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Opinion

The boot on the investor's foot

Kevin Keegan, manager of super-glamorous football team Newcastle United, was forced to resign in January, not by outraged fans or lacklustre performance, but by a new force in the game: investment bankers. Keegan had quietly agreed with his board to quit in May. However, Newcastle was preparing a stock exchange flotation and its bankers insisted the information had to be in the prospectus. Such a bombshell, it was realized, would have destabilized the float. Keegan took an early bath.

The shock resignation highlights the volatile relationship between city dealers, the football clubs they have just discovered to be spectacular investments, and the clubs' often emotional fans. Newcastle went into mourning when Keegan quit.

City analysts are more hard-headed. "Management is important to the City as well as to the fan. Not many people would say that Newcastle have come off the worse for this," says Nick Knight, UK equity strategist at Nomura. Newcastle quickly appointed as manager Kenny Dalglish, a previous leader of championship winners Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers.

British football is now a £1 billion to £2 billion sector of the UK share market with dedicated analysts and a bewildering variety of investment vehicles, including publicly-quoted and off-market shares, funds dedicated to football and sports investments, and warrants on individual football stocks.

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