The term “Bank of England” club has been used at various times before and after World War II to describe the English club of the day with the greatest financial clout.
In the thirties Arsenal were known as the Bank of England club as it’s sound finances allowed for the purchase of any player required.
The term was also applied to Sunderland in the early 1950s “because of their large money signings”.
In the early 1960s, Tottenham Hotspur were the “richest football club on earth”.
Manchester United have consistently been the biggest earners in English football for more than decade, and along with Real Madrid, have for several years been amongst the biggest earners in world football.
Despite lower revenues, Chelsea have demonstrated greater spending power than Manchester United since being bought by Roman Abramovich in 2003.
“…. [His] his wealth often allows the club to purchase players virtually at will although that has changed in recent years. ….
…. As of May 2008, Abramovich has spent approximately £600 million (€705 million) on the club since arriving in 2003.”
With the globalization of football in general and English football in particular, foreign ownership of an English club is not unusual. What is unusual is the immense wealth of some of the new owners, prepared to spend limitless amounts on new players.
Mediocre or struggling clubs finding success with the aid of a rich benefactor is nothing new in English football. The first successes enjoyed by Manchester United in the early 1900s was with fortuitously-obtained financial backing:
” …. [In] 1902, the club neared bankruptcy, with debts of over £2,500. At one point, their Bank Street ground was even closed by the bailiffs.
Just before having to be shut down for good, the club received a sizeable investment from J. H. Davies, the managing director of Manchester Breweries. Legend goes that Harry Stafford, the club captain, was showing off his prized St. Bernard dog at a club fund-raiser, when Davies approached him to buy the dog. Stafford declined, but was able to persuade Davies to invest in the club and become club chairman. ….
… Davies decided in 1909 that the Bank Street ground was not fit for a team that had recently won the First Division and FA Cup, so he donated funds for the construction of a new stadium[,], … settling on a patch of land … in Old Trafford.
… Including the purchase of the land, the construction of the stadium was originally to have cost £60,000 all told. …. [At] a time when transfer fees were still around the £1,000 mark, the cost of construction only served to reinforce the club’s “Moneybags United” epithet, with which they had been tarred since Davies had taken over as chairman.
In terms of their current financial strength, Manchester City may well be a modern “Bank of England” club. However, with the internationalization of English football, the term may well be too parochial, and not in keeping with the times.
Perhaps “Moneybags City”?