By Tony Attwood
So this is where we’ve got to.
1: By and large the players in the Premier League, following the lead of their union, are refusing to take pay cuts. Some very public players in Europe are taking pay cuts.
2: Clubs are laying off lesser paid staff, and telling them they will be supported by the state.
3: None of the media is even daring to suggest that the top executives in the clubs should not take their bonuses, dividends or payments, so they are going on paying themselves fortunes. So much for our investigative, challenging media.
4: As the media finds ways of using up its space and time there is very little coverage of what is happening concerning football in Europe, possibly because the media is holding on to the desperate desire to continue with the view that football in England is the best there is, that the Premier League is the most competitive League, and the rest of the world watches us but we don’t watch them.
5: But… as the media tries to fill up its spaces, there is a divergence. As we saw the other day the Sunday Mirror newspaper launched a hideous and outrageous attack on Arsenal by re-writing the club’s history in a wholly false and malicious way. We have had some such attacks in the past but this one was way over the top and wholly fictitious. If that trend continues we are going to see some really nasty attacks on the club in the weeks to come as the papers try to fill up space.
However the question at the heart of that ludicrous collection of lies is “why do it?” Was it because it was a story that could be made up in two minutes, and filled half a page? Or is it to distract attention from other matters? Your view probably depends on whether you think one club is happy to use a newspaper to do the dirty on another club, and so discredit it.
6: On the more positive side there was an article in the Guardian suggesting that sacking managers doesn’t work. An interesting first.
7: The story that eight of the top ten clubs in the Premier League have been lobbying Uefa to try and get Manchester City banned next season even if CAS has not had a chance to deal with the appeal, is going around and around and around, but not a scrap of evidence has been produced. However this could be the reason that the Mirror story about Arsenal’s corrupt past (see 5 above) surfaced at this time.
8: Club finances are precarious, even though the Premier League and its camp followers are in denial. On the other hand Javier Tebas, president of La Liga, spoke in a way that you will never hear anyone in the English game comment, saying, “If we don’t fix that problem, in a few years our industry will collapse.
“It is teetering on the brink because this core problem loads up so many other ongoing issues: the precarious financial health of clubs outside the elite; the tension between the super-clubs and the rest; the tension between leagues; the tension between Uefa and Fifa; the tension between self-interest and the collective that represents the inherent contradiction of professional sport.
“We have to stop the trend now. The gap is growing exponentially every season. It’s now or never. We can potentially destroy the world ecosystem of football.”
Effectively what has happened is that football has moved from being a way to lose money, to being a way for a small number of clubs to make a lot of money and squeeze out other clubs.
9: But the huge changes we are seeing now, in this sudden shutdown of the game, have come about because no one had undertaken any preparations for something like this happening, even though science fiction novels and TV series had been predicting it for years.
Most clubs don’t have reserves. Most owners and seemingly virtually all players, demand their money no matter what.
And now, looking at the situation from within the crisis it seems weird. The Premier League TV rights for 2019-22 cycle brought in £8.4bn for the clubs. The total Champions League money spread out between the clubs is €2.04bn. Yet seemingly no one has really even considered what to do if there was a pandemic and football was shut down, and the money stopped.
Rather the reverse, as options became more and more limited. Huge amounts of money pour into the game from gambling, without any thought of what might happen if gambling came to an end. Anyone who raised that thought prior to the crisis would find themselves answered by, “Gambling won’t come to an end,” as if that was a logical argument rather than a statement of blind faith.
10: Pulling this all together we can see that the driving force behind all this has been twofold.
One is that having reached the top tier – the clubs that get into the Champions League will spend anything to stay there, because that is where the money is. The other is that having slipped out of the Champions League, what one finds is that other clubs have redoubled their efforts to take the slipping team’s place.
Thus in Arsenal’s case, Arsenal slipped out of the top four, only to find that immediately other clubs that did not make it into the Champions League as often as Arsenal, now threw every £m they could find to get themselves into the League. And having done that they spend more and more to stay there.
Which means Arsenal have to spend more and more and more… such as the record spend last summer which has actually resulted in Arsenal currently being ninth in the league.
Or – and there is one other possibility – find Arsene Wenger II. A man who can find lost gems available at low prices, given them a year and turn them into brilliant players. Maybe Arteta is that man. As and when football re-starts, we shall see, because I can’t imagine there will be that much money around for him to spend.
The one big thing that helps him is that clubs that spend fortunes in one transfer window rarely to much better the next season.
- The home and away scandal: ignorance, or cover up?
- The reason why Liverpool and Man C are ahead of Arsenal.
- How which referee a club gets has a major impact on the result of each game
- The statistical evidence that shows PGMO are biased against Arsenal
- How European football has taken up the fight against clubs breaking FFP