It was the great Dutch football coach and the man who is credited with inventing “Total Football,”Rinus Michels who said “Football is business and business is business.”
Some would say that one businessman in the sporting world who knows how to manage both world is sports entrepreneur Barry Hearn.
Hearn’s involvement in the sporting world started with snooker. Some would say it was good timing when he bought a snooker hall in Romford in Essex just as the sport started to gain television coverage, others would say it was foresight. He became the manager of six times World Champions Steve Davis and several other top players through his company Matchroom Sport.
Hearn then moved into the world of boxing, the first fight he promoted was Frank Bruno v Joe Bugner at White Hart Lane, and he went on to promote big names in British boxing such Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Lennox Lewis and Naseem Hamed. He was the creator of the Prizefighter events and was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame earlier this year.
It was Hearn who brought darts to our television screens in such a big way and has given the sport a new life. There is no doubting he is a very shrewd businessman who knows how to promote a sport.
In 1995 Hearn stepped in as Chairman of Leyton Orient football club at a time when it was facing extinction. There were highs during his time at the helm under coach Martin Ling, but also lows with the club having its longest run in the bottom division (the fourth tier) of the Football League. However the club is now financially stable.
Just over a week ago Hearn won a settlement from the Premier League over the use of the Olympic Stadium and them promptly sold the club to Italian billionaire Francesco Becchetti. Some fans will be sad to see the club in foreign hands and also to see Hearn go, as he obviously cared about the club, but by all accounts the compensation he gained the club has been classified as “substantial.”
After a drawn out battle West Ham have tenancy of the Olympic Stadium with a 99 year lease at a cost of UKL2million a year. However the door has been left open for Leyton Orient to play “Showcase” games at the venue.
“It should have been designed as a ground-sharing football stadium from the off,” Hearn is quoted as saying. “That mistake has cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions. I never had a problem with West Ham. It was with the government who made a terrible decision in not taking advantage of what Olympic legacy really means.”
A comment that Western Australians would do well to remember as their new state-of-the-art multi-purpose stadium was unveiled last week. Let us hope our government has indeed got it right.
Barry Hearn is a very good businessman, and as he leaves Leyton Orient in a better state than he found it, he has also no doubt done his own business the world of good. There are many who dabble in football who leave unable to say that.
There was a great comment made by the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger a few years ago when referring to agents “The difference between you and me is that, if tomorrow there was no more money in football, I’d still be here, but not you.” The same could easily be said of some club’s owners.