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Football is built on a feudal state and we need to be aware of what that means

By Tony Attwood

Every few months the media does its thing about which is the most expensive team to support. Arsenal usually come out on top and then for a few months we have readers writing in claiming that Arsenal has the most expensive entrance prices in world football.  It’s a favourite filler of the BBC in particular, and some newspapers jump on it too.

Indeed you might remember when Manchester City fans decided to boycott Arsenal v Man C because of the price of the away seats.  It got a lot of publicity.   What got less publicity was that because only about 500 of the normal 3000 away seats were sold to visitors, the rest were then sold to Arsenal fans, and were snapped up in a trice.  Those fans were, I think, very grateful, and rather wanted the Man C boycott to continue… but it didn’t.

However what is also not considered at all in the media is why Arsenal’s tickets were more expensive than those at the Ethiad Stadium (although at the time on a like for like basis Arsenal’s tickets were not in fact the most expensive in the country at that time).  Indeedwhat has rarely been discussed until recently is where the money for each club comes from.

I’ve made the point in passing a number of times that Arsenal lives by its commercial activities: its entrance fees, sponsorship money, and other such commercial devices.  Like Man U, but unlike Man C and Chelsea, it doesn’t get any money from its owners.  In fact the allegation is the reverse: that the owners of Man U and Arsenal take money out of the club via management fees and other devices.  Man U does better at money raising than Arsenal because under the long term stewardship of the Hill-Wood clan commercialisation of the club was looked up with disdain, while Man U travelled in the opposite direction and introduced world wide marketing from the late 1950s onwards.

But when it is time to knock Arsenal, all such matters are ignored, as indeed is the whole issue of where the money to support various teams comes from.

Of course the issue of money raises its head occasionally particularly with the question of the source of the money that QPR, Bournemouth and Leicester used to buy in players that could get themselves promoted to the Premier League.  The legal case against QPR is still running as they are appealing against the fine of £41m for breaking FFP rules in 2013/14.  If they lose, they will effectively be bankrupt, and thus ejected from the League.  If Bournemouth and/or Leicester are ever relegated they too will be in the dock in a similar way, as they too are alleged to have broken FFP rules in the Championship and would face a hefty fine on returning to the lower league.  (The PL refuses to allow the collection of fines on its clubs, imposed by other leagues).

It is difficult to say quite what the FFP rules are in the Premier League now, and certainly it is difficult to imagine that any club is going to be penalised for spending, no matter how much it spends.  But it is still possible to consider where the money comes from: and that is the question that is never raised by the people who write their annual “Arsenal is the most expensive club to support” reports each year.

The difference between Arsenal and Manchester City lies fundamentally in the amount of money each is given by the feudal state of the United Arab Emirates.  Arsenal’s money comes from the sponsorship of the club by Emirates Airlines, which is owned by the Investment Corporation of Dubai which is effectively the sovereign wealth fund of Dubai – which gets its money from the port of Dubai, tourism and property development.

Manchester City’s money comes from being owned by the half brother of the dictator of the United Arab Emirates.  Arsenal’s income from the Emirates Airline comes from the same ultimate source, although because it is sponsorship rather than ownership, the income is far, far less.  As for where the UAE gets its money, partly this comes from oil (companies that get the oil out of the ground and sell it around the world pay the Emirates between 55% and 85% of their profit, in taxation).

But there is more to it than that.  As the Guardian pointed out in an article (which quite rightly notes that this is not the sort of thing that you hear about on Sky or BT Sport) the UAE is built on a system of apartheid in which 15% of the population are considered “full nationals” and have rights.  As it says, “the dirty work – from construction to cleaning – is done by despised immigrants from south Asia” who have no rights.

What is remarkable about the Guardian article, “Who pays for Manchester City’s beautiful game?” by Nick Cohen, is that it focuses not primarily on the fact that the UAE is a slave labour state but rather that hardly anyone mentions this fact any more.  If one does, the article suggests, then the old “don’t bring politics into football” quote comes up, although rarely does anyone bother to ask why one shouldn’t bring politics into football, since politics (in the form or tiny ruling elites who keep the money for themselves following an accident of birth) is paying for football.

Let me offer this quote from the article:

“In the 18th and 19th centuries, few wanted to say that gorgeous stately homes and fine public buildings had been built because the British looted Indians and enslaved Africans. Today, it feels equally “inappropriate” – to use a modern word that stinks of Victorian prudery – to say that a beautiful football club has been built on the proceeds of exploitation.”

Indeed – or to go back to my opening point, the fact that Arsenal is allegedly the most expensive club to support comes from the fact that Arsenal gets less money from the nation that lives by exploiting its slave labourers.  As a result, those of us who go, have to pay.

There is also the suggestion  that “the fans do not care where the money came from. Nor do neutrals who love football for its own sake. For them, it is as miserablist to talk about Manchester City’s owners on Match of the Day as to talk about the factory farming of turkeys at the Christmas lunch table,” as the Guardian says.

That is true but it does not excuse the fact that we have a mass media that covers football 24 hours a day, and yet absolutely fails to mention where the money comes from.  Instead we get (as I am sure we will in 2018) the regular comparison of which club is the most expensive to watch – which is nothing more than an exercise in deflection.

Manchester City is above Arsenal in the league because Manchester City gets more money from a country in which all dissidents are picked up by the police and many are tortured, than Arsenal do.

I still support Arsenal as I have done since I became aware of football as a child in north London.  But that does not stop me being ashamed that it is partly financed by money from a dictatorial state.  Nor does it stop me from being rather pleased to see an article in the Guardian that points out just how football is financed.  Here’s the link, in case you are interested…

Who pays for Manchester City’s beautiful game? by Nick Cohen

Recent Posts on Untold Arsenal and the Arsenal History Society

19 comments to Football is built on a feudal state and we need to be aware of what that means

  • Hardly slave labour as no one forces them to go , if the Countries they departed from weren’t so bent and corrupt they might find employment there . They therefore go because there is little or no employment back home .

    I think therefore the UAE should be congratulated on its efforts to give employment to so many

  • Nitram

    Que the appearance of outraged City fans.

  • Wolfgang

    When you see how RM,Barca and BM have cast a stranglehold on their leagues,it makes you wonder whether any anything can be done to level the playing field.’
    For starters, the respective football authorities especially in England can make it make it mandatory for every first team to have a minimum of 5/6/7 players.
    If not England could be like Germany where MC will win everything every season.

  • Hannibal I am left speechless. But of course you can have your point of view.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    Hannibal…you do have a point, I don’t think the UAE actually buys and brings in its workers but please read up on the working conditions and the rights of the workers once they are in the country…they are unable to leave without the permission of their employer, no matter the conditions of employment. The UAE says they are going to improve things…yet stories persist about the working conditions. So, perhaps Tony’s choice of words is hyperbolic but calling the UAE’s employment practices laudable is laughable.

  • So Tony answer me this why do they go in such large numbers to work there .

  • omgarsenal

    Hannibal….have you ever lived in a Middle Eastern oil state? Here are a few facts for your addled brain to ruminate on:
    1) Yes, any worker coming to the kingdom is welcomed with open arms, UNTIL they get there, then they are housed in conditions that even you would find unlivable (avg.temperatures year around 35oC/118oF) with no air-conditioning and shared bathrooms,kitchens etc.

    2)Their passports are seized by their employers and they cannot leave unless the employer authorizes it.

    3) They are paid minimum wages, most of which they send back to their home countries to support their families. since most of them are non-Muslims they are looked down upon by the majority Muslims.

    4) IF you have the misfortune to be female, you are subject to sexual and physical harassment by the families of the employer or other citizens, at random and without recourse to ANY protection fromn local,municipal or national authorities.

    5) If you get involved in an accident or other event involving a citizen, you are AUTOMATICALLY guilty, regardless of the facts. If you complain too loudly you can be on a plane in 24 hours without recourse and without pay. Some of the worst treatment was reserved for Maronite and Coptic Christians, who the Muslims consider traitors and apostates.

    6)Whether you are Muslim or not, you are considered a second-class citizen at the best of times. Speaking Arabic is no advantage If you aren’t a citizen….it simply identifies you as a foreigner. there are some exceptions, being Iranian, being a citizen of one of the Gulf states, being from Saudi, belonging to one of the five families, etc.

    I could go on but Hannibal, I invite you to educate yourself before coming on UA and embarrassing yourself with your patently obvious ignorance of world affairs and MC’s ownership lacunae. Please do send my regards to the sheikh’s family.

  • I read it today and when I began reading I was about to add the link, then realised that you had just gone one to mention it.

    I wrote. Masterful piece the night before last and being harassed tried to post it not realising my bet connection had gone and not doing tue save before post, let alone proof read.

    But needless to say, this topic came up in the pub between me and a departing colleague last night, whom I’ve only just met, during my cover transfer.

    He queried the source of our income as we mostly agreed rather than debated the finer points of the game and league.

    This was after a jibe at the Russian ownership of Chelsea, and its purchase of a solitary CL trophy; having been goaded about the lack of one at all.

    The unanimous agreement that Chelsea fans are generally w… you know the word, that’s coming from a lot of Chelsea fans, football people.

    Indid actually post the link to that article on Twitter quoting the retweet and adding the fact that I thought the sanctions from a heavily US funded UN were in some way tatamiunt to war, by the nature of them being discriminatory and a clear representation of NeoColonialism,. Meanwhile stating that surely both QATAR and UAE were due sanctions for multiple human right s breaches and this could offer a wonderful source of surplus income to support world wide aid, given the income from oil and a desire from both nations to balance a modern world rhetoric with the demands of their feudal states transition to tech and energy. The new diamonds

    This is why I should be a diplomat, quite simply. Sorry but I had to.

    I cannot accept City winning the Lwagie or the continued roles and questionable legitimatises of ownership. As with clubs sharing sponsorship deals with any direct or substantial competition affiliate.

    The introduction of AI linesmen is simple even if the lonesman still exists but a watch tells him when the ball is out or a player is offside by a margin greater than an open strideslength for instance.

    The removal of the rule which prevents incidents of a non serious nature being overlooked if a ref says he saw it or cautioned the player is also essential. Given it Ian being blatantly used as a smokescreen.

    A standardised and aowrate unabfiliate subcontracting fixture list generator and the introduction from player safeguarding in terms of fixture congestion and match Exocet would help in respect of injuries and FairPlay.

    Players who have been involved in assaults being criminalised and fined and the precision fpndirwxt victim compensation and full squad incision bans to prevent a player training with any affiliated team for a fixed penalty period.

    I could manage that team, that exact team, nobody would sign to me for a season though! 🙁

    A few of the guardians columnists are coming to the fore and Im grateful, the editor Ian still questionable.

  • I mean I give up , this phone has had it to and when I a good edited thing something goes wrong.

    i mean I’m grieving over the other one, I want to read it again.

    It was, pure dissection of the latest fixtures, top 6 form and transfers, squad
    Mentality, management and oh my, oh well.

  • Pat

    If we are talking about states importing cheap labour, we should remember that Britain does exactly the same thing and is assisted in doing it by the rules of the European Union.

    The European Court of Justice has ruled that protecting established wages and working conditions in Britain and other countries by insisting that workers from other countries are employed on equally good wages and working conditions infringes the rights of the individual workers and the firms that employ them.

    How convenient for firms that want to lower wages and working conditions!

  • Hervé LE GALL

    i don’t know what to think, really
    to tell you the truth, i feel cohen wrote his piece in order to malign corbyn more than any dictatorial state
    … and why not underline “sacred pep”‘s hypocrisy, the so-called catalonia independence rebel too happy to pocket the slave owners’ dirty money … ???

    anyway, i also wrote this to wish you a very merry christmas, tony, and to thank you for your dedication to the arsenal

    hervé
    59-year-old gooner from normandy, france; ever since his father took him to see arsenal draw nil-nil with the football club of my hometown, rouen, in the 1969-1970 fairs cup

  • OMG utter clap trap I have visited the UAE about 50 times , guess you haven’t . Suggest you try and sort out the mess back home in the good old USA but hell where would you start

  • I am surprised you have to ask that Hannibal. The country that many workers come from is corrupt and has limited jobs, so they travel. But the bit that needs adding to the end of that is this: just because one person is horribly corrupt that does not make it all right for another person to be horribly corrupt. Because a person commits a crime, that does not give me the right to commit a crime against him. In the morality I follow one has a set of behaviour that is decent and good, and that does not include exploiting people who have travelled to get away from exploitation.
    Just a different sort of morality from yours I guess.

  • hannibal it would help if you offered some clarity somewhere in your comments. Who is in the USA? It really is quite hard to keep track of your thinking sometimes.

  • Sam Sayed

    Hannibal, by your logic, it is the fault of the women from poor countries who are trafficked and forced into prostitution because they choose to leave their homes lured by false promises of lucrative jobs in faraway lands wishing to escape their dismal, miserable and hopeless lives?

    You may have visited UAE over 50 times but if you’ve been living in posh hotels and villas, I very much doubt you would’ve encountered the class of migrant workers who suffer the worst conditions because they are hidden away from the facade of the Dubai high life. They live in shanty towns in construction sites hidden from public view.

    Apart from what the above points made by omgarsenal (who I don;t why went on a muslim-non muslim tangent, albeit did acknowledge that all non-arabs irrespective of religion are treated badly – and they do have a very large contingent of pakistani, indian and bangladeshi muslims who exceed the non-muslim immigrant labour population) I would like to add the following;

    Many of these people are unskilled people from rural areas in the Indian subcontinent (india, pakistan, bangladesh etc) with barely any assets or income beyond seasonal low paying agricultural jobs. They are promised lucrative jobs by unscrupulous agents in exchange of very high fees. The poor people sell whatever few assets they have such as small landholdings and borrow money from loan sharks to fulfil their Dubai dream. Upon landing in Dubai, their passports are seized and they are forced to work at much lower salaries than those promised by the agents. Omgarsenal has already outlined the living conditions they have to endure, but let me add that in summer temperatures rise to 45-50 degrees centigrade.

    These people don’t really have an option of going back because they cannot face their family who have sold their assets to send their sons abroad or being harassed by the loan sharks.

    The people who gain from this exploitation are not only the agents, but also the Dubai nationals who actually sell employment visas to the agents knowing well the exploitative and misleading practices the agents indulge in.

    Yes, there are some laws against this, but as mentioned in the Guardian article, these are rarely enforced.

    So if you still think that these poor people have a choice to continue working or to leave, than I rest my case in front of your conscience.

  • Polo

    As much as I like reading UA but this issue is way bigger than the owner of Manchester City FC. Every country including those in the west exploit workers from poorer countries. It’s been happening for thousands of years, until western government sort out this mess at home, then the next step is to stop trade with nations that exploit workers or abuse human rights. We the citizen of the west are partly to blame by demanding quality goods at cheap prices. Exploitation will cease once poverty is eradicated.

  • Too be fair the trade agreements are the problem, we don’t get cheap goods, only because the tarriffs on imports. I’d love a cheap laptop and tablet and phone.

    If only my government wouldn’t slap huge extras in imports. Hence the trip for recording equipment.

  • alexanderhenry

    ‘Man U does better at money raising than Arsenal because under the long term stewardship of the Hill-Wood clan commercialisation of the club was looked up with disdain, while Man U travelled in the opposite direction and introduced world wide marketing from the late 1950s onwards.’

    No. There are two main reasons why Man utd ‘does better at money raising’.

    1) They have been more successful than arsenal in recent years, especially in europe.

    2) The tragedy that befell the ‘busby’s babes’ made the club a household name all over the world which is why they’ve always had unique levels of support globally.

    Man city are above us predominantly because they spend more,I agree, but why are Spurs and Liverpool above us?

  • Flares

    Alexander,

    Firstly, United’s record in Europe is mostly irrelevant. They aren’t even the most decorated club in England for the European Cup (Liverpool) and aren’t rated by the true giants like Madrid, Barca and Milan, who boast far superior records. Secondly, your point about the Busby Babes is trite and self-regarding. It was absolutely ages ago, the modern football fan knows little or nothing about it and it has no bearing on United successfully milking the vast Asian market, helped in no small part by the Beckham phenomenon and the evolution of the Premier League.

    I’m also mildly amused by your final comment. Have you been drinking Jose’s Kool Aid again? City have spent more but what they have spent has been on superior personnel – including the manager – whilst Guardiola has cleverly reinvigorated players such as Sterling and Da Silva. Meanwhile over in Salford, Mourinho has prioritised statement signings who aren’t turning out as well as the City players, whilst carefully breaking up the progress of young talent like Rashford and Martial. The word is that United are stalling on offering him a new deal. Why? Because the penny may now have dropped that he’s completely wrong for the club and they should have broken the bank to wrestle Poch from Spurs.