By Walter Broeckx
In another article the other day I touched the notion of some fans of other clubs giving the impression that it is Arsenal and Wenger who invented and pushed through FFP in football.
Now of course I like to think of Arsenal as being a great club and an important club but the thought of that idea is a bit stupid.
No way Arsenal could have pushed an idea through the throats of the rest of the football world if the rest of the football world wouldn’t agree with the principles.
Yes Arsenal and Wenger have been strong advocates of FFP rules. And yes when other clubs talk about FFP rules they look at the model Arsenal gave them and implemented as the way to move forward without outside money. Arsenal is a model club. I have lost count of other clubs presidents pointing at the Arsenal model on how to build or rebuild their club.
In Holland Arsenal is by most regarded as the model to follow. In Italy I have seen a few club presidents talking about Arsenal as a role model. Such comments are not really reported in the English media. But believe me in other countries when the name Arsenal is said it is not with any derogatory sound to it. It is with admiration and seen as an inspiration.
So one could understand that people who don’t look further than their own club interest get confused and see Arsenal as the big evil behind the FFP rules that forbid their club to spend, spend, spend and spend.
Arsenal have supported the idea but it was not Arsenal that said it had to be done for all clubs. That was a decision made by Uefa. And Arsenal is just one of the hundreds of clubs who are a member of Uefa. Maybe when someone from Arsenal speaks others listen with interest. But to think that to suggest that when someone from Arsenal speaks all other clubs (apart from the money clubs) say : ‘yes, this is what we will do’ is a bit silly.
The fact is that a lot of clubs in Europe were and are unhappy with the way football moved. They didn’t like the fact that outside money was thrown around as if it was nothing. They didn’t like the fact that clubs with unlimited resources and debt were the ones that were winning things. And yes some clubs didn’t like to lose their power. A power built up over the years because they had been building slowly for it.
Uefa saw the danger of clubs being the plaything of rich owners and who when those owners lose interest or would die suddenly would be without money and would collapse. Stability of football clubs is important because most clubs are important in their community and the long term well-being of clubs can bring damage to communities.
I don’t know how the media in England has reported the FFP rules but I can assure you that it has been the talk of the town in many countries in the years before Uefa came in action. In fact one could say finally came in action. Because the demand of many countries and clubs to Uefa to do something about it could be heard many years before it finally took off.
One could say Arsenal was one of the spiritual leaders in this but Arsenal was not alone. No, a lot of other club owners and presidents wanted it. And because of the majority of the clubs wanting it, Uefa went along with it.
Uefa surely didn’t do it because of just Arsenal wanted it. Platini didn’t do it because Wenger said he should do it. People who know the relationship between Wenger and Platini find it even surprising that Platini would do anything that Wenger likes! They haven’t been the closest friends in the past and that is to put it mildly.
If you look at the way Uefa has witch hunted Wenger at times it is clear to see that Wenger is not really a very much liked person in Uefa headquarters. If they could ban Wenger even for something that they had no real rules for, they went along with it.
So anyone who is suggesting that it was Wenger who imposed the FFP rules is talking rubbish.
For those who really want to attack the FFP rules it would be better to look a bit further than just Arsenal and Wenger. If you really want to blame, then blame all the other clubs in Europe who have supported FFP rules to be implemented. And there are a lot of clubs out there to blame. In fact the big majority of clubs in Europe are to blame then.
But as they are more or less invisible for English football fans they just go for the easy target and blame the one English club that has always openly supported FFP rules. And blame Wenger as that is the game of the day in the media in the last 18 years.
One thing that I sometimes wonder about is how they would react if it hadn’t been their club that got the gift of outside money. They probably would be advocating FFP rules to be implemented. But once they win the lottery, people forget where they came from and lose the touch with reality very easy.
But in my country the list of former big lottery winners who end up bankrupt is rather long. And that surely is not the way they want their club to end up. So yes it might drag their club back a bit but in the end there might come a day that they will be happy that FFP rules exist. The day their owner calls it a day, the day the owner loses his interest, the day he suddenly dies. Or is arrested. Or is overthrown in a coup.
FFP rules should make sure that if that day comes (and one of those options will come along) the club has a chance to survive. But of course that is not the worry for me as an Arsenal supporter at all.
(PS: as my local club in Belgium was some 12 years ago owned by a big spender we got 3 promotions in a row and were on the brink of returning to the top flight. The owner got arrested accused of fraud, the club went almost bankrupt and nearly vanished, the club went down again to the lower leagues and is now still fighting around the 3rd tier of football in my country. Believe me I know all too well how things can go wrong with rich owners. My local club now lives within it means and thank goodness for that).
- 10 July 1998: Arsenal, the double winners of 1997/8 lose to Boreham Wood 5-2 amid rumours that Ian Wright was about to leave. In July 1998 he went to West Ham but never found his form again.