Getty Images | Jan Kruger

IN THE FORMATIVE YEARS of association football, clubs were founded by students, factory workers and communities hoping to turn a pastime into an organised sport. Who was in charge wasn’t a major concern—clubs were owned by fans, players, or an organisation—funding wasn’t everything, there wasn’t much profit to be made, and that was that.

Things change though. ‘Football club owner’ is now a title typically reserved for billionaire business moguls, oil tycoons and faceless investment groups. But disrupting the status quo is a number of high-profile celebrities who are intent on becoming the next Ted Lasso.

First, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought historic Welsh team AFC Wrexham. Then Michael B. Jordan became a minority stakeholder in AFC Bournemouth. Now Tom Brady has invested in Birmingham City. It appears the trend of cashed up American celebs flocking to English football is only just getting started. Their motivations, while largely unclear, can be explained by a puzzling phenomenon we’ve delightfully coined: Ted Lasso-fication.

If you’re not familiar with the Emmy award-winning Apple TV+ series, allow us to quickly recap. Ted Lasso, starring the contagiously funny Jason Sudeikis, follows an American football coach­—the kind that uses an oval-shaped ball rather than a round one. Lasso is recruited to take charge of failing English football team AFC Richmond, despite having no previous experience coaching the sport. Lasso’s exploits, which are as chaotic as they are saccharine, promptly ensue as Richmond rise to the apex of English football due in part to their American coach’s unrivalled alacrity.

More than simply piquing Americans interest in the favourite pastime of their cross Atlantic friends, Ted Lasso’s story has become a parable for how easily Americans with no prior experience or interest in football can take charge of a historic club—with deep pockets aiding in their acquisitions, of course.

Ted Lasso | Apple TV+

What celebrities have bought football teams?

Ryan Reynolds’ and Rob McElhenney’s takeover of Wrexham is easily the most high-profile celebrity acquisition of an English­—sorry, Welsh­—football club. Wrexham, who had been sitting listlessly in England’s fifth division for the better part of the last two decades, were revived by new ownership and have become a blueprint for how celebrities can run a club.

Last season Wrexham was finally promoted back to the English Football League (EFL) and, thanks to their hands-on owners, are showing no signs of slowing down. The club’s storied rise has been widely followed after the popularity of Welcome to Wrexham, a behind-the-scenes docuseries on Disney+.

Tom Brady has become the latest American celeb to test the waters in football club ownership. The NFL legend became a minority owner of English Championship side Birmingham City earlier this month. Brady could’ve been forgiven for adopting the laid-back, hands-off approach sports owners are usually known for, but he’s proven he’ll be heavily involved in the club’s future moving forward.

A few short weeks after becoming a stakeholder, Brady made an effort to acquaint himself with some of his club’s fans. In other words, the seven-time Super Bowl champion paid a visit to a Birmingham pub for a few pints and a few more laughs, before heading to his team’s season opener. Well, Birmingham fans certainly can’t say their mega-rich owner isn’t a man of the people.

Michael B. Jordan also became the part owner of an English football club late last year when a US-based investment group (which Jordan is a part of) acquired AFC Bournemouth. MBJ made an appearance at a Bournemouth game shortly after, sporting a stylish team scarf to boot—although Jordan doesn’t have to do much to look good.

An under-the-radar football club owner (given that you likely didn’t know he partially owns one of the world’s biggest teams) is the NBA’s own LeBron James. King James purchased a 2% stake in Premier League juggernauts Liverpool back in 2011, which is now worth more than 12 times what he originally paid—not bad for someone who has admitted he doesn’t know the first thing about football.

You’ll often find that extreme wealth can open many doors and work wonders in breaking down barriers of entry, but celebrities have always been rich, so why are they only now taking to the beautiful game? Is it all just a coincidence? Or is a mysterious force like Ted Lasso-fication driving the investment? Let’s dig in.

Getty Images | Zac Goodwin

Why are celebrities buying football teams?

Many people would fancy owning a sports team. There are a plethora of video games dedicated to simulating that exact experience. But Ted Lasso-fication has perhaps helped those with the funds to live that life realise how easy it is to do so.

Whereas most professional American sports teams are valued in the billions—and are therefore unattainable even to the Hollywood elite—few football teams carry similar price tags, and smaller clubs have all the same desirable history, without demanding a covetable bank account to become a stakeholder, at least from the perspective of the ultra-rich.

Football may be firmly established as the world’s most popular sport, but no clubs even crack the top ten in Forbes’ annual list of the 50 most valuable sports teams. Football clubs take up just eight places in the top 50, with the rest of the list dominated by American NFL, NBA and MLB teams.

Thus, English football is essentially a cheaper entry point to sports ownership. Seriously, you can take over a century old English club for less than it costs to run a minor league baseball team these days.

An added bonus is that small football clubs have the potential to deliver a Ted lasso style fairy tale story. Due to the English pyramid system, teams can be promoted and relegated from their leagues. Meaning that, while it’s hard to imagine, giants like Liverpool and Manchester City can sink into obscurity, while no-name clubs like Wrexham can rise as high as the Premier League.

The allure of a Ted Lasso-esque story is too much for celebrities with excess funds and too much time on their hands to ignore. That explains why a growing list of A-listers are getting in on the action.

Getty Images | Mike Egerton

Is football growing outside of traditional markets?

Business is booming as the world’s most popular sport looks to conquer its final frontiers. Long apathetic to the round ball game in favour of unique national sports, Australia and the USA are finally taking to football, or for the sake of clarity, soccer.

Not convinced that football is still growing? Have a look at how Lionel Messi has taken the MLS by storm. After he joined David Beckham’s Inter Miami, 65,000 fans braved the pouring rain to watch Messi give credence to his status as the GOAT with a last-minute winner.

Back home in Australia, the Women’s World Cup has shown football-averse Aussies why the sport is so popular. With the Matildas’ storybook run uniting the nation, inspiring a generation, and shattering viewing and attendance records.

More people are beginning to appreciate the immense commercial value of football, and the tremendous live experience the sport propagates. Whether they were inspired by a comedy series or not, celebrities are taking to football like ducks to water. It seems like everyone wants to be the next Ted Lasso, and if you’ve got a few million dollars to spare, why wouldn’t you get in on the action?


The Matildas Burned bright, but what’s next for women’s football?

Empires of the rich: celebrities who run lucrative businesses