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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 12:48 GMT
Premier clubs 'should run whole show'
By Bill Wilson
BBC news business reporter in Dubai

Newcastle United chairman Freddy Shepherd
Freddy Shepherd: "The others can't hold us back"

Large and financially successful football clubs should not be concerned about those struggling at the lower end of the industry, according to Freddy Shepherd, chairman of Newcastle United.

Speaking at the Soccerex international football business forum in Dubai, Mr Shepherd said executives of Premiership clubs striving for success did not have time to worry about lower division outfits.

"I think it is dog-eat-dog," he said. "The big fight will be for the Premier League to take over the running of the other leagues.

"The others can't hold us back, the time will come, I think, when it is the Premier League running the whole show.

"Many of these other clubs will have to go part-time. When we have got 52,000 fans at each home game, the last thing we are worried about is clubs in the third division."

'No sympathy'

In the past five years, Newcastle has bought players such as Kieron Dyer and Jermaine Jenas from lower division sides.

But, responding to claims Premiership clubs needed 72 clubs thriving under them in a solid Football League pyramid, Mr Shepherd said: "There is no sympathy here."

We had transfer fees going down to realistic levels, and they have gone back up since Roman Abramovich took over at Chelsea
Freddy Shepherd, Newcastle United chairman

The Magpies' boss was giving his views at a discussion 'Football Is Not A Plaything For The Very Wealthy'.

He said thanks to himself and Douglas Hall, 300m had been put into the set-up at St James's Park over the past decade.

However, he said the trend was less for "sugar-daddy" type-owners taking over clubs, stating: "Ten years ago there were 12 rich guys in control of football clubs, now there are seven.

"We run Newcastle United as a business. We are not ashamed to say we take a dividend out of it, but at the end of the day we are fans too."

Wage concern

The most high-profile wealthy owner to have entered football in the past ten years is Roman Abramovich at Chelsea.

But Mr Shepherd said the arrival of the Russian had distorted the amount top clubs had to pay for players.

Alan Shearer taking a penalty
Mr Shepherd is hoping to spread the Newcastle brand abroad

"We had transfer fees going down to realistic levels, and they have gone back up since Roman Abramovich took over at Chelsea. He came in and has blown the market up to the skies.

"If a club knows Chelsea really wants a player then they know that they will meet the asking price."

He said players' wages also continued to be a concern, and rejected a suggestion that top Premier League players were underpaid compared to US sporting stars.

"We have a wage bill of over 15m. They are well paid, some of them are over-paid," he said.

Looking overseas

Mr Shepherd said Newcastle were continuing to explore ways to increase their revenues, including trying to get a Newcastle United-backed club to play in the Hong Kong league, a project they have been working on for a few years.

And he refused to rule out a Magpies visit to Dubai as another means of raising the Tynesiders' marketing profile around the world.

Mr Shepherd also confirmed Newcastle would tour the US next year, to coincide with the release of the football film Goal!, which was filmed at St James's Park.

Many English clubs have been trying to crack the US market over the past two close-seasons, including Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

Earlier, Tony Martin, chairman of Soccerex, had opened the conference with the warning that: "The beautiful game must also be the beautiful business."

He said the worldwide market for football remained wide, but that the game was too often hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons.

He said that "quality management" was needed in the running of football clubs, and warned that some issues could pose a threat to the industry in England unless they were addressed.

"If we continue to submit to players' wage demands, income and expenditure will trip out of balance. This issue - as well as falling gates in England, and being prepared for TV revenues being affected - have to be discussed with some urgency."

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