By guest writer @ClockEnd5
On February 1979 the entire football world turned its eyes to the City Ground in Nottingham where Brian Clough, nonchalantly announced the signing of Trevor Francis from Birmingham City for a fee of £1,150,000. The first million pound footballer had arrived.
Most commentators at the time were of the opinion that this sounded the death knell for football as a sport; predictions were that by the year 2000 we would see the first billion pound player. Of course we have yet to hit the 100 million mark for a single transfer fee, but what they did get right was the insane amount of money that would be bandied about in football, from the birth of the Premiership to the present day. Cloughie predicted that, it wouldn’t be the million pound player that would change football but the, then impending, advent of Sky. As usual the maestro was right.
Last season UEFA’s much lauded Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules kicked in, when they come to fruition in the 2014-15 season they will level the playing field for all clubs, by only allowing for a 45 million deficit over that 3 year period, or face sanctions including being banned from UEFA competition. How ever noble their intentions may be UEFA are fighting a losing battle. A 15 million pound loss over a season is chicken feed for a creative accountant to “hide”. For example, Man Utd whose debt is projected to reach a staggering Billion dollars in four years time, have sponsorship deals with DHL (official logistics partner), Epson (official office equipment partner), Globul (official communications partner in Bulgaria) and Mister Potato (official snack partner). You get the idea. If you have a shortfall in your accounts, line up Andrex as “toilet hygiene partners” and Bobs your uncle!
Even more worrying are the sponsors of their nearest and “dearest” neighbours Man City. This club, paragons of virtue, the peoples club, self proclaimed antithesis of foul Mammon, have as their main sponsors Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi tourism, Etisalat (telecoms) and Aabar(oil investment company). All are owned by the UAE government and are protected from financial problems by them, by law. Who is the deputy prime minister of the UAE? That’s right, Sheikh Mansour owner of Man City. Depressing isn’t it? Well bear with me because it gets worse.
In this world wide recession, with everyone being urged to tighten their belts, the new football TV deal was negotiated and contrary to expectations increased by a whopping 71% to 3.5 billion pounds over 3 years. BT alone paid 728 million pounds for 38 games, to put it into perspective BT Vision has 707,000 subscribers compared to Sky’s 10 million! Of course putting these figures up there in black and white gives us no idea of the true implications of them. They are after all just ones followed by loads of zeros which mean nothing in these straitened times we live in.
Let’s put it this way, Man City for winning last season’s Premiership got 60 million pounds. When the new deal kicks in next season, the team that finishes last, the bottom club, will get 61 million. Contrast this with the team that wins the Championship, just one place below them, who will get a paltry 5.5 million, a massive difference not commensurate with the gulf in class. In two seasons the worst team in the league will have earned more than the best.
Taking all this into account, the attraction is there for any speculators who have 5 million to spend can buy a mid table Championship team, invest 10 million on players, get them into the Premiership, quadruple their money and then just walk away, leaving them to be the next Portsmouth. And then how long until the Premiership clubs decide to do away with relegation altogether? After all it will be in their best interests to maintain a closed shop, a sterile Premiership with the big boys creaming off the profits, while the rest can go hang!
I buy an Arsenal shirt every season but this year I’m going for one of those 1970’s vintage jobs. I want to be seen as a supporter of our great club. I don’t want to be seen as a billboard.------------
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