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NFL Stars Investing In European Football

An interesting trend started in American sports in the past 15 or 20 years. Many former athletes decided they wanted to be attached to their sport, or the world of sports, to some extent, making curious decisions that allowed them to increase their fortune and reach a new goal in the process.

Former NFL players are getting familiar with buying stakes from sports teams, which has become one of the hottest trends among retired players. Michael Jordan changed everything when he bought the Charlotte Hornets in 2010, trying to make it a championship-caliber team, which never happened.

MJ is now out of the team, but other retired legends have taken a page from his book and tried to emulate what the six-time NBA champion did. The NFL is a big example of this and some players have crossed the Atlantic to try their luck at investing in European football/soccer.

Many of these players had notable NFL careers and now are ready to make some noise from an executive role.

Tom Brady – Birmingham City

The most famous case must be the seven-time Super Bowl champion, Tom Brady, who invested in a historic team English team, Birmingham, the archrival of one of the biggest animators of the Premier League this season.

“Birmingham City is an iconic club with so much history and passion and to be part of the Blues is a real honor for me. BCFC is built on teamwork and determination and I’m excited to work alongside the board, management and players to make our Second City club second to none. I’ve been part of some amazing teams in my day, and I’m looking forward to applying my perspective to create that same success here in Birmingham,” Brady said back in August.

Just like the New England Patriots legend, there are more former NFL players who decided to put some money on these teams and see how they can impact their realities.

J.J. Watt - Burnley

If you are a fan of the Cardinals right now you might be excited about Trey McBride, who according to ClutchBuzz is one of the best NFL players from Fort Morgan, Colorado. However, not so long along the Cardinals were synonym of J.J. Watt, one of the best defensive players of all time. Watt retired from NFL in 2022 and he decided to look into other sports.

He actually did it before Brady, investing in Burnley last May. Burnley were one of the best teams in the EFL Championship last season, making some noise with Vincent Kompany taking over as the boss. They were promoted to the first division of English football, although they are in danger of relegation.

Watt is fully committed to this, and according to himself, Burnley have become a very popular topic at home.

"There's not a single day in our household that Burnley is not spoken about, emailed about, called about," J.J. told ESPN.

The legendary defender admits that American people still need to learn how to appreciate this beautiful game, and he’s trying to help them.

"America is craving football content," J.J. said. "There's a large group of people that still don't have a great knowledge base, so they're still trying to find their squad. They're still trying to find who they're supposed to support. I think it helps us a lot that more eyeballs come over. We just direct those eyeballs up to Burnley."

Other American Sports Stars Investing In Football

Just like these two, there are more American current and former athletes who have joined European clubs boards to try to make an impact on them. Another global figure who joined this trend is LeBron James, who purchased a stake on Liverpool FC back in 2011.

More recently, he teamed up with Canadian rapper Drake and RedBird group to buy AC Milan, landing another top European club to LeBron James’ impressive portfolio.

“The New York Yankees baseball franchise and a Los Angeles investment fund are investing in AC Milan alongside US private equity group RedBird, which is closing in on the €1.2bn acquisition of Italy’s football champions, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said,” Samuel Agini, James Fontanella-Kahn and Sara Germano of the Financial Times reported.

“The baseball team, owned by the Steinbrenner family, and Main Street Advisors, the LA-based fund that counts among its investors basketball star LeBron James, famed music producer Jimmy Iovine and rapper Drake, will become shareholders in the Serie A team, those people said.”

Seeing the increasing popularity of football among American people, more people are expected to join this trend and invest in one of these teams sooner rather than later.

Some notable celebrities who back European teams include NBA star Russell Westbrook, players T.J. McConnell, Larry Nance Jr. and golfers Jordan Spieth, and Justin Thomas, who are behind Leeds United, one of the most famous squads in England.

Acclaimed actor Michael B. Jordan also belongs to this list, as he backs AFC Bournemouth, a regular team in the Premier League.

Arguably the most famous case of all is ‘Deadpool’ star Ryan Reynolds, who owns Welsch side Wrexham with Rob McElhenney. They have done a remarkable job with the lower-league club that is drawing more attention from fans.

After many years, football (soccer?) hasn’t really broken out into American fans, but hopefully, these moves can make more people realize how special this sport is and how fun it can be to pick a team and support it through thick and thin.

Published by Patrick Jane