by Tony Attwood
As Swiss Ramble points out: the big six (so that means for the moment, excluding Newcastle) have captured 93% of European TV money available to English teams in the last eight years. Although, to be sure, the arrival of Newcastle on the scene is going to make it interesting to see who slips in at seventh. At the moment Chelsea are four points and four places behind Liverpool in sixth while Brighton, currently in sixth, have played two games fewer.
Chelsea might make it but they are dependent on Liverpool, Brentford, Brighton and Fulham all slipping up in the last 11 games of the season. So having a nett spend of around £480m this season on transfers, they might not even make Europe next time around.
Of course clubs have repeatedly tried to break into the Champions League places by risking all on bringing in new players who it is thought could take them to fourth. Then the plan is to bring in more in order to stay in that position.
In this scenario FFP also helps maintain the status quo – the rich clubs already in the Champions League get richer, the rest flounder. And as Arsenal have shown, it can take six years to get back to the top four (although Arsenal reduced the strain a little by winning the FA cup twice in those six years, but even so the media assaults never once let up).
Of course Uefa could act to change the situation by altering the way money is handed out from the centre to clubs that don’t make it into the Champions League. But it was the slow progress on this, and the realisation that the result of the discussions would lead to very modest changes that led the top clubs in Europe to propose the Super League. They knew, of course that everything was fine while they were in the Champions League, but once a club slips out of regular qualification, it can be difficult to get back in – as Arsenal has shown and Chelsea may be about to learn.
But Super League was more than a statement of intent to leave the current setup – it was also an invitation to Uefa to change its mode of working. Their argument was simple: they bring in the big TV audiences and so need more money to maintain their position.
In this scenario, Arsenal has a different agenda, being owned as they are, by Americans who are actively involved in a variety of sport in the USA. Their clear aim is to make “soccer” not just bigger in the USA (they own Colorado Rapids and do deals with Arsenal) but much more popular making the rights to Arsenal much more valuable.
What this globalisation has meant is that there is only a modest number of teams that can actually be part of this new global set up: clubs that have a name through their historic achievement and current size, and clubs that have near unlimited funds to push themselves up to that level.
Arsenal has still yet to make much out of its unique origins, and the remarkable redevelopment of the Dial Square complex south of the river – but I am sure that will come.
Even so, without the development of awareness of Arsenal’s unique historic position in terms of its origins Arsenal is still in the marketing league alongside the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and the like. And this is where the newcomers to the ranks of the “historic” big clubs (PSG, Manchester City and Chelsea are the obvious examples) suffer: they don’t have the same historic connectivity which made them, in the words of the Independent, “no longer just football clubs” and turned them into “glamorous content providers.”
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