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A look at Arif, Doyen, and what it could mean for Villa

Trying to make sense of what it is that Doyen Capital does.

Christof Koepsel

"Doyen" means a well-respected person with a lot of experience in a field. So simply based on name, we should trust Doyen Capital to be a good thing for football. But the name was self-given, and it's tough to figure out exactly what the group, and its sport arm Doyen Sports, has done to earn it. The group counts Tevfik Arif among its investors, and so it is suddenly quite relevant to Aston Villa now that Arif has been anointed the "front runner" to buy the club.

So what exactly does Doyen Sports do? Their most prominent business is the financing of the purchase of players for clubs that could not otherwise afford the transfer fees. The most famous example of their maneuverings, and the one that brought them into the public consciousness, was the sale of Radamel Falcao's to AS Monaco.

In that move, Monaco paid Atletico Madrid approximately £49 million for the services of the Colombian striker. But Madrid did not get most of that money, instead it went largely to Doyen Sports. When Falcao made his move from Porto to Atletico, the ~£33 million transfer fee was funded largely by Doyen, perhaps to the tune of 55%. The general deal in those instances is that Doyen then has a share of the players registration, and will be paid that percentage of any future transfer fees. Alternatively, according to one article, clubs may pay off their debt to Doyen (including, presumably, interest) in any other way they can.

Now, if you're following along, you may notice that Doyen essentially "owned" 55% of Falcao, which raises a number of perplexing ethical problems. Should a third-party group, who are not a club, own a player? And if they do, what does that mean for the club? Will sale of the player be at the discretion of Doyen or of the club itself? The practice is common in much of European soccer, and it's becoming increasingly regular on the Iberian peninsula and in the Netherlands.

It's an issue that has not gone unnoticed. Apparently Doyen are looking at making a move into the Premier League, despite the league's ban on Third Party Ownership. This proposed expansion prompted a stern response from the Premier League:

"We believe that the practice threatens the integrity of competitions, reduces the flow of transfer income into the sport and has the potential to exert external influence on player transfer decisions. Any lending arrangements entered into by Premier League clubs must not allow lenders to exert influence over player transfers."

Cross that off your list if you were expecting an Arif ownership to lead to crazy purchases for Villa. The reports of expansion say that Doyen are looking to invest something in the region of £160 million in the league. The money is there, and it could be used to assist Arif in buying Aston Villa. From there, it's not hard to imagine a scenario in which the club are partially beholden to the group.

Additionally, Doyen Sports provides representation for players and clubs, according to their website. They also sponsor clubs such as (shockingly!) Atletico Madrid in the 2011-12 season when Falcao was originally brought in, as well as offering image rights to players, including those of Neymar. It is conceivable that Doyen could sponsor a club, buy the players, represent the players, and control all of their rights.

But it is possible to spin the group in a good way: they are providing competitive funds to clubs that would otherwise not have them. Extending a line of credit to help clubs get themselves to a place where they can be making the money they would need for those players themselves. In a vacuum, that's a good thing. But clubs don't get to financially unstable positions overnight, and there's no reason to believe that they will regularly be able to build lasting success on the loans from Doyen. When asked by Bloomberg about the potential of forcing the hand of clubs, Doyen executive Nelio Lucas denied that any such thing could happen:

He says Doyen doesn't have any influence on whether clubs trade players, contrary to what UEFA says.

"There's no pistol on the table," Lucas said.

Despite the assurances, it's hard not to be worried about what these loans could potentially mean for football. UEFA and FIFA are both set to review the practices of Third Party Ownership this summer.

The Tevfik Arif rumours are just that. But if reports are to be believed, he is in the driver's seat to control Aston Villa soon, and his investments with Doyen Capital would be relevant to the club. Thanks to strict regulation from the Premier League, Villa may never get the chance to be embroiled with the group, but it's a future that I don't particularly love the idea of. A few players here and there are not worth being in the pocket of what amounts to a payday loan company for football clubs.