Stephen Cleeve bought the Linnets from Keith Chapman in May 2016.

FOOTBALL: The words ‘football’ and ‘finance’ are never far apart from each other in a sentence, with the last week illustrating the point perfectly, writes Mark Hearle.

With hostilities intensifying in Ukraine, the British Government put the pressure on Russian businessmen, including Chelsea billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, freezing the club’s finances. 

The result has seen the sale of match tickets at Stamford Bridge suspended, with player transfers halted, as well as a ban on the sale of club merchandise. 

Abramovich was probably the first of the mega-rich foreign investors in English football when he bought the Blues in the early 2000s. The results of the Russian’s investment over the last two decades is clear to see. They have claimed 19 pieces of silverware and are the current European and World club champions, a real force in global football – or at least they were. 

Nearly all the current Premier League clubs are owned by wealthy overseas benefactors with the recent Saudi investment at Newcastle raising eyebrows and concern in equal measure. 

Foreign investment in football is often looked upon with scepticism. True, some do not work but others have, and continue to do so, more often than not benefiting not only football supporters, but the community as a whole. An excellent example is the Thai investment at Leicester City, which culminated in the Foxes winning the Premier League. 

Norwich City owner Delia Smith has come under pressure to sell her stake, allowing increased investment at a club that looks likely to be relegated back to the Championship after just one season in the Premier League. 

Delia has said she has no intention of selling, which has divided opinions in the club’s supporters. 

Football is very much a business, a platform to earn money wherever possible. Delia is a wealthy woman who has performed miracles at Carrow Road for many seasons. However, her financial clout is dwarfed by the league’s ‘big boys’ meaning that her beloved Canaries cannot compete in what is probably the richest league in the world. 

At The Walks, Stephen Cleeve has had sole command of the club since he bought it from Keith Chapman, who also favoured the single owner model, six years ago. 

Stephen has overseen a period of success, which has culminated in the Linnets playing at their highest ever level. 

Opinions have always been divided on the owner but there can be little doubt that he has bankrolled the club. 

I was interested to read last week that he is always looking for investment from outside parties, or even to sell outright. 

That is possibly the first signs of a change of tact from the chairman, who has always indicated that he prefers to steer the ship on his own. 

I’ve always preferred a structure of a chairman and board of directors. That way you share the stress and strain in equal measures, as opposed to carrying everything on your own shoulders. 

We’re all feeling the economic pinch but the mega rich minority will survive.

Those lower down the chain, however, will have big decisions to make, which will possibly change how they operate. 

Those calling for a press of football finance’s reset button may well now get their wish – but who would have thought that Chelsea could be the catalyst for this to happen?


Tribute to a club legend

FOOTBALL: Some sad news this week with the news of the passing of Linnets legend Malcolm Lindsay. 

Malcolm is Lynn’s all-time highest scorer with a spectacular 321 goals in more than 700 games. He was a still a regular supporter of the club before he became ill last year and was a familiar face at many games. Malcolm was always very supportive of the club as well as those who worked behind the scenes to help keep it running. 

As a mark of respect the club will hold a minute’s applause ahead of Tuesday’s game. My thoughts are with Malcolm’s family at this difficult time. 

Malcolm’s funeral is at Mintlyn Crematorium next Friday, 4pm, and afterwards at the Blue and Gold bar at The Walks Stadium when everyone is welcome to pay their tributes to a club legend. 

λ Despite a much better performance last weekend against long distance travellers, it was Torquay United who returned home with all three points following a 3-2 win over the Linnets. 

Those present were treated to a home performance that showed a lot more will and determination than had been seen in the Woking game. As long as Lynn fans are seeing that, they will be slightly happier. 

Lynn travel to Aldershot tomorrow, the team who sit in the National League’s last safe spot, 13 points ahead of the Linnets having played a game fewer. 

Next Tuesday league leaders and FA Trophy semi-finalists Stockport County will be at The Walks for what looks a tough encounter. 

Lynn are now at a point where there are no more ‘free hits’ and they have to start winning games against every team. 

I’ll see how that one goes in person as I’m working for BBC Radio Norfolk as part of their match commentary team. It’s something I enjoy doing and I’m looking forward to joining forces again with Nick Bowler, who has done so much not only for the coverage of Lynn but for all non-League football in Norfolk.