Livescore Thursday, April 25

St. Johnstone, a mid-tier soccer club from Perth, Scotland, is for sale. The club won the Scottish Premiership in the 2013-14 season and participated in Europa League once, all the while living in the shadow of the league’s Glasgow powerhouses, Rangers and Celtic.

Owned by the same family for the last 37 years, St. Johnstone has turned a profit in seven of the last 10 seasons and boasts a debt-free balance sheet and consistent revenues.

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And now, thanks to the recent success of Wrexham AFC, St. Johnstone should be a more attractive investment target, according to bankers working to sell the club. When actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenny purchased Wrexham in 2020, a path to massive publicity and burgeoning revenue was blazed for smaller clubs. Replicating that success may be another matter.

“[Reynolds and McElhenny] increased the number of people interested in professional football through an association with Hollywood,” Jez Moxey, head of mergers and acquisitions of General Sports Worldwide (GSW), said in a Zoom call. Moxey’s firm is overseeing the sale of St. Johnstone, and they are targeting a price tag of more than $13 million, estimating that it would have sold for half that five years ago. According to Moxey, the Brown family, who are majority stakeholders, said proceeds from the sale will be given directly to the supporters trust.

“Now, not everybody is going to be able to replicate that,” Moxey said, “but it certainly created much more interest in what I would consider pretty standard football clubs at the lower league.”

Reynolds and McElhenny are among several American investors and consortiums that own stakes in UK football clubs. Since their zero-cost takeover of a Welsh soccer team in the National League (the fifth tier of the English soccer pyramid), social media and the docuseries Welcome to Wrexham (available on Hulu and Disney+ in the UK) have lent global recognition to the town of 60,000. The duo also boosted the club’s finances through sponsorship deals with TikTok, Expedia, Aviation American Gin and Vistaprint. According to Wrexham’s latest financial statements for the 2021-22 season, revenue was $7.5 million (£5.972 million), an increase of 404% compared to COVID 19 impacted previous season, where matchday revenue was 0. This season should show an even larger jump, and the club capped its success by winning promotion to League Two.

Wrexham’s success has motivated a handful of celebrities to follow in Reynolds’ footsteps. Most recently, recently retired NFL star JJ Watt and his wife, former USWNT player Kealia Ohai Watt, became minority owners in Burnley F.C. After winning the EFL Championship this season, the team was promoted to the Premier League.

Last November, Kelly Ripa and her husband, Mark Consuelos, bought an ownership stake in Campobasso 1919, an Italian soccer club currently playing in the Eccelenza, the fifth division of Italian soccer. Consuelos said they would build Campobasso’s media presence and increase commercial activities and sponsorship opportunities, similarly to how Reynolds did with his club. The club is currently the leader in its division, and thanks to its on-the-pitch success under the new ownership, sponsors have started to return.

That doesn’t mean the Wrexham model is foolproof, or would work for St. Johnstone. “Not only did [Wrexham] get a first-mover advantage with an A-list celebrity, but also they did that with Ryan Reynolds, who’s very experienced and smart with marketing,” George Gallagher, a senior consultant at Sportsology Group, said in a phone interview. “It’s a much tougher ask the second you try to replicate it with a group even slightly below Ryan and Rob from a brand and visibility perspective, even amongst the A- and B-list celebrities.”

Founded in 1884, St. Johnstone is majority-owned by Scottish construction magnate Geoff Brown, who controls 75% of the club’s shares. Another individual owns 5%, and the remaining 20% is owned by 180 individual supporters. The club’s latest financial statements show that they have made $3.4 million (£2.8 million) in profits this year.

McDiarmid Park, where the club plays its home games, is the first purpose built all-seated stadium in Scotland and has a capacity of 10,740 seats. According to GSW, the stadium, finished in 1989, sits on 20-acres of land, of which six acres are primed for development. The club is also 30 minutes away from the famous St. Andrews Golf Club, Gleneagles Golf Club, and St. Andrews University.

While the Scottish Premiership is not part of the English football pyramid, it is ranked the 17th most competitive league in the world. However, the league receives up to five spots for UEFA’s European competitions, meaning almost half of the league could participate in a European championship each season.

“The advent of Welcome to Wrexham, Sunderland ‘Til I Die and even Ted Lasso has shined a spotlight on football in general,” Andy Appleby, the chairman of General Sports Worldwide, said in a phone call. “And I think a number of people think that if Ryan Reynolds can pull it off, maybe I can as well.”

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