“Carlos Slim and other football club owners make Abramovich, the Qataris and the Saudis look like amateurs in a sandbox when it comes to the business of soccer.”
-Jonathan Howard, Author for Business of Soccer
Most football clubs in Mexico are owned by family businessmen through their TV Networks and this article aims to show you how politically active the market for Mexican football clubs is. Carlos Slim with a net worth of over $65bn dominates the market with ownership of 14 clubs out of 19 in this discussion. However, he cannot buy any more because of a ban on Multi-Club Ownership (MCO) in Mexico since 2013 and this is the story of how the ban came to be, and more.
The Ban on MCOs and more
Before May 2013, Television Broadcasting rights were not bundled with all teams involved as seen in English Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga and other more prominent leagues in the world. Each team sold broadcasting rights to its home games individually and the two largest broadcasters in the country, Televisa & TV Azteca agreed to split the rights to home game distribution 10:8, respectively with Televisa showing home matches for 10 clubs and TV Azteca for 8 clubs in Liga MX. When a team got promoted the broadcaster for the team who got relegated simply took over the rights for the promoted team.
This agreement was in place for years, but it changed soon after Carlos Slim, through his company America Movil, purchased 30% of Grupo Pachuca. In 2012, Club Leon got promoted to Liga MX on the relegation of Estudiantes (both clubs owned by Slim through Grupo Pachuca). Televisa and Leon could not come to an agreement for the broadcasting rights and it was sold to Fox Sports. However, that is not where the story starts.
It starts in early 2006, Slim had been trying to get broadcasting rights since then but couldn’t get through because Televisa and TV Azteca seeing his intentions backed by the financial wealth as a threat, blocked his entry through their political connections. Televisa, however, had been invading Slim’s territory by introducing home-phone and broadband services and entering the mobile-phone business. When Slim couldn’t enter the broadcasting market, he pulled all advertising from Televisa and Azteca and caused a loss of around $75m.
Slim owns DLA Inc and UnoTV, which are digital platforms for streaming content, like movies, TV Programs, and sports. Once Leon’s rights were sold to Fox Sports, he opened up the market to new avenues and hurt his competitors financially at the same time. It provides opportunities for future integration with his online streaming platforms too.
It was due to Slim’s entry into the Mexican market that all Liga MX clubs voted in favour of banning ownership of multiple clubs in 2013. This ban doesn’t force Slim to sell his current stakes though, it only prohibits the future ownership of multiple clubs by anyone. As Howard explains though, this decision is not just helping to avoid collusion of teams and results, or manipulating the movement of relegation and promotion. Instead, it helps in maintaining the integrity of the game, and prevents the use of Mexico’s football clubs as pawns in an arguably much larger game of politics which involves more money than most Liga MX clubs post in profit combined.
How’s the football though?
Carlos Slim has built a massive network of football clubs without the heavy investments of money such as the Arabs and Russians . Groupo Pachuca has the most number of clubs with the help of his multitude of businesses, a total of fourteen clubs. The group has been successful with their foreign team as Talleres de Cordoba (Argentina) returned to the top division from the third in just two years of the Mexican ownership. The owners are hoping to replicate that success in Chile with Everton del Mar.
The lead club in Mexico, Club Pachuca, has been overwhelmingly successful as well, winning their first, of six, league title in 1999 under the Pachuca ownership, four CONCACAF Champions League’s and a Copa Sudamericana, only Mexican club to achieve that feat . Pachuca also has one of the best academies in the Americas, they even take care of the players’ schooling, residence, food, and nutrition and with help of Slim’s wealth they have been able to bring in top talent in the older age categories .
Groupo Televisa’s reign over Club America has been successful as well, winning a record twelfth Liga MX title in 2014 . Televisa was accused of paying millions of dollars as bribes to obtain the rights for the next four FIFA World Cup tournaments in 2015 .
The Table shows a summary of MCOs in Mexico, which comprises of a total of nineteen clubs from Mexico, one from Argentina, and one from Chile. There are four major players in the Mexican football media rights and ownership, namely, Groupo Pachuca, Groupo Televisa, Groupo Salinas, and Groupo Caliente. Groupo Pachuca is owned by Carlos Slim who is the richest owner of football clubs in the world with a net worth of €65bn (Forbes, 2017). Groupo Televisa was started by the father of Emilio Azcárraga Jean in 1955 as Telesistema Mexicano, he has a net worth of €2bn. Groupo Salinas and Groupo Caliente are owned by Ricardo Salinas Pliego and Jorge Hank Rhon, respectively. All of these are family businessmen in Mexico.