When Tom Brady was growing up in San Mateo it is safe to say he was not dreaming of St Andrews. On his bedroom wall were pictures of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana (and not Frank Worthington).
So why would a boy from the Bay switch his attentions to Brum? It is a question many Blues fans will have asked over the past 24 hours.
But Brady is not alone. While the Yanks are coming, as the famous song goes, a lot of them are already here. Half of the Premier League is now owned by those from the other side of the Atlantic.
One of Brady’s fellow NFL legends, JJ Watt, is an investor in Burnley. In May, the giant former Houston Texans defensive end was spotted carrying out a pub crawl in the Lancashire town for ‘research purposes’.
Across the Pennines at Leeds, where the 49ers themselves have control, golf icons Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth have their own stakes.
NFL icon Tom Brady (pictured) has become the latest celebrity to step into English football
Brady has invested in Championship outfit Birmingham City and become a minority shareholder at the club. He confirmed the news to fans in a video on social media on Thursday
So what is going on? One answer can be found in the Arizona desert. In December the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and its women’s side sold for £3.15bn. That is the Phoenix Suns whose revenues at the last count were £237m – less than half of Chelsea’s turnover at the last count.
And yet Chelsea were sold for £2.5bn, albeit with the promise of a further £1.75bn in the club. The view in the US is that English clubs are undervalued, and by that token they offer more bang for the buck.
The potential for growth is key. While it may sound brash, there is a belief over there that clubs over here are nowhere near hitting their maximum potential. The NFL has twice the turnover of the Premier League despite the fact that one is a domestic league (albeit with games played overseas) and another is global.
‘There is a belief that the soccer clubs have just been playing at it,’ said an advisor to a US group of investors who did not wish to be named.
‘That there are huge opportunities here to grow commercially. Think bigger pre-season tours, more shirts sold, more streams paid for, bigger broadcast deals.
‘The belief is that the Premier League should be able to overtake the NFL and make people a lot of money in the process.’
The opportunity to build a multi-club model is also part of the picture. To spread that commercial acumen across a group and maximise income on different continents is appealing. ‘To be frank, they just think they can do it better,’ the source added.
While Chelsea’s new owners may have come in for criticism, they remain firm in their belief that – off the field – the club was a million miles away from where it should be when they took over. For the first time in a generation, it is now being run like a business.
An aggressive recruitment drive is taking place across a number of departments, including commercial. Targets have been set. Those in the building can no longer rely on an oligarch to open his wallet.
Brady joins a long list of American sports stars who’ve turned their attention to English football, such as fellow NFL legend JJ Watt (above), who recently invested into Burnley
American businessman Todd Boehly is co-owner of Chelsea, one of England’s biggest clubs
Golf icons Jordan Spieth (left) and Justin Thomas (right) recently became investors in the 49ers Enterprises takeover at Leeds United, following the Yorkshire club’s relegation last term
Fanbase loyalty is another consideration. While attendances can rise and fall, the majority of top flight clubs here can rely on a set number of ticket sales which are not prone to fluctuation. Guaranteed matchday revenue is important.
Then there is the Brexit effect. Since Britain left the European Union the pound has plummeted against the dollar. Prior to 2016, sterling held around the $1.50-1.60 mark. While it has recovered to $1.27 it dropped as deep as $1.06 in the wake of the infamous mini-budget. There remain bargains to be found.
While the above can be factored in, each situation is different. Leeds United, for example, offered a unique opportunity. A club with the sixth-biggest shirt sales in the country punching at nowhere near its weight, with matchday revenues easily multipliable should someone with the investment needed come along and revamp Elland Road.
49ers enterprises will have to find around £200m for those improvements. But they paid £175m to complete their purchase of Leeds earlier this summer. In a decade, with the Yorkshire side in the Premier League, complete with broadcast money and turnover close to what it should be, that £175m will look like the deal of the century.
An issue for the Americans is the relegation Leeds suffered. It does not exist in major US sports and presents a huge risk. But Brady – or his financial adviser – will know what they are doing. They will have confidence in their compatriots in charge at St Andrews to make this work. Get into the promised land and they are quids in.
Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever, is also one of Leeds’ minority owners
Hollywood stars Rob McElhenney (left) and Ryan Reynolds (right) have enjoyed success since taking over minnows Wrexham – guiding the Welsh side out of the National League last season
Even Wrexham, for all its Hollywood glamour, makes sense. Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney may have had to pay £2m for the Welsh club, and then lose £3m getting them into the football league, but industry experts say the value had already tripled. And their Welcome to Wrexham show, on Disney, is reported to have netted a cool £4m.
And while it may not be front and centre, it would be wrong to dismiss the Lasso effect. Ted Lasso, a show about a US college (American) football coach who ends up taking an unfashionable Premier League club to glory, was a huge hit, symptomatic of the game’s rise across The Pond.
Soccer is on the charge in the US. Saturdays are packed with live top flight matches. MLS, home of Lionel Messi, is growing. There is a World Cup there in 2026.
The Yanks are coming – and they are not going anywhere.