Looking for a terraced house in Northamptonshire?
So far, suggestions that something is not quite right with the English Premier League have been carefully managed and kept away from the gaze of the media. Our work here last season (which can be seen in summary in our review) and the amazing analysis going on within Referee Decisions, shows that there is reason to believe something is not right.
Corruption in the boardroom, questions about the FA, questions about Fifa… and the billionaire sponsorship of two clubs that seems to be a deliberate challenge to Uefa’s financial rules – such matters get the occasional mention, but basically no one is alienated. The billionaires are making their money talk – Man City and Chelsea both obviously winning stuff last season.
But, I think there are a few reasons to think that maybe all is not quite as it seems.
Matters, for example, are a little different elsewhere. Zenit in Russia changed themselves around in December 2009, and announced they were going to win the League and the Cup and proceed at the least to the group stages of the Champs League. They did win the league, but this season they are currently 8th in the league after 10 games and are bottom of their Champions League group. There are murmurs.
Paris St Germain, by far the richest club in France, and effectively able to outbid any other club for anyone they fancy are currently third in the French League and equal second in their Champs League group with three points – not bad, but not quite the domination they expected. But still the crowds turn up, and money is pouring into French football from investors in the middle east. The TV deal is certainly pouring money in.
Italy is however different again – and it is possible to argue they are one step ahead. Average attendances have been falling in Serie A in recent years, perhaps due to the economic problems, perhaps due to ref-fixing, match fixing and general corruption.
This has come to the fore in the last week or so because instead of the Milan derby being sold out instantly, it wasn’t – and with AC Milan in real financial problems and sitting 11th in the league, it looks like their supporters have had enough. Silvio Berlusconi who has bank rolled the club for years looks like he can’t do it, or can’t be bothered to do it, any more.
I don’t know what the crowd for today’s Milan match will be, but the story is that the ground is not going to be full. The captain of AC Milan, Massimo Ambrosini, has even done a TV advert, promoting the game.
What links all this together is that Milan sold Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to Paris St-Germain in the summer. There was no way they couldn’t sell – the players wanted the money and the lure of the new French mega club, AC need the cash – the sales were inevitable once PSG entered the market.
The trouble is that AC Milan don’t have a way out of the mess. While Arsenal have faced the same problem, Arsenal have a battery of options to help them ease through. One is called Mr Wenger, another is the youth policy, another is the way the finances have been arranged so that new money will arrive soon from the sponsorship and marketing deals (as the old deals come to an end) and the developments of industrial property continue to bring in money.
So while Milan sink, with crowds of under 30,000 Arsenal is still full, can look forward to a big time marketing boost internally, and as Tom Fox told us at the recent AISA meeting, there is going to be a huge expansion into the Far East, China and the USA.
Meanwhile, it is true to say that all of the clubs in Italy are suffering from a lack of funding. And it is true to say that the experiences of some of the billionaire clubs around Europe shows that although money can buy trophies in England, it doesn’t always happen.
But let me just end with another twist: Malaga who are third in the Spanish league. They shot up the league after the Qatar royal family (which effectively means Qatar) bought them. They got into the Champs League for the first time, but then the money stopped, and they moved from biggest spenders to a team that bought no one in the summer, and instead sold.
Of course, we were one of the beneficiaries getting Cazorla for a bargain price. Salomon Rondon and Joris Mathijsen also left. Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cazorla threatened legal action over unpaid wages last season. The league imposed a transfer ban after Malaga failed to make a stage payment to Osasuna.
But they have recovered with what the BBC web site called an “AFC Wimbledon-style ownership model,” and they have not sunk as many (including me) suggested might happen.
- Gun at work – ok. Naughty tweet – a tap on the wrist. John Terry – we’ll think about it. Where is the morality?
- Ref disaster, ESPN laughable, Arsenal magnificent
- West Ham v Arsenal; the ref competency, the slug as manager, Demel, etc
- Ridsdale: disqualified as a director, chairman of football at Preston