As you’d expect from the Sports Book Of The Year, this is quite extraordinary. The revelation that the new wave of football club owners may have intentions beyond pure sporting achievement is not in itself particulary ground-breaking, but the detail in which James Montague investigates and explores that reality certainly is.
More than anything, this is a very brave book. In modern football, it takes little more than a slightly unfavourable remark for football clubs to mobilise against a journalist, and so laying bare the true, often unflattering reasons behind their business practices is particularly risky.
The Billionaires Club is split into regional sections. Montague travels to Asia, Eastern Europe, and the United States to chase the motivations of football’s super rich and, in doing so, not only sheds new light on the purpose of their clubs, but also the political and social situations which have helped to define them in the modern era.
The results are fascinating. They’re also troubling, though, because they serve to illustrate just how wide the gap is between the game’s original ideological purpose and what it has been replaced by. You can’t un-read the Billionaires Club; it’s impossible to absorb its detail and then continue to look on football in the same way.
It’s a marvellous book, truly deserving of every award it receives, but it’s also deeply disconcerting and will leave anyone who opens it with the conclusion that, in 2018, the top level of the sport is little more than a strategic tool for the grander purposes of the exorbitantly rich. Read it carefully and you’ll see only a dispiriting, perhaps even chilling, future ahead.
The Billionaires Club isn’t a warming experience, but it is an essential read.