By Tony Attwood
An elite group of nine European ‘super clubs’, including five from the Premier League, are now so wealthy that nobody else has any realistic chance of catching them financially. That is what a new official report from Uefa says, although it is not clear what it intends to do about it.
Also it is not clear why they think no one else can catch up. After all FFP is hardly being rigorously applied, and even when it is, the penalties are small, and Chinese football fans seem to have plenty of cash, and could keep on buying clubs. So how can they suggest no one else will enter the fray? Look how fast PSG joined in.
Anyway the top teams in financial terms from England are the obvious: Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.
In Spain it is the child traffickers, Real Madrid and Barcelona. In Germany the eternal league winners Bayern Munich and France has the oil and gas sponsored Paris Saint-Germain.
The suggestion is that these clubs have brought in an extra £100m each from commercial revenue, while most of the other clubs in the top leagues in Europe have struggled in increase their sales by £1m each.
There’s a rather twee little report from Uefa on the topic which calls Uefa the “guardian of the game” which someone in the mass media in the UK would question if they weren’t all so in hock to Uefa in terms of getting the rights to coverage of Champs League games. If Uefa is the guardian of the game then Donald Trump is the guardian of the free world.
The argument against other teams rising up and breaking into the elite group is that the big clubs have big supporter bases which they can use to generate more money – and they can do this because they can now reach all their supporters all over the world.
One interesting other fact is that England has more foreign owners than the rest of Europe’s 13 biggest leagues combined. Chinese investors look likely to outnumber American owners by the end of this year (that is my prediction not theirs).
So anyway I thought I would try and pull together some figures to see how they relate to this Uefa report.
|Club||2016 transfer spend||Transfer pos.||Current squad cost||Squad cost pos.||Current Salary bill||Salary pos.||Lge pos.|
|State Aid Utd||£52.96m||7||£171m||8||£2.26m||7||13|
What I find interesting is that the more the clubs are going to spend, the more they are going to spend in all areas – Arsenal have the fourth highest transfer spend, the fourth highest current squad cost, the fourth highest salary bill.
In other words no one has found a magic formula of being able to spend more in just one area in order to rise up the league.
But of course the league position does not exactly reflect money spent. Ninth in the league are Bournemouth who are 14th in the current squad cost and are 17th in the salary chart. Their problem however is if their players are seen to be responsible for their high position (as opposed to their manager) then those players will be the subject of significant bids.
This is what happened to Leicester last summer and as a result the club was forced to offer new contracts to the players, which then restricted its ability to buy new players. As a result of that Leicester are tied into longer contracts with some players who are no longer delivering which means it is harder for them to build up a new squad. But the change in the way the rules are interpreted this season has harmed them too.
And Leicester have found it impossible to generate huge amounts of new revenue on the back of their Championship last season. Which is rather what Untold suggested might happen, following our bit of digging in relation to their rather curious marketing company. But still, mustn’t boast.
There are slight variations of course – Tottenham spent more than usual in the summer of 2016 but are underpaying on salaries, but the differences other than in the cases mentioned are never more than one place.
Thus the teams that ought to be doing far more than they are currently achieving are Manchester United. Manchester City and above all West Ham. They have had (according to their co-chair) the most successful stadium transplant ever, and indeed have been gifted a stadium as compared to Arsenal and Tottenham who have had to pay for theirs. On the basis of expenditure they should be 7th in the league, but they are 13th. Clearly not good enough.
Meanwhile Arsenal has been raising the salaries of players considerably, and the news has come through that Olivier Giroud, Francis Coquelin and Laurent Koscielny have all agreed new contract extensions, something that I am sure they wanted to get out of the way before sorting out the issues of Alexis and Mesut.
“We are very pleased that three important members of our team have committed to us for the long term. Francis has made tremendous technical strides over the past few years because he’s so focused every day,” said Arsène Wenger. “Olivier has big experience in the game now and has become a more and more complete player since joining us. Laurent is of course a key part of our squad and I believe one of the best defenders in the world today. So overall, this is great news for us.”
And so says I.
Untold Arsenal and the Arsenal History Society… nine years old today