Football: 'Moneyball' Billy Beane in Chinese-led Barnsley takeover

Barnsley players applaud fans after the Carabao Cup third round match against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium in London on Sept 19, 2017.
Barnsley players applaud fans after the Carabao Cup third round match against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium in London on Sept 19, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - A consortium led by Chinese investor Chien Lee and including baseball statistics pioneer Billy Beane has taken over Barnsley, the English second-tier club announced on Tuesday (Dec 19).

American investors Paul Conway and Grace Hung are also investing in the Championship club from South Yorkshire in northern England.

Barnsley's new patrons take over from Barnsley's longstanding owner Patrick Cryne, who in September revealed he has terminal cancer.

"The club have gained English Football League approval for the change in majority shareholder and our new shareholders have now taken up their positions on the board of Barnsley Football Club," Barnsley said in a statement.

Beane found fame by using statistical analysis to find undervalued talent - a practice known as "sabermetrics" - as general manager of baseball team the Oakland A's.

His story was told in the 2011 film "Moneyball" starring Brad Pitt.

Lee, founder and chairman of investment firm NewCity Capital, bought 80 per cent of French club Nice last year.

He sits on the board at the Ligue 1 club alongside Conway, who leads Pacific Media Group along with Hung.

Lee and Conway will become co-chairmen at Barnsley, who spent one season in the Premier League in 1997-98 and sit 20th in England's 24-team Championship.

"Similar to our investment in OGC Nice, we expect to further enhance the academy, playing squad, commercial operations and fan experience of Barnsley Football Club," Conway said. "Barnsley has some of the most passionate fans in England and we look forward to meeting many of its supporters in the upcoming weeks."

Barnsley are the fourth Championship team to fall under Chinese control after the Midlands trio of Aston Villa, Birmingham City and league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers.

In the Premier League, Southampton and West Bromwich Albion - another club from the Midlands - are Chinese-owned, while Chinese consortium CMC Capital owns a 13-per cent stake in Manchester City.