co-owner John Textor in 2023

There’s a lot of talk of that but it’s misguided. I read these banners which are nonsense. I showed up a couple of years ago and I do nothing but support as one of four members of the board and then I see banners which say ‘Textor we don’t trust you’. I don’t care.

They don’t need to trust me, I’m not running the club.

People say they want fan ownership and transparency but there’s nothing more transparent than a US public company that reports material contracts within four days.

They don’t like capitalism apparently in the ultras at Crystal Palace. So I went to talk to them about it. I met them outside Selhurst Park and they said, ‘John, you bought Lyon, are you aware of the politics of your ultras in Lyon?’

I said, ‘God no, what are they?’

They said, ‘We’ll, they’re right, and we at Palace we’re left.’ Well I don’t care, this has nothing to do with football.

I have an opinion of Crystal Palace and the culture and the fans which I love – but ultras in some clubs…

I was drawn to this relationship of club and community. It’s organised fan groups which hijack that relationship. Some very smart people in football told me, ‘John, pay attention to the ultras, they can be wonderful, they can be passionate, they can be supportive but make sure you know who your fans are – all of them.’

I developed a belief that I work for the anonymous fan that I don’t know, and he or she is 10 years old and they love the club because their father loves the club. I don’t work for the ultras.

On relationships with Parish & the board

Alongside Textor and Parish, Joshua Harris and David Blitzer own around 18% of the club each. They own a number of sports organisations with their company Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment.

When you’re a majority owner in three clubs and you get used to being very involved and then you have to change your hat to be a minority owner in another club, sometimes day to day it’s difficult to make that transition.

But, I came into Palace knowing I would be a minority owner’. I had a chance to buy a majority; I chose not to.

When people talk about the dysfunction on the Crystal Palace board, where? Who are they, who says this? We meet every Friday at 11am and Steve communicates as much as any Premier League owner I know. If we disagree on a player, our fans should expect us to. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?

There are a million opinions about who is your best right-back or left winger. Am I supposed to go to the meeting and say, ‘Yes Steve, I love all of your choices’? We have maybe disagreed on two players in two years and people want to talk about dysfunction.

We disagree a little bit on the multi-club thing but a lot of people do.

There are benefits to the multi-club collaboration and there are dangers to it. Steve’s been running a Premier League club for 12 years.

Would I love to own the majority of Crystal Palace? I think every fan of Crystal Palace should love that I want to buy more shares, that [shareholder David] Blitzer wants to buy more shares, that [shareholder] Josh Harris wants to buy more shares. How can people be upset about this?

Steve runs it, we’re the largest shareholder, we are asked our opinion on every major decision and we share it. Obviously you can see that Steve was highly collaborative on his selection of coach.

On hiring new manager Glasner

Everybody knows I’ve been following Oliver Glasner around forever. I love him.

Steve [Parish] met him independently and he made his own decision on Oliver Glasner.

I’ll tell you why we liked him back from Lyon. If he spoke French he would be the coach of Lyon now.

I think he’s a better fit for Palace. He’s part of the modern breed of managers that manage everything about the player, the body. He runs his players up to 120% of game intensity on a Wednesday and manages their recovery so they go into 90 minutes on a Saturday and they feel it’s a walk in the park. At the end of 90 minutes they want to play more.

As far as his style of play, I thought it was the perfect match. Oliver’s theory is that he’d rather win the ball in their half.

He will set a trap on the press and it’s not just one guy going, it’s not just two guys going, it’s five guys knowing they’re going to go and they’ll know what part of the pitch they’re going to expose. They’ll know where the vulnerability is.

On Financial Fair Play and Premier League ‘PSR’ financial limitations

Let me say something else about [chairman] Steve Parish. Do you know how hard it is to do his job?

Look at Nottingham Forest. This is a club with an owner that has an incredible amount of capital. And he comes in the Premier League and he’s told you can’t spend it. If you spend it and it falls into a category of losses then we are going to sanction you and we may send you back to the league you came from.

It’s not about financial sustainability, it’s not about financial fair play, nobody is protecting the little guy. This is [expletive]. This is people making sure that you can only spend a percentage of your revenue.

Steve has to run his club with a top line of revenues which is driven by television. If we want to put in a bunch of money to buy more players we’re not allowed to.

So you have to watch your losses and you have to find a way to live between the eighth spot and 17th spot or you go back to the second division [the Championship].

If anybody thinks that I have a problem with the way that Steve is running the club, and [how he] has stayed up for 12 years, just because we have difference of opinion on things… try being Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis right now.

On multi-club ownership models

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin recently said rules on multi-club ownership models may soon be tightened up, saying it is his “biggest problem where I don’t have a solution”.

I don’t see acquisitions as the business model. What we do, my job – and I’m not a football guy – I watch hundreds of games a year from the grass and on film.

My job is to force loving collaboration on all our people. If my scout in Brazil is not really close with my scout in France, then I have the wrong scouts. We’re a very scout-centric organisation. We use data to help break down games and players who we want to go see. I want eyes on the grass, on the ball, on the boy. We think a global footprint of talent can compete with unlimited money.

Why does everybody say that the City Football Group is the best multi-club model out there? They’re not. Man City is the best football team out there, with an incredible management team, incredible people, but they struggle like everyone else.

They are wonderful people, they’re a great organisation. People say they’re the best multi-club model out there because they’re [expletive] Manchester City. And I’m Molenbeek, Crystal Palace and Lyon.

We probably have done more collaboration between our clubs. I was able to bring in incredible reinforcements in the January transfer window [to injury-hit Belgian club Molenbeek] from Crystal Palace, from Lyon and from Botafogo and we might just survive.

On the future

Crystal palace fans protest against the club's board in a recent Premier League game against Arsenal
Crystal Palace fans protest against the club’s board in a recent Premier League game against Arsenal

No, I don’t want to run [Palace] one day. I don’t even like running the clubs I have. I’m a fan, we have good football people in place. One of my favourite people on the planet is Dougie Freedman, everybody knows that.

The only place where I think I would like to see more collaboration is when Palace is struggling with those reserves and struggling with injuries and I have a boat-load of athletes.

I’m in it for the long game. Is there a possibility that if we can’t achieve greater collaboration that we would consider selling our interest in Palace? It’s possible. Would we consider buying more? I think we’d prefer that. This is a message to the fans again. They have a club where everybody who owns stock wants to own more of it. Why are they complaining?

Look, people deserve to complain when they’re losing games, but generally sometimes they don’t want to believe their own eyes.

A great start to the year. Injuries come and they [some fans] want to just ignore the fact that we still have to put great young players like Jes Rak-Sakyi and David Ozoh and Malcolm Ebiowei against Kyle Walker – it can’t be done.

Then the banners come out – ‘Dysfunction, looking back, Roy’s bad, Steve’s bad, John’s bad’. I would just ask the fans to believe their own eyes and not believe there’s a greater problem than the one they see on the pitch.

On whether European football is ‘fair’

John Textor holds a majority stake in Lyon
John Textor has a strong interest in French football affairs, given his stake in Lyon

Ligue 1 leaders Paris St-Germain are owned by state-linked fund Qatari Sports Investment (QSI)

I’m competing against unlimited money. In Europe, it is illegal under anti-trust law for a foreign state to come in and buy an automobile company and subsidise it to let it compete with another automobile company.

I don’t know why the European Union law allows it in football. [At Lyon] I have to compete against the country of Qatar to win first place.

I like [PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi], he has been very helpful. I would like him to ask himself if the competition in France is something he enjoys as I don’t think anybody else does.

I think he wants to win every year and he wants to go to Europe. I want to win first place in France in a fair fight.

I have to deal with the competitive landscape that [means] a global footprint of talent identification is the only way I can try to compete against unlimited money. If I can find 11 players on the pitch that are better than the 11 you can buy, maybe I can beat them.

If the United States decides to buy Sheffield United tomorrow they would kick everybody’s ass. Don’t tell me English football is doing great. It’s doing great when Sheffield United wins again. Don’t tell me about Leicester. Everybody says it’s fair because Leicester won [the Premier League in 2016] – come on!

The concentration of power and wealth has broken the game. This is why the NBA does well and how Kansas City can win the Super Bowl. That’s why all those clubs are valuable. It’s why the clubs make money, the fans love it and the teams really compete. Because it’s a fair fight.

Crystal Palace co-owner John Textor was speaking to BBC Sport’s Alex Howell at the Financial Times Business of Football event

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