David Dein is one of the most successful figures in football in the last 50 years and here he tells his story and his recipe for achievement.
He acquired and subsequently lost a fortune in the sugar trade, went onto the Arsenal board where he formed – with Arsene Wenger – one of the most fruitful partnerships in football; was the prime mover behind the Premier League; and was active internationally as head of the G14 clubs and the international section of the FA heading up the bid for the 2022 World Cup.
In his late 70s he set up the Twinning Project to improve and to inspire through football the lives of prisoners.
He possesses all the ingredients of the successful businessman: drive, vision, energy and chutzpah.
He is also very well-connected and a natural networker.
He needed all these qualities to drag football out of the dark ages of hooliganism, poor stadia, misogyny and racism and help make the Premier a global force and an admired business model.
It’s not all good.
Ticket prices soared. The fan was marginalised as wages for players sky rocketed. Though you could argue the national team hardly prospered in the 70s when Liverpool dominated, England have won nothing since 1966 and still don’t look like doing so in the Premier era.
The other beneficiaries are the satellite channels, firstly Sky Sport, now BT Sport and Amazon. The duopoly over TV rights of the BBC and ITV have ended.
David Dein’s story goes beyond his own as it is an account of English football from his early days as an Arsenal fan to the present.
He is bitter about the circumstances of him leaving the board and Arsene Wenger leaving the club.
He glosses over what might have happened had Usmanov – to whom he sold his shares – owned the club and the role his agent son played in many big Arsenal transfers.
Wenger was a great manager – no doubt about that – but by the end had lost his touch in the transfer market and – had he been appointed to the Board – his shadow may have been a long and unproductive one.
This is a fascinating and readable book which I would recommend to any football fan.