New Burnley investor and former NFL player JJ Watt is determined to win over doubters who are still skeptical of Americans buying into English football.
The former Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year and his soccer player wife Kealia Watt were announced as the club’s latest backers heading to the Premier League earlier this month, but the retired defender is no stranger to the game.
Watt watched his first Premier League match over a decade ago, soon finding himself fully involved thanks to his closeness to Didier Drogba, and fully understands why some might fear rising US interest.
“I don’t blame them for their cynicism,” he told the PA news agency. “I would be in their place. I think about it. You have the best league in the world and it’s been around for over 100 years and it’s sort of your national treasure.
That kid who does nothing for a group project but still gets an A. pic.twitter.com/S87nM7HXqv
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) May 10, 2023
“I absolutely understand why you are skeptical about the Americans coming and wanting to be a part of it, but I said our experience was incredible. We did not meet a single person who was not incredibly welcoming, so we are very grateful.
“But we understand the situation and we want to continue to earn that trust and show that we are going to honor and respect this tradition and history.”
Majority shareholder and Burnley chairman Alan Pace, a compatriot of Watt’s, took over in December 2020 and has previously spoken of his own integration issues.
American businessman Todd Boley and his consortium acquired Chelsea last May, while Creed actor Michael B. Jordan became part owner of Bournemouth following a takeover by Bill Foley in December 2022.
The most direct comparison to Watts, however, is with Wrexham owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, who are currently celebrating their club’s promotion.
The rise of the Welsh under the leadership of the Hollywood duo was largely seen as a resounding success, though they also have their detractors.
Watt has already turned to Reynolds, who has dual Canadian-American citizenship, for advice.
Everything I have smells of champagne, beer and weed. I’m still somewhere between giggles and sobs. This city and this sport is one of the most romantic things on earth. Thank you, @Wrexham_AFC