Before we begin, Untold Rumours now appear that end of the main article in each edition of Untold Arsenal. Today, its our new goalkeeper, and the availability of season tickets. Now onto the meat and two veg…
I have been working on a piece for several days about the collapse of football as we know it, and I am very grateful to Jonathan Neale for sending me a link to the “Force for Good” web site – which helped me a lot. There’s much more to come on the subject of the end of football as we know it, but this is a great place to start. There is a full link to the “Force for Good” article at the end of this piece.
The Force for Good site has developed The Football Fans Stewardship Scorecard which sounds exceedingly grand. It purports to rank clubs out of 50 for five different factors which give a rating of goodness.
The factors are
- Putting the Club First. Do the board and the owners focus on something more than their own interest?
- Long-termism. Is there a youth policy and are promising new players coming through or does the club rely on the transfer market?
- Clarity of purpose, role and responsibilities. Have the owners clearly said what their ambitions, intentions and strategy are?
- Engagement with fans and community. Do they recognise and respect and involve the voice of the fans?
- Passion commitment and conviction. Are they obsessive about doing the right thing in the right way for the club, and football more generally, and do they work to get the Premier League and other clubs to do the same?
These five criteria are, to my mind, interesting, but incomplete. Although part two gets close it doesn’t actually cover sustainability, in relation to the source of income. So I started my review of the site with caution – and this was increased when I found that Aston Villa came top.
Villa are to me a classic Football 2.0 team, and that model is unsustainable in every degree. Worse, Villa management have structured their situation so that the fans either don’t know about the structure of the finance or they simply don’t believe there is anything wrong with it.
Here’s the detail… Villa make a loss each year – and that money is made up by loans from the owner, who then charges the club a nifty rate of interest on those loans – far more in fact than he would ever get from a bank. At the moment the owner makes several a year out of the club, and the club continues to make a loss.
What is wrong with that is that loss making companies is that they cannot continue indefinitely, and in football terms they will fall foul of UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play regulations which include ” the obligation for clubs whose turnover is over a certain threshold, over a period of time, to balance their books, or “break even”, (i.e. clubs cannot repeatedly spend more than the generated revenues)”.
The fact is that the loans cannot go on getting bigger and bigger because eventually Villa will run out of the ability to pay the interest, will not have any ability to pay back the loans, and/or the owner will run out of money or interest. Those are obvious points – you can’t go on doing this lending business without somehow thinking of the end game.
Villa do have a youth policy but it is ten years behind Arsenal’s and we know how difficult it is to bring players through from a youth system, even when it combines setting up a children’s squad for the 11 year olds, and combining this with world-wide scouting.
But what Villa have done which is so clever is that they have wrapped up this unsustainable withdrawal of money from the club with a PR machine that really does present the top people as being seriously interested in the club and its fans. It is in fact Glazerism in reverse. Very clever move that.
Arsenal come second in the chart and the comments note the club has the lowest wage bill as a percentage of turnover. We’ve discussed their position endlessly here, so I’ll leave it at that.
Everton’s is another funny entry – coming in at fourth. Everton has lost money every year for about ten years except in one year when they made a small profit following the sale of Rooney. Again not a sustainable position – and indeed absolutely no sign of how the club is going to move out of this situation of loss upon loss upon loss. You can build a new stadium as a loss making concern, but it is hard to get the loans, and arrangement the repayments.
Yet another weirdo is Hull. Here’s the comment
“Prudent stewardship has steered Hull all the way through the league. Until recently lowest debt in premiership. Man Utd and Chelsea were 600 x more indebted! Adam Pearson has found a new owner in Paul Duffen – too early to judge impact but Pearson says they have finances to invest over 2 – 5 years”
In reality they have just ended a court case over a possible fraud, and they are on the very edge in terms of their finances. Here’s what the Guardian said last October…
“Hull have been warned their uncertain financial position threatens the club’s “ability to continue as a going concern”. The club’s accounts, filed five months late to Companies House, say that in the event of relegation the EPL club will need to generate a £23m surplus just to meet their existing liabilities.”
Now we are getting to the real screamers – believe me this is a great build up here.
At 13 we have Manchester IOU. “Second highest debt in Premiership, but profitable under the Glazers and beginning to pay down the debt they were landed with. A policy of signing young players; and the longest serving manager of them all in spite of the change in ownership points to a steady rise up the stewardship ranks.”
PROFITABLE UNDER THE GLAZERS??????????
The club made a technical profit in the year of the Ronaldo sale for £80m, and then immediately spent half of that in rescheduling their debts (that £40m was for bankers, lawyers, agents, fixers and accountants). Worse, the family of the owners are walking away with millions in their own pockets each year as “management fees”.
I also love the phrase “they were landed with”.
And all this before the gross mismanagement by the club of their own supporters revolt. The stupidity by the club of leaving the comments by the Gill irritant on their web site opposing the takeover and debt, when he is now in the job of being the front man for it…. You wouldn’t make a cock up like that if you were running a £10k a year sweet shop.
Chelsea are at 15 with a moderately sane commentary and then…
Portsmouth are at 17 and then…
At 18 the Tiny Totts, at 19 Liverpool and at 20, West Ham. West Ham’s entry is quite jolly, “Mismanaged transfers; jeopardised long term for short term success; embraced Icelandic owner at worst moment; albeit previously strong youth policy, now club must be run to pay back debt.
One of the key things they don’t note about the Tinites (actually I meant Tinies but it came about Tinites and I rather like that) is that because the controlling company is in the Virgin Islands, we really have no idea about anything to do with the club’s finances. They declare profits each year, and yet, and yet…. How? Because we can’t go through the accounts we can’t find out.
The one interesting area where Arsenal come out top with 9 out of 10 is long termism, which is by and large what we spend a lot of time nattering about on this site, and what separates the positivists from the negativists. Our lowest figure is “Passion” which gets 5 – that is passion of the board or owner.
The KGB in Fulham have a passion of 7. Maybe that is true today but a year or so ago the owner was hardly seen and was referred to here as Mr Absent Abramovich. Mind you if my club was owned by the KGB I’d say anything about them that they wanted me to say.
The Football Fans Stewardship Scorecard:
Jonathan Neale/Tony Attwood
And now the world famous UNTOLD RUMOURS
What makes these two rumours different from the one’s run in the last couple of days is that I have actually heard them said seriously. I think I am going to stop making these things up.
Arsene Wenger did indeed sign a new goalkeeper Cesar Leonardo Monastgerio Gaston Monzon Hernan Morales. Wenger and his spies judged him from a short video and immediately offered a four year contract. Unfortunately when he turned up they found he was only five feet eight inches tall.
The Gold membership scheme will become open to everyone this summer, and the Silver membership scheme will be abolished, as the waiting list for season tickets has disintegrated this year, and thousands are expected not to renew because of the combination of the recession and their dismay at the way Arsenal are playing.
If you know any good rumours do send them in. Tony@hamilton-house.com
All the stuff you may have missed (well some of it)…
Why did we move to Highbury and not somewhere else
From Manchester United to Mansfield – different ways of running a football club (or league)
“Making the Arsenal” – the book that launched a thousand credit card payments.
If you have been, thanks. It’s been a pleasure.