New Burnley investor and ex-NFL player JJ Watt is determined to win over doubters still sceptical of Americans who buy into English football.
The one-time Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year and his footballer wife Kealia Watt were unveiled as the Premier League-bound club’s latest backers earlier this month, but the retired defensive end is no stranger to the game.
Watt watched his first Premier League match over a decade ago, soon finding himself fully drawn in thanks to an affinity for Didier Drogba, and completely appreciates why some may be wary of an upswing in US interest.
“I don’t blame them for having cynicism,” he told the PA news agency. “I would if I was in their shoes. Think about it. You’ve had the best league in the world, and it’s been around for over 100 years, and it’s kind of your national treasure.
That kid who doesn’t contribute anything to the group project but still gets an A pic.twitter.com/S87nM7HXqv
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) May 10, 2023
“I absolutely understand why you’d be sceptical of Americans coming in and wanting to be part of it, but having said that our experience has been unbelievable. We haven’t met one single person who hasn’t been incredibly welcoming, so we’re very thankful.
“But we understand the situation and we want to continue to earn that trust and show that we are going to honour and respect that tradition and history.”
Burnley’s majority shareholder and chairman Alan Pace, Watt’s compatriot, took over in December 2020 and has previously spoken about his own integration challenges.
American businessman Todd Boehly and his consortium acquired Chelsea last May, while Creed actor Michael B Jordan became part-owner of Bournemouth after Bill Foley’s December 2022 takeover.
The most immediate comparison to the Watts, however, might be with Wrexham owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, who are currently celebrating their own club’s promotion.
The Welsh side’s rise under the Hollywood duo has largely been seen as an overwhelming success, though they too have detractors.
Watt has already sought out the advice of dual Canadian-American citizen Reynolds.
Everything I own smells like champagne, beer and grass. I’m still somewhere between giggling and sobbing. This town and this sport is one of the most romantic things on earth. Thank you, @Wrexham_AFC
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