Forget the idea that Hollywood A-listers are buying into our clubs for romance and love of the game. There's only one reason Ryan Reynolds and Co want a slice of the action, writes MIKE KEEGAN

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Hold your breath. Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Will Ferrell at Leeds United, Tom Brady at Birmingham City, LeBron James at Liverpool, JJ Watt at Burnley, Patrick Mahomes at Sporting Kansas City, Matthew McConaughey at Austin FC…the A-list goes on.

Almost every week it appears as though another high-profile American is investing in a football club — bringing a barrel load of bizarre scenarios. Like, for instance, last month when two of America’s finest golfers stood on a plush driving range under the South Carolina sun awaiting their precious cargo.

Spieth and Thomas were expecting a delivery. But while the PGA tournament for which they were in town was around the corner, it was not a club or even a sleeve of balls that was on their minds.

The courier, a caddie for Matt Fitzpatrick, approached. Billy Foster, a Leeds United supporter, carried the goods. Two personalised white jerseys, direct from Elland Road, were handed over to the Ryder Cup stars, along with a blue cap bearing the Championship side’s crest Thomas quickly planted it on his head and posed for a picture.

Last August, the landlord of a Small Heath boozer nearly keeled over when seven-time Super Bowl winner Brady strolled into the Royal George, dropped £150 on a round for Blues fans and left a £400 tab behind the bar.

Almost every week seems to bring another high-profile American investing in a football club

Almost every week seems to bring another high-profile American investing in a football club

Almost every week seems to bring another high-profile American investing in a football club

Tom Brady has invested in Birmingham City

LeBron James invested in Liverpool back in 2011. What is going on?

Tom Brady at Birmingham and LeBron James at Liverpool are just two examples - so what is going on?

So what is going on? Were the young Spieth and Thomas watching intently as David O’Leary’s side progressed to the Champions League semi-final in 2001? Were their walls adorned with posters of Mark Viduka, Ian Harte and Nigel Martyn?

Did Ferrell seethe as a seven-year-old on the outskirts of Los Angeles when Peter Lorimer and Co were robbed in the 1975 European Cup final in Paris? Was Brady dreaming of St Andrew’s when he made trips to San Francisco’s Candlestick Park to watch legendary quarterback Joe Montana? It seems unlikely.

What is in it for them? And how involved are they? Do the golfers, actors, NFL and NBA stars turn up at training and bang on the manager’s door demanding answers after a defeat? It is a complex situation, but three simple words can describe the motive in the vast majority of cases: return on investment. That is certainly the case with the Leeds pile-on.

When 49ers Enterprises, the investment arm of the San Francisco 49ers, completed their takeover last summer, it came at a knockdown price thanks to the Yorkshire side’s drop into the Championship. The deal which saw the Americans take out Andrea Radrizzani and add his 56 per cent stake to their 44 per cent cost £170million, rather than the £400m it would have set them back had Leeds stayed up.

That difference in price provides a clue. If Leeds succeed in the play-offs, they punch a golden ticket. The deal becomes the sale of the century, thanks in no small part to the huge boost in TV revenue they will pocket domestically and internationally. The 2022 to 2025 cycle is worth an estimated £100bn.

Despite finishing second bottom of the Premier League in 2022-23, Leeds were on TV 19 times, which ensured they finished the year with £111.3m, despite a low merit payment. Currently, second-tier sides get a basic £2.3m each. The gap is cavernous.

49ers Enterprises are headed by Leeds chairman Paraag Marathe (49ers’ executive vice president of football operations) and 49ers chief executive and principle owner Jed York. But they own just 10 per cent of the company. The business model is based on multiple investors. That is where Vin Baker comes in.

Baker was the NBA star who ended up working in a Starbucks. Typical of the time, the tall, gifted Connecticut native, drafted eighth in 1993, was one of a generation of sports stars who made appalling financial investments.

Did Will Ferrell seethe as a seven-year-old when Leeds were robbed of the 1975 European Cup final? It seems unlikely

Did Will Ferrell seethe as a seven-year-old when Leeds were robbed of the 1975 European Cup final? It seems unlikely 

It's complex, but the reason these stars are involved often boils down to this motive: return on investment

It's complex, but the reason these stars are involved often boils down to this motive: return on investment

While addiction — at his lowest he resorted to drinking mouthwash — played a major part, Baker is said to have lost about £80m before getting sober, donning the green apron and turning his life around.

He was one of many young athletes who were, all of a sudden, heavy with cash and light with sound advice on how to spend it.

‘They would buy fast cars, bars, restaurants, the worst decisions you could make,’ one (non-celebrity) US-based investor told Mail Sport. ‘Remember the TV show Cheers? Sam Malone, the Red Sox player who owned the bar in Boston — that was how it was.’

That is no longer the case. ‘Players and celebs have financial advisors who know what they are doing,’ the investor added. ‘Everyone wants a diverse portfolio. These are smart people.’ Smart people who target high-net-worth individuals. If you live in the US and have more than $1m in liquid assets, you can expect regular emails offering the latest opportunity. An electrical company that has created a new gadget that will transform its fortunes, and yours. A football club in the north of England that has vast potential.

Should Leeds return to the Premier League, Elland Road is set to become unrecognisable thanks to a transformational capacity and corporate redevelopment. Investors know there are 20,000 on a waitlist for tickets. That the £1m they earn in matchday revenue is dwarfed by the £4.8m Tottenham rake in at their till-pinging new home.

49ers Enterprises, who bring all this together, are on the doorstep of Silicon Valley, laden with those who joined tech companies, took stock and all of a sudden became incredibly rich when those companies took off and were floated or sold.

With all that cash and a history of backing winners, Leeds are effectively viewed as a start-up.

It was a prospect that attracted Spieth and Thomas, who have five golf majors between them, to take minority stakes. ‘Very, very minority,’ Spieth says. There are dozens of others. NBA legend Andre Iguodala, who won four championships with the Bay Area’s all-conquering Golden State Warriors, is also on board.

With cash and a high ceiling, Leeds are effectively seen a a start-up for investors

With cash and a high ceiling, Leeds are effectively seen a a start-up for investors 

Jordan Spieth has been attracted by that potential at Leeds, who are set for huge revenue if they are promoted to the Premier League

Jordan Spieth has been attracted by that potential at Leeds, who are set for huge revenue if they are promoted to the Premier League

David Beckham decided to invest his hard-earned cash in buying Inter Miami, whose popularity has exploded

David Beckham decided to invest his hard-earned cash in buying Inter Miami, whose popularity has exploded

‘These people are not lifelong Leeds fans,’ the investor added. ‘The reason they are involved is because they, or their advisers, see it as a great opportunity for a return on investment. They know about the Premier League and its popularity and the TV deals that keep getting bigger.

‘If Leeds go up, and stay up for, say, 10 years, they will be looking to get back five times what they put in. Show me a bank that offers that kind of return.’

While Spieth and Thomas are unlikely to be spotted discussing tactics with Daniel Farke, there are others who play a more active role. At Burnley, NFL great Watt and his wife Kealia, a veteran of the National Women’s Soccer League, are regulars.

Watt is known to sit in on board meetings since taking a minority stake last year and is not shy of asking for explanations. He also speaks on a fairly regular basis to manager Vincent Kompany, who is said to appreciate his input as a former elite athlete.

‘There’s not a single day in our household that Burnley is not spoken about,’ Watt told ESPN. Watt took advice from Wrexham co-owner and Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds before deciding to make treks from his Phoenix mansion, with views of the Camelback Mountain, to Turf Moor and its Pennine vista.

‘I wanted to get his perspective, find out what his experience has been,’ said Watt. ‘Obviously, it’s a slightly different situation, but you want to hear from someone doing it right. When you look at the parade they’ve just had, the turnout, and the ability to take eyeballs from around the globe and put them on Wrexham. That’s what Kealia and I want to do, take eyeballs from all around the world and put them on Burnley because of that town, that story… it’s been around since 1882.’

An increase in the popularity of football across the Pond has also played a role. Mahomes, probably the NFL’s biggest name until team-mate Travis Kelce got with Taylor Swift, is a fan of the game. When Inter Miami were in town he waited by the tunnel for Lionel Messi and shared a hug with him. McConaughey married a Brazilian and within a decade he was on the field in a green suit at 2021 MLS newcomers Austin, firing up the crowd with a Wolf of Wall Street-style chant.

The love is real, as it is in Los Angeles, where actress Natalie Portman played a founding role in the birth of Angel City FC. Portman is part of an all-female ownership featuring fellow movie stars, athletes and US women’s national team heroes. Eva Longoria, Serena Williams and Mia Hamm are also involved. It has tapped into a growth area, with more than 16,000 season tickets sold in 2022.

Some Americans, such as JJ Watt at Burnley, take a more active role in running a club

Some Americans, such as JJ Watt at Burnley, take a more active role in running a club 

The locations are varied but the aims are similar. Former Westlife singer Brian McFadden is hoping for seasons in the sun (and the EFL) with National League North side Chorley after investing with Boyzone crooners Keith Duffy and Shane Lynch. Those who know McFadden say he is fully invested and is learning about the players to a near obsessive level. Again, the aim is to do a Wrexham.

Back on the golf course, Thomas will often bump into Foster. When he does, the caddie knows what is coming next. Thomas will clench his fist into a ball and, like thousands of devotees at Elland Road every fortnight, proceed to beat his chest with it. Marching on together — hopefully towards a lucrative return on that investment.

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