At Cardiff City's Bluebirds, like Hull City Tigers, what should have been a thrilling season among football's cream has turned sour by Christmas. Vincent Tan, the Malaysian McDonald's magnate who was welcomed in to buy debt-ridden Cardiff as a financial venture in 2010 knowing nothing of football, is now prompting despair for his high-handed treatment of Malky Mackay, the well-respected manager who stewarded the club to promotion to the Premier League. After peremptorily ejecting Iain Moody, Mackay's head of recruitment who was who was instantly snapped up by Crystal Palace, refusing Mackay money for January transfers, then emailing to tell him bluntly to leave or be sacked, Tan has spent much of what goodwill remains among bewildered Cardiff fans.
It was striking to see the Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers support Mackay and criticise Tan for football ignorance – even if Liverpool's owners, John Henry's Fenway Sports Group of Boston, themselves acknowledged after buying one of the world's greatest clubs that they too knew nothing about football.
For a sport founded on teamwork, collective spirit, passion and determination, it is lamentably rare for British football people to speak up the way Rodgers did, in solidarity. His intervention raised a challenging question to figures of authority in the game, and to the leagues and Football Association itself, as to why they stay so silent so much of the time.
When Tan decided to change the colour of Cardiff City's kit last year from its historic blue to red, according to a club spokesman, to "help the club develop its brand", where were the football people speaking out? That abuse of the Bluebirds' identity, pushed through without consultation with supporters and with no coherent explanation, was nodded through by the FA, Premier and Football Leagues, and no major voice within football was raised against it.
This acquiescence with so much fundamental, senseless and unplanned change demonstrates a depressing lack of confidence in British football's essential character and best values, even while the FA and Football League have been celebrating the game's heritage in their respective 150th and 125th anniversary years.
At Hull, the manager Steve Bruce promised to talk to the owner, Assem Allam, apparently to impress on him that a club's name, like its colour and history, are treasured elements of the attachment supporters have, a lifelong loyalty which even a financially exploitative owner ought to see as a commercial gift not to be tarnished. Then Bruce had his word and came out to say Allam must be allowed his wish to rename the club Hull Tigers – another supposed brand-improvement backed by no research and resented by supporters – because of "the money he has put into the club".
That was a bald and sad assessment of where English football and many of its clubs are now, from a distinguished player and manager of the Premier League era: the great game must be ceded to individuals with no previous connection or allegiance to it, because they have money.
In the eight years that the Glazer family have owned another of England's greatest clubs, Manchester United, during which their debt-burdening "leveraged" takeover has cost the club and its fans, in cash, £680m and counting, it is a struggle to name a single football person who has voiced even a note of caution about it. Certainly the FA, whose historic role is to govern leagues and the clubs which form them – in the Premier League's case for their own financial self-interest – have had absolutely nothing to say. The greatest manager of the age, Sir Alex Ferguson, declined to make a stand before the Glazers took over, then happily worked for them, continues as a paid ambassador, and gushed in his autobiography that they are "fantastic".
"Owners," as we have only recently become accustomed to calling these buyers of football club company shares, have always sacked managers too quickly or unfairly at times, been too often dictatorial and unreasonable. Some of what Tan is inflicting on Cardiff City is down not to his lack of football knowledge and distance from Cardiff, but to competence, the apparent lack of a decent vision and plan for the club's direction, and ability to implement it properly.
Many of the buyers of football clubs from overseas are competent, top businesspeople, and employ good executives. FSG, having in their first flush of Liverpool ownership spent £35m on Andy Carroll, have settled into it, and showed in securing Luis Suárez to a long-term contract that they grasp the steady principles required of running a top club.
The antics of Tan, not so different from local businessmen-chairmen of the past with an inflated sense of what their money and involvement should buy, are not just a question of competence. It is a fundamental change, that the football clubs, which portray themselves and are felt by supporters to be temples of lifelong belonging, are now up for sale to whichever member of the global super-rich fancies having one.
It is a huge change, too, after 150 years of a game founded on amateur principles, with not-for-profit values imposed by the FA on club owners for decades, that these men now say without challenge that they have bought a football club purely as a financial venture, to make money for themselves out of it.
This is not only accepted by the FA, the buyers seem to be celebrated and admired. Richard Scudamore, the Premier League chief executive paid handsomely by these owners to deliver billions to them, defended this free market in football clubs recently with the rather strange assertion that: "If this country does business overseas, these people [buyers of clubs] have to be able to do business here."
There is not only a terrible absence of football people defending the game's core values of loyalty and belonging; they are falling over themselves to earn from the boom. When Vincent Tan finally chases Mackay out, there will be no shortage of applicants for the Cardiff City manager's job.
The Premier League's unusual owners
Assem Allam (Hull)
Very much a believer in the "global product" Assem Allam has attracted criticism for his plans to change Hull's name. His proposal to rechristen them Hull Tigers has not been received well by fans.
Mohamed Al Fayed (Fulham)
After commissioning a statue to his friend Michael Jackson outside Craven Cottage, Mohammed Al Fayed said: "If some stupid fans don't understand and appreciate such a gift … they can go to hell."
Mike Ashley (Newcastle)
From media blackouts to stadium re-branding and the various employments of Joe Kinnear, Mike Ashley has spent his six years as Newcastle owner courting crisis and controversy.
Venky's (Blackburn Rovers)
Aside from overseeing a relegation and the botched appointments of Steve Kean and Michael Appleton as manager, Venky's embarrassed Blackburn fans by cajoling the playing staff into appearing in an advert for their chicken, featuring some laughable acting from David Dunn.
Roman Abramovich (Chelsea)
No owner in the Premier League wields the axe quite like Abramovich. Chelsea's owner made his 10th managerial change in a decade over the summer, when he brought José Mourinho back to Stamford Bridge.