Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obscene, immoral or just a sign of the times?




You know when somebody begins a sentence with the words, "I'm not a racist but..." and then spends the next ten minutes using every casual racist reference they can think of in a conversation, well just in case things turn nasty I'm going to begin this post with the words, "this isn't another go at Arsene Wenger."

When I read Arsene Wenger's comments on Thursday about the possible transfer of Kaka from A C Milan to Man. City I nodded in agreement with his use of the words, "immoral," and "hyper inflationary." It was good to read the thoughts of somebody who cares deeply about football and who can articulate it using sentences that don't contain, amongst other endless possibilities, the phrases, "the boy done good," and "that's what he's paid for." The possibility of the current second best player in the world, I'm talking current form not last years form which has just bestowed the title on Cristiano Ronaldo, behind Lionel Messi leaving the Rossineri and joining the perennial under achievers of English football has been causing my head to spin. To quote Sir Alex Ferguson, "I can't quite get my head around it, no disrespect to Man. City but they aren't even challenging Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or ourselves."

Arsene Wenger believes that clubs should be self financing, that players should only be bought from income generated via playing activities and that is where I disagree with him. The Emirates Stadium has been financed on a long term promise, it has been helped by more than 20,000 Gooners shelling out £20 a head to stay on the season ticket waiting list, something the MCC has been doing for years. The loan is just that, so why does this differ from the injection of capital by the new owner? I suspect that Arsene's line of thinking is that Arsenal will pay off the loan from generated income and therefore they are in fact repaying the building of the new stadium out of their fans pockets rather from the deep pockets of a rich benefactor, but even that argument runs out of steam when you consider that the current Arsenal board weren't given their shares for free, they bought them at a premium and that premium meant that the club had cash to back-up its borrowings. Manchester City find themselves in the same situation as any business that is taken over, the new owner comes in takes a look around and decides that if the business is to move forward, which all businesses should aspire to because the alternative is a move backwards, then fresh capital should be injected - that isn't an act of immorality that's common business practice.

Where Arsene Wenger is right though is the bigger impact on football, the bigger picture. This transfer if it goes ahead will damage football in the short term in more ways than we have ever seen before. Cristiano Ronaldo will begin to ask his agent to ask Manchester United why one of the players he has just beaten to the World Players Of The Year award is earning 5 times more than he is, this will inevitably start of chain of events in motion that will lead to Ronaldo leaving the club for Spain, he will join the Harlem Globetrotters, sorry Real Madrid. Mark Hughes will lose his job as manager at Manchester City because the new owners will want somebody in place who can 'handle' the big names such as Robinho, Kaka and possibly Gigi Buffon - that won't be a manager who has taken his side down the league rather than up since he tookover, the new owner will look to Italy and Ancelotti, Lippi or Mourinho - managers who are used to big players and big transfer fees. It will also lead to disquiet among the Manchester City players, imagine you are Stephen Ireland playing a pivotal role in the team, your job is to win the ball, break up play and allow Kaka to do his thing, surely you are almost as important to the team in that role as your new Brazilian team mate who is earning more than ten times what you earn.

If the contract demands of Kaka are correct as advertised then his stay in English football will be short and probably not very sweet. The only two good things I can think of is that English football no longer possesses any 'hard men' at the highest level, there are no Roy Keanes or Patrick Vieira's, although Man.City v Liverpool will be interesting if the Argentine Javier Mascherano is playing for the reds and secondly it will be bizarre seeing Kaka at places like Fulham, Hull and West Brom.

Finally back to Arsene and the one thing that he doesn't publicly acknowledge - football is different. Football doesn't work according to business models, there are no other professions where you get paid an average of £10,000 a week for four one and a half hour training sessions a week plus two lots of ninety minutes. You cannot compare Rio Ferdinand earning £100,000 a week against a nurse earning £16,000 a year - they are not comparable, the former is paid for by supporters of his club and income from television contracts, the latter is paid the going rate according to her union pay negotiations and what the market can sustain. His own supporters are paying £20 a year for a promise, a promise that can only come to fruition is somebody dies or gives up their season ticket, no other business demands you pay a deposit just in case they might be able to service your requirements during the next year or so.

Record shattering transfer fees can, usually, be justified when the player moves to a top club and that club has the opportunity to win things. Points mean prizes and the outlay is more than recouped through television, prize monies, merchandising and gate receipts. Quite how a £100 million transfer fee can be justified when you are talking about a club that hasn't won anything for thirty-three years during which time it slipped down to the third tier of English football is certainly one to get your head spinning.

In terms of the economic recession we are currently experiencing the amount of money is immoral, Arsene is right, but in terms of football it's just another day in La La Land.

8 comments:

Span Ows said...

immoral, obscene, needs knocking on the head...[insert joke name here]...but it is isn't it. How can a footballer earn in one week what a Prime Minister does in a year...oh hang on, that's not a good example (hehehe) I disagree that the fans pay, they may do a lower league level but really it is only TV millions that are keeping all the clubs (bar a handful9) afloat.

I think there needs to be regime change, I think footballers need to be brought back down to earth and I think Obama should do it Ok...I don't really think that)

off on a tangent, watched 'moneyasdebt' yesterday...47 minutes of silly cartoons but very serious words...have you seen it? it's no longer new and is probably doing the rounds again due to the current recession but it does make you worry, you as a money man might even be able to understand it! ;-)

Les Paul Junior said...

Apart from anything else I can't see how it makes sense in terms of basic football. Can one player make so much difference to a team in City's position? If I were Mark Hughes and had £100M to spend on transfers, I'd buy a £20M goalie, two £20M central defenders, a £20M midfielder and a £20M striker. Surely that would benefit the team more.

In any case, if Kaka gets injured or suspended then that £100M is doing nothing.

A poor man's version of the same story is Michael Owen and Newcastle United.

Paul said...

Span - I have seen moneyasdebt and yes it does make me worry. The new bail out scheme also worries me because on the face of it it would appear to be a government backed factoring scheme and they do have a habit of bankrupting businesses in my experience.

Shy - I agree re not making football sense, plus the other thing is it's only a couple of weeks since there was talk about a salary cap, half a million a week seems a bit higher than I had in mind to be honest!

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