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The 10 ways football is changing as a result of the virus: part one.

By Tony Attwood

1: Salary caps in the Premier League

Across the world, but most particularly in Europe, clubs are getting into a financial pickle, largely because a) they have no money coming in from sponsors, gate receipts, broadcasting, advertisers and the like, but b) they are still paying their players.

This might be a once a century crisis (the last one like this in the UK was 1919, so nature was a fraction slow off the mark, but only a bit) but it does show the vulnerability of football with its mega costs which never stop, but with its fragile incomes which can be turned off in a trice.

Of course with clubs around that have mega incomes, or have infinitely rich oligarchs running the show, football tends not to be very forward-thinking; the good times are rolling let the good times roll.  But when even clubs like Barcelona suddenly have a financial problem it is clear thins have gone rather wrong.

Now of course Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid and the like are never going to vote for salary caps in football, but other sports have done this and it is possible salary caps could start coming into Europe.  Obviously, if only one country imposes a salary cap then top players simply go elsewhere, which is the fear of the major associations.

But if Europe imposed it… now there would be a thought.  Such a move is against EU rules but the Lisbon Treaty of 2009 made it clear that sport is not to be treated as just another commercial activity, which is what most commentators who claim that Uefa rules on spending can’t be upheld in the EU courts tend to forget.

Salary capping to improve the competitiveness of clubs and protect against disasters such as the corona virus is currently visiting on football would be perfectly legal.  What the EU is forbidden from doing by the Lisbon Treaty is attempting to enforce the harmonisation of rules within sports, so that leaves it up to the clubs and the countries.

2: Clubs could turn on Manchester City

Manchester City on the other hand, have utterly re-written the rule book on their own.  Now that of course is something that often needs doing, especially within organisations and groups that are reluctant to change.   But to do this, the party wanting to change the world needs to be fairly adept at handling the outside world.

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The problem with running an absolute dictatorship authorised by God, as Sheikh Mansour does, is that you get used to absolute power, which often results in not being very good at public relations.  In fact it usually results in being bloody awful at not just PR, but also at listening to others, negotiating, compromising and not having your own way – all those things that most of us in the west try to teach our children (with varying degrees of success) when they are five years old.

So like the spoiled brat, when the absolute dictator does not get what he wants, he can turn out to be fairly poor at negotiating a compromise.  Worse, when his attitude floats through the hierarchies and the minions begin to believe that the dictator does have an absolute right given by the Almighty to make decisions, their ability to negotiate can become a bit wayward too.  Throw in a lot of money and the problem gets bigger.

This has nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of any situation because in the real world beyond religious absolutism, we all of us compromise in order to some sort of progress.  Compromise is how most of us work most of the time.

There are signs (or at least I should say, I see signs) that the biggest weakness of the mega organisation surrounding Manchester City FC is this an inability to know when to be quiet, when to compromise, when to negotiate, when to say sorry…

And that could be their failing which all the oil in the sand can’t rectify.  A certain lack of humility.  I am often wrong in these matters, as many correspondents regularly point out, but I do see signs that the rest of football has just about had enough of the City Group, and it is for this reason.

If the rest of football sees salary caps as a way forward, but City Group really don’t, because they have no shortage of money, this time the rest of the clubs might just say, “tough”, and push the measure through.

Man City will still have an utterly brilliant manager, so they will still stand a good chance of winning things.  It will just be a little harder.

The series continues in the next article…

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