By Tony Attwood
Thank goodness – the interlull is just on over. And what a ghastly interlull it has been. Daily attacks on Arsenal by the media, the most appalling news on the terrorist front, and my super whizzo car has gone plonk and will not function at more than 20mph (30mph going downhill).
So the long wind down the M1 from Northamptonshire tomorrow will be in a little red Toyota, which from first glance could probably fit under most of the HGVs that normally travel in gangs on the motorway whenever I fancy going somewhere.
The only good news is that I took the little replacement vehicle for a spin to Rugby in Warwickshire last night, to go to a dance, and it handled the drive along the partially upgraded A14 / M1 / M6 interchange quite well. No one died and no more than six or eight vehicles were forced off the road as I tried to work out how all the latest lane changes (introduced entirely to confuse me) worked.
Anyway, there’s no doubt that the fanatical anti-Arsenal elements in the media will continue their rampage against reality over the weekend, with suggestions that next November 5 instead of burning the pope on bonfires we should be burning Mr W etc etc.
And thus, for a final flurry before football returns from the wilderness we have this in the Guardian: “The reasons for Arsenal’s stagnation are legion and have been discussed at length, from Wenger’s increasing conservatism to the supposed over-niceness of this group of players, but look at the sweep of the past 12 years and it becomes apparent there is also one huge underlying issue.”
Thus “top four is not a trophy” is now “stagnation”. It is the sort of “stagnation” that Man U and Chelsea would love to have at this moment, and that Tottenham is desperate for, because the chances are that for the eight millionth year in a row Arsenal will be in the Champions League, which means yet more money for the club.
And it is curious to miss that out, for this latest rampage against reality in the newspaper of the political party that no longer exists, is about money. In essence it seems to argue that Arsenal entered a slough of despond in order to build the New Arsenal Stadium, and it was all a waste of time, because we don’t need the money any more, as we have a new TV deal, and Man C and Chelsea can outbid us on anything any day they want.
Arsenal, the article says, “found themselves on the wrong side of football’s economics.”
Now this very odd and very unclear article does have the grace to point out that Arsenal has the seventh-highest revenues in the world. “Moving to the Emirates in 2006 was supposed to be Arsenal’s way of closing the economic gap on Manchester United and the European elite. But in 2003 Roman Abramovich arrived and revolutionised the finance landscape of English football.” Or as I recall Mr Wenger saying at the time, “The Russians have parked their tanks on our pitch and are firing £50 notes at us.”
But the one part of the legacy of Platini that is worth remembering is still there – FFP. It isn’t talked about much, but it is there – and maybe this is time to consider FFP in the new world of the mega TV deal.
There are two things to remember here. First, although all the PL clubs are getting loads more dosh, the chances are they will spend it on higher transfer fees and higher wages. That is what they do. And since all the clubs are getting more money there won’t be that much difference. If you spend all your money on ever higher player costs and then spend more, you’ll be as caught by FFP as you were three years ago. As Lord Sugar so elegantly pointed out when he was running Tottenham Hotspur & Co, “if we get more money all the clubs will do is piss it up against the wall in players’ wages.” Such a fine turn of phrase.
True, the clubs at the top get more of the new money than clubs at the bottom – which is why finishing higher up the league is always important. But in a world where you now earn twice as much but everything is twice as expensive, not too much has changed (unless of course the UK votes to leave the EU in which case it will take longer to bring in each European player, and that will make transfers slower and harder. Why spend two months trying to get a work permit in England when you can just go and play in Germany or Spain?).
So the extra income from the stadium is still worth having – as of course is the extra comfort and the better view. Hence WHU’s euphoria at receiving the present the UK government has made to it of a lease on the Olympic stadium, hence Tottenham now entering the deep dark hole of building a stadium without sugar daddy funding, hence Chelsea’s long overdue upgrade which is planned to last three years, hence the length Liverpool are going to, just to put in some executive chairs.
Arsenal still has to keep up with Chelsea and Man C and they do it (according to Deloitte) with income from matchday revenue.
Now of course the media turn this into “the most expensive club to watch” and as always, do this without any evidence. It is just like “Arsenal get more cards than any other club” and “Arsenal get more injuries than any other club” and that one idiot picture over and over again of one guy protesting at a match and claim all Arsenal fans are protesting.
The evidence to back up all these claims is not there.
So when the Guardian proclaims, “broadcast revenues have increased to the point where stadium revenue seems, if not irrelevant, then certainly less significant than it was,” this is completely untrue, because everyone is getting more broadcast revenue. Only Arsenal have this much income from a matchday, thanks to the massive array of boxes and club level seats.
The new TV deals bring in £5.1bn meaning the club at the foot of the table gets £100m, and the Champions League sides all get more than £150m. The overseas rights of over £1bn are even more equally distributed. So making £100m from the matchday input is still worthwhile if many of your competitors are getting half that.
And of course that is not all. Arsenal bring through youngsters of quality – players that don’t cost mega fees. I’ve repeated the list so often that you probably know it all by heart – Coquelin, Bellerin… etc. And I would not be surprised if we didn’t have two ready for us next season, looking at the list of youngsters we have who are coming through.
So wherever Tottenham and Leicester end up at the end of the season, they will still go into next season with less income than Man U and Arsenal because of the tiny stadia that they have.
And here’s one other thing. When players are considering which club to join – either as youngsters or as big money transfers, they look at the facilities. They look at the training and medical support areas, at the changing rooms, at the stadium, at the long-term stability of the club etc etc.
And they look at the attendances….
Graphic courtesy of UK Soccer Shop.
Players like to be seen, like to be talked about. They like the big numbers.
Of course no one transfers to a club just because of the stadium, but it helps. That’s why other clubs want bigger grounds.
Anyway, as I said, the interlull is now just about over. It is almost time for the ref preview for the Watford game.
Anniversary of the day (more on the home page)
1 April 1931: Arsenal wrote to the BBC banning all future radio broadcasts from Highbury. (Exact date uncertain, but certainly within two days either way). They rather bizarrely failed to let George Allison know – even though he was the BBC’s chief commentator.