There is an article in the generally appalling Daily Mail on who owns football. They give a list of each EPL club and then look at the money that person has.
There are some rather amusing bits and pieces in there – as with what they say when they get to West Iceland United where it just says Straumur Investment Bank, but fails to give any assets – because there aren’t any.
The assets they quote throughout are the assets of the owners – Kronke £2bn, Usmanov £1.3bn, Fiszman £225m, Bracewell Smith £85m in our case.
They don’t take this further, but there is a quite interesting analysis that can be done by adding up the wealth of the owners. The top figures are
- Manchester A £17bn
- KGB in Fulham £7.8bn
- Arsenal £3.6bn
- The Tiny Totts £2.5bn
- Manchester IOU £1.5bn
- Liverpool Insolvency £1bn
In many cases this doesn’t mean too much – no owner is going to put all that money into a club, so what does it matter if he has £2.5bn or £4.5bn? It only matters either when you contrast the level of wealth backing the club with some of the lesser beings, (such as poor Everton who seem to be backed by a measly £8m) or when all the wealth is in the hands of one person who could get bored, get arrested, get killed or whatever else rich people get.
And of course, matters can change. No one is quite sure yet about Portsmouth, and they might end shooting up the money league.
On the other hand look at QPR who are supposed to be the richest of the lot in terms of backing from owners, and all they have is the threat of their man being kicked out for being an improper person.
But I don’t think this tells all the story.
For a start are clubs are “owned” in one very meaningful way by the incompetent and corrupt authorities that “run” football – such as the Football League, the EPL, the FA, UEFA and FIFA. There is an hilarious piece in the Guardian today about Lord Mawhinney, the Football League chairman, who is making a sudden fuss about Notts County.
Notts County, you will recall, are owned by, well, who? They keep coming up with names, like the ex-PM of Pakistan, or the head of a wealthy Punjabi family, and those people say, when asked, “who the **** are Notts County?”
The little men running the company blame the media (although it is hard to see how it is their fault on this occasion), but the Lord has stamped his little foot, posed for pics outside Parliament, and said that it is time something was done about County, Leeds, QPR… instead of bowing down (in the case of Leeds for example) and saying “oh thank you Mr Bates, your honour, your worship, of course we believe you own Leeds because you say so. What’s that? Oh you made a mistake? You don’t own Leeds! Well, not to worry, these things happen. So who does own Leeds, if you don’t mind me asking? You don’t know? Oh well, never mind. We’ll find out one day…”
His Lordship could have done the honourable thing when the Leeds story broke, and resigned, along with everyone else. He had been taken for a ride and made to look an utter fool. But no, what he said was, “Our system is a self-certification,” as if that excused him.
“I said something today I have never said before,” he added. “If they want to play in our league, we should know who is playing in our league.”
So now we know.
The fit and proper rules were introduced in 2004, and oh, what a surprise, not only has Mawhinney done nothing about them, he is now about to leave his job, so he is making a fuss, just as he is about to go. Not a state of affairs that gives anyone confidence.
It is sad and pathetic – as sad and pathetic as the way in which FIFA change its rules to suit itself (as with qualification to whatever dopey cup they are currently running), and the way they believe that the rule of law doesn’t apply to them (see Mastercard vs FIFA in the American courts for details).
So there’s the money men who own the shares, the silly little organisations like the Football League, EPL, FIFA, UEFA, FA… who own the regulations, and who else in the ownership mix?
Two more bodies. First, the bankers. They clearly own West Iceland, Liverpool I, and Manchester IOU, because those clubs are so in debt they are teetering on the brink. But would you trust your football club in the hands of bankers who have just wrecked the economies of much of the western world?
In one sense it can be argued that Arsenal are owned by the bankers who lent the money on the mortgage – and I accept that. But Arsenal have a 20 year repayment arrangement, and even if they were to default on that the mortgage is on the ground, not the club. In Manchester and Liverpool every aspect of the club – the ground, the training facilities, the players, the very brand itself – all are mortgaged.
But is there a fourth power in football, lurking in the background behind the money men, the childish organisations, and the bankers who raped our economy and are now set up to do it again with the blessing of our government?
Yes. The fourth estate, of course. Journalists and the media owners have power in two arenas. Originally it was by choosing what was news and printing that, but not other issues. But now they have changed that, and they create the news by making it up.
Take the Sun’s insane “Cesc leaving” story (recently followed by Eboue to Barca – see yesterday’s comments column on Untold Arsenal for more on that one). Almunia’s wife has seen a ghost, Rosicky is going to leave, Denilson is utterly inadequate, Eduardo is an evil diver… it goes on day by day.
There is a power there, because that power is given to the papers not just by those who buy them but also by those who believe them.
The amusing bit comes when the media believes its own hype. So convinced were the broadcast media this year that Arsenal were going nowhere, they only booked in live TV games for a handful of matches between August and the end of November.
Now they have realised that we have the most attractive attack minded team ever produced in the EPL, and quite possibly anywhere since the second world war, and they are desperate to get in on the act. Every game save one in December is going out on live TV in the UK.
The fact that we all knew this footballing revolution was happening, as a result of last season, was ignored by the media as they pumped out their “Arsenal is the team most likely to slip out of the top four” line.
In fact we are playing the most brilliant football in the EPL with half the team out (Almunia, Nasri, Denilson, Theo, Eduardo, Vela – they’ve all been spending match after match out), we are top of the Reserve league (which we may remember the Tiny Totts wouldn’t even enter this year), we are top of the Youth League, and just in case you missed it, yesterday we finished off our Women’s Champions League first round game with an aggregate 18-0 victory.
So: who controls football? To a degree the money men in the clubs. But also, the little children running around and ultimately getting lost in the corridors of power, the bankers, and the media.
Sadly, that list does not include you and I. But I would say this. In our own way, thanks to the internet, we are fighting back.
If you like history, there’s more about Arsenal on www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk which has a new article each day about Arsenal 100 years ago. And here’s a final snippet. Yesterday I was given the first copy of “Making the Arsenal” – my book about the transformation of Arsenal in1910. I think its wonderful – but then since I wrote it, that is not surprising.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009.