Vincent Tan: Los Angeles Football Club Hero or James Bond Villain?
He looks like a Bond villain and has earned a reputation more suited to an Austin Powers movie.
Meet Vincent Tan, part owner of your Los Angeles Football Club.
American sports fans will know all about former LA Lakers Showtime star Magic Johnson and Mia Hamm, the retired international striker with a golden boot and a glittering image to match.
They may also know a little bit about ‘Batman’ producer Peter Guber, who happens to part own the LA Dodgers baseball club and the Golden State Warriors NBA team.
So far, so good. These three, all stake holders in LA’s new football franchise (no, not that one – the real football!), fit the bill for a team seeking to make a big splash.
But Vincent Tan? Does anyone in LA read the British papers?
Ask a Cardiff City fan, any fan, and I suspect they will quickly see red when Tan’s name comes up.
For after buying the famous old Welsh club he promptly changed the team’s shirts in the summer of 2011 from its traditional blue to red. It was a little like switching Manchester United’s home colors to green, making Celtic play in blue or sending West Ham out in a purple strip (wait, they did that this year!)
The club’s iconic bluebird logo was downgraded and replaced by a Welsh dragon, supposedly so the team was more attractive to international markets. If that was the case it certainly didn’t help Tan’s popularity in Cardiff.
The Malaysian billionaire also reportedly told his manager to go after players with a number 8 in their birthdates in the January transfer window because it’s an auspicious omen in his homeland.
According to one report, he even complained that one of his players, David Marshall, wasn’t scoring enough goals, which is all good and well except that Marshall is the goalkeeper.
He’s become notorious for meddling in the team’s affairs and sacked the club’s most successful manager Malky Mackay. Just before swinging the axe, his team threw away a 2-0 lead to be held to a draw and Tan was caught by TV cameras booing after the final whistle. He may have been booing his players or perhaps the fans who have made no secret of their antipathy towards him. Either way it was bizarre behavior for an owner.
Inevitably, Cardiff dropped out of the EPL and into the Championship, which it has hardly set alight. Currently in 11th place, the team reverted to a blue strip halfway through the season after Tan relented, saying: “My mother spoke to me on the importance of unity and happiness.”
The average attendance at Cardiff City Stadium, unsurprisingly, fell from 27,430 in 2013-14 to 21,124 in 2014-15.
On Monday, Tan and his fellow co-owners unveiled plans for a $250 million 22,000-seat stadium to open in 2018 in southern Los Angeles on the site of the old LA Sports Arena.
They are already claiming United will be the real LA team, after all the Galaxy, which has had an MLS team since the league’s inception in 1996, plays out in Carson.
No doubt Mr. Tan is looking forward to his time in the sun. Maybe he will have ironed out all the kinks in his football team ownership by that time.
But just a word of advice to prospective fans – don’t go running out to buy a shirt until you’re absolutely sure what color LAFC end up playing in.
And for any players thinking that perhaps Los Angeles Football Club could be an attractive place to end up, it might be helpful if you were born in August!