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Who controls football? It’s not who we might think!

There is an article in the generally appalling Daily Mail on who owns football.  They give a list of each EPL club and then look at the money that person has.

There are some rather amusing bits and pieces in there – as with what they say when they get to West Iceland United where it just says Straumur Investment Bank, but fails to give any assets – because there aren’t any.

The assets they quote throughout are the assets of the owners – Kronke £2bn, Usmanov £1.3bn, Fiszman £225m, Bracewell Smith £85m in our case.

They don’t take this further, but there is a quite interesting analysis that can be done by adding up the wealth of the owners.   The top figures are

  • Manchester A  £17bn
  • KGB in Fulham  £7.8bn
  • Arsenal £3.6bn
  • The Tiny Totts £2.5bn
  • Manchester IOU £1.5bn
  • Liverpool Insolvency £1bn

In many cases this doesn’t mean too much – no owner is going to put all that money into a club, so what does it matter if he has £2.5bn or £4.5bn?  It only matters either when you contrast the level of wealth backing the club with some of the lesser beings, (such as poor Everton who seem to be backed by a measly £8m) or when all the wealth is in the hands of one person who could get bored, get arrested, get killed or whatever else rich people get.

And of course, matters can change.  No one is quite sure yet about Portsmouth, and they might end shooting up the money league.

On the other hand look at QPR who are supposed to be the richest of the lot in terms of backing from owners, and all they have is the threat of their man being kicked out for being an improper person.

But I don’t think this tells all the story.

For a start are clubs are “owned” in one very meaningful way by the incompetent and corrupt authorities that “run” football – such as the Football League, the EPL, the FA, UEFA and FIFA.  There is an hilarious piece in the Guardian today about Lord Mawhinney, the Football League chairman, who is making a sudden fuss about Notts County.

Notts County, you will recall, are owned by, well, who?  They keep coming up with names, like the ex-PM of Pakistan, or the head of a wealthy Punjabi family, and those people say, when asked, “who the **** are Notts County?”

The little men running the company blame the media (although it is hard to see how it is their fault on this occasion), but the Lord has stamped his little foot, posed for pics outside Parliament, and said that it is time something was done about County, Leeds, QPR… instead of bowing down (in the case of Leeds for example) and saying “oh thank you Mr Bates, your honour, your worship, of course we believe you own Leeds because you say so.  What’s that?  Oh you made a mistake?  You don’t own Leeds!  Well, not to worry, these things happen. So who does own Leeds, if you don’t mind me asking?  You don’t know?  Oh well, never mind.  We’ll find out one day…”

His Lordship could have done the honourable thing when the Leeds story broke, and resigned, along with everyone else.  He had been taken for a ride and made to look an utter fool.  But no, what he said was, “Our system is a self-certification,” as if that excused him.

“I said something today I have never said before,” he added.  “If they want to play in our league, we should know who is playing in our league.”

So now we know.

The fit and proper rules were introduced in 2004, and oh, what a surprise, not only has Mawhinney done nothing about them, he is now about to leave his job, so he is making a fuss, just as he is about to go.   Not a state of affairs that gives anyone confidence.

It is sad and pathetic – as sad and pathetic as the way in which FIFA change its rules to suit itself (as with qualification to whatever dopey cup they are currently running), and the way they believe that the rule of law doesn’t apply to them (see Mastercard vs FIFA in the American courts for details).

So there’s the money men who own the shares, the silly little organisations like the Football League, EPL, FIFA, UEFA, FA… who own the regulations, and who else in the ownership mix?

Two more bodies.  First, the bankers. They clearly own West Iceland, Liverpool I, and Manchester IOU, because those clubs are so in debt they are teetering on the brink.  But would you trust your football club in the hands of bankers who have just wrecked the economies of much of the western world?

In one sense it can be argued that Arsenal are owned by the bankers who lent the money on the mortgage – and I accept that.  But Arsenal have a 20 year repayment arrangement, and even if they were to default on that the mortgage is on the ground, not the club.  In Manchester and Liverpool every aspect of the club – the ground, the training facilities, the players, the very brand itself – all are mortgaged.

But is there a fourth power in football, lurking in the background behind the money men, the childish organisations, and the bankers who raped our economy and are now set up to do it again with the blessing of our government?

Yes.  The fourth estate, of course.  Journalists and the media owners have power in two arenas.  Originally it was by choosing what was news and printing that, but not other issues.  But now they have changed that, and they create the news by making it up.

Take the Sun’s insane “Cesc leaving” story (recently followed by Eboue to Barca – see yesterday’s comments column on Untold Arsenal for more on that one).   Almunia’s wife has seen a ghost, Rosicky is going to leave, Denilson is utterly inadequate, Eduardo is an evil diver… it goes on day by day.

There is a power there, because that power is given to the papers not just by those who buy them but also by those who believe them.

The amusing bit comes when the media believes its own hype. So convinced were the broadcast media this year that Arsenal were going nowhere, they only booked in live TV games for a handful of matches between August and the end of November.

Now they have realised that we have the most attractive attack minded team ever produced in the EPL, and quite possibly anywhere since the second world war, and they are desperate to get in on the act.  Every game save one in December is going out on live TV in the UK.

The fact that we all knew this footballing revolution was happening, as a result of last season, was ignored by the media as they pumped out their “Arsenal is the team most likely to slip out of the top four” line.

In fact we are playing the most brilliant football in the EPL with half the team out (Almunia, Nasri, Denilson, Theo, Eduardo, Vela – they’ve all been spending match after match out), we are top of the Reserve league (which we may remember the Tiny Totts wouldn’t even enter this year), we are top of the Youth League, and just in case you missed it, yesterday we finished off our Women’s Champions League first round game with an aggregate 18-0 victory.

So: who controls football?  To a degree the money men in the clubs.  But also, the little children running around and ultimately getting lost in the corridors of power, the bankers, and the media.

Sadly, that list does not include you and I.  But I would say this.  In our own way, thanks to the internet, we are fighting back.

If you like history, there’s more about Arsenal on www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk which has a new article each day about Arsenal 100 years ago.  And here’s a final snippet.  Yesterday I was given the first copy of “Making the Arsenal” – my book about the transformation of Arsenal in1910.   I think its wonderful – but then since I wrote it, that is not surprising.

(c) Tony Attwood 2009.

20 comments to Who controls football? It’s not who we might think!

  • walter

    Good one Tony.
    About the games changing: yesterday we got the news of the fixture changing and it involves a game we would visit on 26 december. Now it is rearranged for sunday 27 december.
    Result: we already booked traintickets for 26 and now have to change it to 27… if there are still available. The eurostar is rather full in that period so hopefully we can change it. Otherwise we have to come with our car…. and if you can remember what happened before… (Must say I have another car now). But then again, it would make a nice article maybe. 😉
    I bet within a week you will see story’s once again that cesc is leaving for Barcelona, and again there will be people who will believe this stuff and Cesc will have to make a new statement saying he is not leaving. I can imagine that when I would be Cesc I would get sick of all this crap.

  • prick

    Off topic – Walter, we already heard the cesc leaving for barcelona story re-emerging. They are saying that Arsenal have already admitted that they are going to lose cesc next season and barcelona is confident to obtain his services come next season. It is so sickening it almost felt real.

    Over here in the eastern side of the world, we are also very disgusted by the fact that the media chose liverpool and chelski sides over arsenal. I’m guessing the guys who do the selection never watched the game themselves. It’s a no-brainer of which game would they pick had they watched the game. On the plus side, since the games are airing at 3am in the morning, its a nice cure for insomnia. Thank you, media.

  • feeno

    Rupert Murdoch owns football an its another tool in his portfollio to distract the masses from real life. I dont know wether to thank him or wish horrible things befall him (I hope his machinations dont see this comment!!!)

  • walter

    But on the other hand: the games that are shown live in the UK mostly also come up on our sports channel, so in a way that is good news for us over here.

  • Abhishek

    Really wonderful article Tony….
    Here in India too we are deprived of champions league matches on Ten sports.. Thankfully they have two channels but our cable operators dont even know about it…
    But the way they are demolishing some team it looks like they want to poach the fans by telling so many bad stories and highlighting every bad incident…
    The way Eduardo incident was highlighted, it seems that Eduardo invented diving.. Anyways it the same everywhere i guess..Even newspapers in India were writing stories about Cesc leaving…

  • Aaditya

    The Indian papers just copy what the UK papers say. It’s pathetic.

  • Diaminedave

    The Internet angle is the most interesting aspect of modern ‘ownership’.

    There is good and bad in it (I suppose as with all walks of life)

    The instant ‘analysis’ resulting in the we are brilliant or shit.

    The constant rehashing of so called ‘basic’ requirements for a football team,ie. size, defensive bullying midfielder/centre back (both of which seem to come undone when looking at Barcelona or Spain) and other such homilies.

    The considered opinion that gives insight into tactics

    The alternative view and the bigger picture sites

    Sites that drum up support

    So called supporter sites that only seem to support when we are winning and manage to manufacture snide comments and asides even then.

    With so many diverse views it does lead to a somewhat watered down fan view as the real power brokers point to this or that view to support their particular power play ( see jabba the movs recent share issue)

    thanks for a really interesting article Tony ( as always) all the best Dave

  • walter

    You could turn this into a society issue in just more then football related matters.
    Maybe I am still under the infuence of me reading ‘Big Brother’ in the original English version a few months ago but it really is scaring how many things you can see in our current society. But this would lead us far beyond our main intrestpoint, Arsenal.

    In a way it is down to us people tho see the difference between lies and the thruth. Everyone can make his own decision on that by telling yourself which source is realiable or not. For me that is Arsenal.com that tells the truth in relation to transfer news. As long as Arsenal.com doesn’t tell us “A is sold to club B” or “Arsenal have bought player C”, I don’t believe anything written in the press or blogs. One of the reasons I hesitated so much in putting the name of “Mats Rits” in my article.
    If the title would have been: “Rits would choose Arsenal”, then with in a few days some journalist would have picked it up and made a real transfer saga of it telling: “a source in Belgium bla bla bla’.
    Ore some other blogger, short of copy, would take it up and so we would have another hoax in the interner concerning Arsenal.
    So when people ask me my opinion on those rumours I always tell them: look at arsenal.com and wait. Must admit the wait is long sometimes. 😉
    I’ve maid it a rule for me that I almost never mention silly transfer rumours on the benelux site ore use it just as an example to show how silly the press is.

  • Adam Smith

    Tony or anyone else.

    Having read the article I now see that half of the PL clubs are overseas owned. I heard last night that if that number increases to 14( and we are 5 to 2 favorites to be the next)The 14 clubs can break away as the original G14.

    Can you shed any light on that.

    Another interesting fact is that the Internet now attracts more advertising than TV or the tabloids, so maybe that is why the Sports Editors of the tabloids are forever making up more incredible stories to gain readership.

    One interesting quote yesterday was that Pompey now have as many points as owners this season.

  • Arsenal1Again

    Without a shadow of a doubt, the media controls football.

    If they pulled the plug on the revenue which Premiership teams get, half of the teams would slip into administration. They depend on the revenue from the media which empowers the media moguls.

  • mingus

    Adam Smith, re: “….the Internet now attracts more advertising than TV or the tabloids, so maybe that is why the Sports Editors of the tabloids are forever making up more incredible stories to gain readership”

    What you describe is the last thrashing, twitches and involuntary jerks of a dying beast. I, and many others I’m sure, have stopped buying ANY newspaper simply because of the tiresome falsehoods that they continually repeat. IF you discover lies reported in one subject..(for example Cesc) you question what they write on another subject, (for example Civil conflict in Sri Lanka) and then you realise that what they write bares no relation to what you know. And so there is no point. Is this new? Or is it current desperation?

  • don't believe the hype

    mingus, I came to that conclusion a while ago. There is no such thing as objective journalism or just reporting the facts. The media pick and choose which stories to run, which angle to run it from and how they want to shape public opinion. They do not report the news, they invent it. Every time you buy a newspaper, you are reading one man’s opinion on what he thinks it is important for you to know or believe. The same is true for ‘news’ and even more so for sport related fiction.

  • LRV

    I seriously doubt the figures quoted for Roman Abromavich. He lost quite a fair bit of money (billions) to the Economic depression which the compilers don’t seem to take into consideration. He reported to be down to about 4 Billion in a financial report about billionaires affected by the credit crunch. I am going to search for that Financial article which reported it at the time. If it was true, and I don’t think it was a lie seeing as some of the names on that list came up in the present list as having lost some money, how can he still be on what he was before the credit crunch?

  • FunGunner

    mingus and dbth

    I think your criticisms of the integrity of the paper press are valid in many cases, but unfortunately, the virtual press is 10 times as bad – it’s all about hits. At least a journalist in newspaper identifies himself/herself, gives the reader an opportunity to evaluate their reliability and track record, and ideally, is paid to do proper research. (I did say “ideally”! 🙂 ) Whereas anyone can set up a website to peddle lies and misinformation without being held accountable or even being identifiable.

  • LRV

    If Tony will allow it, here a link to one of the stories about the report. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/mar/11/rich-lists-warren-buffett

    The media keep giving conflicting reports on these financial matters. Which one does one now believes?

  • stuartlondon

    “In fact we are playing the most brilliant football in the EPL with half the team out” Yes we are, Tony. As you say, those who truely understood the club, the manager, and the players, always recognised our team’s real potential. The best Arsenal team ever? It just may prove to be so, this season or perhaps the next.

    The constant stream of garbage spouted by much of the sports media is annoying,frustrating, and sometimes potentially damaging. However, as supporters, we perhaps need to remind ourselves that we were right about our team and they were wrong.

    Excellent article, by the way. Stu.

  • Adam – re your comment

    Having read the article I now see that half of the PL clubs are overseas owned. I heard last night that if that number increases to 14( and we are 5 to 2 favorites to be the next)The 14 clubs can break away as the original G14.

    I have never heard anything like that, but I imagine the EPL constitution has a get out clause. I did read today that Celtic are so anxious to leave the SPL that they are thinking of applying for a place in League 2.

    And I do agree that the internet is far worse than the printed media in terms of printing gibberish. Indeed I set up this site to try and counteract some of that. But I think it is valid that these days we can be heard.

    100 years ago Norris (owner of Arsenal) was frustrated by the way the press treated him, so he bought his own magazine, wrote most of the Fulham programme (he owned Fulham too) and worked like mad to get articles in the local press.

    He could do that with power and money – us mere mortals have to work to get our voices heard, but the internet helps.

    Meanwhile there’s a new article on http://www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk which relates to the first bit of evidence I found that the conventional history of Arsenal was actually wrong – and where that led me.

    If you are reading the history blog, I hope you are enjoying it

    Tony

  • FunGunner

    “And I do agree that the internet is far worse than the printed media in terms of printing gibberish. Indeed I set up this site to try and counteract some of that.”
    You are doing a fine job, too, not just because of the positive outlook, it’s the quality of the pieces. Actual research – you can’t beat it!

    “But I think it is valid that these days we can be heard.”
    No question – diverse voices (if they speak out of integrity) have to be a good thing. And the informality and instantaneousness of debate on blogsites are a big plus.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Another fine post Tony -which has got the regulars buzzing.We follow your posts because they are balanced and informative and reflect our opinions too.I’m sure like me many would shun those blogs which are helmed by rabid
    and myopic morons who just provoke true fans.I only read a handful of blogs
    which offer fair reporting and witty musings.
    Do keep up the good work.
    Cheers,
    SIR

  • jazbo

    Your doing a great job Tony, I, like Brickfileds only read a few of the blogs on the net as it realy is full of trash.

    Welldone mate for keeping it real!