Monday, 4 June 2012

Money and the Future of Football

Ever since Man City won the Premier League and Chelsea won the Champions League I have felt rather depressed about the state and future of football. I’ve have fired off the odd frustrated tweet about how Money has finally won the day, but usually get messages back accusing me of sour grapes because Man United didn’t win anything this season. 140 characters is not enough to mount an argument, so this is to explain my point.

It’s not that I don’t like them. I actually quite like watching Man City play. Mancini, Kompany etc. have been truly gracious in victory (Chelsea are a different story, but I won’t go there!). And for the umpteenth time, yes of course I know Man United have spent a lot of money in recent years. It is impossible to win anything big in football these days without spending money. The point however is how that money has been acquired and the degree to which that money swings the ability to win trophies. The difference between Man City & Chelsea and all the other main clubs at the top of the EPL (Arsenal, Liverpool, Man United, Spurs etc.) is that Chelsea and Man City alone have been massively boosted by the random injection of unimaginable amounts of cash by individual donors, money which at least in Abramovitch’s case is highly dubious, as pointed out by Dave Boyle in a recent article.

Roman Abramovitch and Sheikh Mansour could have chosen any club, but happened to choose Chelsea and Man City as objects of their largesse. In other words the money acquired has little to do with their identity or history as a club, skill at management, whether or not they have bought or sold well, levels of support, fan loyalty etc. United, Liverpool, Arsenal etc. have survived and sometimes thrived, instead by virtue of a gradual build-up of good management, tradition, stewardship of resources etc. In fact for many of them, their owners have been a handicap to success rather than a bonus. The Hicks & Gillette era at Liverpool was an unmitigated disaster. United have spent £71m on debt repayments over the past 9 months - they could have bought two Eden Hazards for that, with some change left over. In addition, the money Chelsea and Man City receive means they can offer players virtually what they want, which means that clubs such as Arsenal and United will struggle to attract top players any more, or at least ones for whom the pay packet is a primary factor in who to sign up for. In addition it means that clubs like Portsmouth and Leeds have almost gone bankrupt as a result of trying to keep up, and more will follow in time.

It is hard to see how Chelsea and Man City would have won what they have won this season without Abramovitch and Mansour. These donations have hugely tipped the balance in their favour, and the result is that there is no longer a level playing field in English football. If City & Chelsea can trump anything United, Arsenal or Liverpool can offer, the latter will find it hard to get the best players. While such injections of cash were not met with success, it was possible to cling to the hope that tradition, good management of resources and old football nous would win out. But this season, finally the big donors got what they wanted. And that is truly depressing for the future of football.


  1. Oh for goodness' sake give it a rest!!! Utd won scores of trophies – exclusively due to the revenue generated by large crowds each week & burgeoning product sales around the world which funded a hugely successful youth programme. Few clubs could compete with that. Now that they can, out come the excuses. Money has always, always fuelled success at the top of the game. And this faux morality about how other clubs have come about their wealth is entirely hypocritical. Had Mansour patronised Utd, you wouldn't be writing this piece. So quit whining already…!

    1. Sorry - have to disagree totally.

      1) There is a HUGE difference between money injected by random donors and 'large crowds... burgeoning product sales.. successful youth programmes' - the latter is precisely what every club tries to do, can do if managed well, and is what running football clubs are all about. Random donors are a short cut around the hard work of building all that and lead to what is happening at Cardiff right now - owners who end up railroading the fans and communities to whom the clubs really belong.

      2) This is not just about United, but also about Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool etc. - its about the future of football generally and one dangerous model of ownership.

      3) I dearly hope United don't get bought up by another Abramovitch, and would think this just as much if they did. The Germans have it absolutely right with their 50+1 rule - the majority of the club must be owned by its supporters / members. Far better than the way we are going in English football. And they don't seem to be doing too badly on it....

  2. You have an interesting and selective memory of past united teams here Graham, United had really won squat until they developed Eric Cantona through their youth team. Wait a minute they didn't do that they bought him off the previous league winners by offering him truck loads of money more than Leeds could pay him. Ferdinad is another case in point, Ronaldo, Rooney etc. all bought in Even Beckham came from London, ok bought at a young age, but still offered more money than London clubs could offer him. And this has been the case through football history. Every club that has become a big club has done so on the back of money paid into it by the owners which has bought success (Blackburn Rovers) and therefore more fans to fuel the finances. Thus it has always been and thus it will always be. You could argue that the Germans are the exception to this but the pattern is followed by Italian and Spanish clubs. Those Man U fans who didn't like the way money was taking over their club formed AFC Utd of Manchester, your pleas would carry more weight if your support was with them. I should point out that I'm a chelsea fan, and have been since I was 7yrs old in 1970. I have seen good, bad, indifferent and truely aweful teams over the years. This run of Chelsea improvement started before Abramovitch bought the club. We had started to win cups through the late 1990's and had qualified for the champions league, and we should have won the league the year before Roman bought us, and would have if Arsenal hadn't had the freak 'no lose' season. the hard work, the good managers, even some home grown players were in the team. We were only bought because all the good things were in place and the team could be taken to the next level. If I want 'honest down to earth football' I can get it down the road at Harwich and Parkestone FC. I want to see my team occasionally stuffing it to the Liver(we used to have a good team)pool or Man(there is no such thing as Fergie time(except there is, see bbc news item))chester Utd and if that means Abramovitch putting his hand in his pocket then so be it. BTW It can't last and we and others could go the way of Rangers. But it has been one hell of a ride. Just Ask a spurs fan how much they want to win the premiership. Or a Gooner if they want the Champions league.......


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