by Tony Attwood
If you take homeowners who in recent years spent far more than they should on buying a house on a mortgage, you can liken them to clubs who’ve also taken the “everyone else is doing it!” approach of reckless financial management. Instead of living within their means, they’ve run up debts they can’t possibly pay. Responsibility vanishes. For the home owner responsibility to the family, to those from whom money is borrowed – it all goes. In football responsibility to the supporters is thrown aside like sweet wrappers.
On the other side of the coin we have The Arsenal who fit into the “responsible homeowners” model who, while it hasn’t been easy, have lived within their budget even when it was restrictive to do so.
At first being “responsible” seems boring, dull, unadventurous. Like the sad teenager who sits at home studying while the up-and-at-em kids are out racing motorbikes around the local streets. Like the manager who won’t go out and spend billions on new players why elsewhere is a man who says, “We’re living the Dream”.
But as motorbike kids have or cause horrendous accidents, and as the risk-it-all neighbours are declaring bankruptcy and irresponsibly walk away from their debts, the nerdy student gets the top job while The Arsenal emerge as the safest credit risk on the footballing block.
No, it hasn’t been easy. Yes, other clubs (or homeowners or boy racers) might be signing the big names, buying bigger houses with bigger garden gnomes and stealing bigger motorbikes. But Arsenal have been the good stewards, taking care of what they have, wisely husbanding resources and planning for the future.
Just as the US economy, indeed most of Europe as well, will surely see much leaner times ahead, those homeowners who took the hard decisions early, and those football clubs like Arsenal who have taken care to structure themselves with a long-term plan, will surely come out so far ahead of the financial pack that the nay sayers will be humbled into submission. At least those of them who have any honesty and wish to retain any sense of credibility.
To show what we mean here is an extract from Taipan Daily: “Strategic Defaulters” Are Barbarians Looting Rome
The Road to Hell…
You cannot have a functional economic system in which a critical mass of participants decide “not paying their debts” is okay. When the system is allowed to rot, the system eventually breaks down.
Believe it or not, it comes back to culture. In a culture where paying one’s debts and honouring one’s commitments is seen as a clear moral obligation, the rule of law is intact. When the state of the union is good, these cultural norms are subtly reinforced in a thousand different ways. A sense of fairness – though frayed at the edges at times – generally prevails.
When you lose that sense of cultural obligation though – when people start saying “Forget the mortgage, let’s go have a steak and visit the casino” – the social fabric is torn asunder.
Just imagine you are a strapped homeowner yourself (and well you might be), fighting hard to pay the bills and keep your head above water.
If you are struggling with all your might, but then look left and right to see your neighbours living high on the hog, what are you going to think? How are you going to feel?
It’s like a toxic weed… strategic default begets more strategic default. Immoral behavior spawns more immoral behavior. “If the neighbors are doing it, we can too… and we would be fools not to.” People just stop caring.
This economic example can be applied directly to football. If the other teams in the EPL are all borrowing money without the slightest notion of how they are ever going to pay it back (aside from the almost pathetic cries coming from Everton – “is there a billionaire in the house?”) then everyone copies the style and approach. As the article says, “If the neighbours are doing it, we can too… and we would be fools not to.”
But as the economy at large shows, it can all go utterly wrong. Later in the article from the Taipan Daily there’s rather nice snippet about Greece.
“In the wealthy suburbs of northern Athens, the New York Times reported last month, only 324 residents admitted to owning swimming pools on their tax forms. That number seemed low to Greek tax investigators, so they made some calculations of their own based on satellite photos of the area.
“Their estimate of the actual number of pools, as opposed to the 324 reported: 16,974.
“When lying about assets becomes such an epidemic that more than 98% of the citizenry does it, the economic system can no longer be called functional. And that is partly why Greece, a country that dined well for years on the credit of others, is now staring down the prospect of a brutal, crushing depression. The bread and circus money has simply run out.”
We are not going to say that Leeds United, Cardiff City, Portsmouth, Hull City, or any other club in trouble has lied about its assets. Nor that the Portsmouth three, all due in court shortly to face charges of tax evasion, are crooks. The courts will decide and of course we don’t have evidence of that. But we note with interest just how excited HMRC (the tax collection agency in the United Kingdom) is getting about football.
HMRC go fishing in the pools where there is something to be had. Pay your personal tax, your corporation tax, your value added tax, and every other tax fairly, and on time, and HMRC just give you the occasional once over. But where they smell cheating and corruption they come looking – and these days HMRC are as much in the news as the clubs and individuals they are looking at. HMRC looking at football is symptomatic of what is going on here.
Here’s a final extract from the article we’ve been quoting…
“…when we see spreading evidences of immoral, anti-social behavior… a wholesale abuse of trust and trampling of the rule of law, accompanied by a “who cares” style shrug… we can know that the entire capitalist system is in peril.
“If people no longer care about paying their debts (as strategic defaulters do not), the system stops functioning. Meanwhile, if those who do pay their bills (and pay their taxes) are overwhelmed by outrage at the sight of “free riders,” the cohesion of the political system breaks down too.
“You cannot have a healthy economy where anyone with a retained sense of social and moral obligation feels like a sucker… where adherence to values and principles brands one a dumb cow waiting to be milked.
“When we try to pinpoint the source of all this rot – when we “seek the source” – where does the trail lead?
“In your humble editor’s opinion, it leads back to government.”
And the parallel with football is… the crazed culture that leads Real Madrid to spend £80m on a player without having the money to pay for him, when the whole of football is based around loss making and not paying debts, and when it is protected by a wholly artificial “football debts” rule that means that time and again St John’s Ambulance finds that it is not paid for its work at football grounds because it is not “a football debt”, when Barca-loan-us try to buy Cesc Fabregas without having first paid for Henry and Hleb, then we know it is all going wrong.
The fact that the Catastrophists want Arsenal to jump into bed with the loss making nutters and crooks shows really just where they are coming from.
But, to return to the article we’re quoting here, “When we try to pinpoint the source of all this rot – when we “seek the source” – where does the trail lead?” The answer is of course FIFA for the world game, and the FA and EPL for the English game. The FA, who cannot seem to hold onto a chief executive for more than a few months, and the EPL now being sued by HMRC, and who seem to think that £3bn combined debts is “ok”.
However, all nonsense comes to an end, and this is the end for the crooks, con men, and catastrophists who have run football for years. Fortunately for all of us, Arsenal retained its values. We should all be thankful for that.
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