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May 2020
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Two simple rules: stuff happens, and if you’re worried don’t sign the contract

By Tony Attwood

Of course no one knew coronavirus would happen now, but anyone who ever studied the history of the Earth would know it, and other disasters like it, will happen.  Just because the last pandemic that totally took our society apart happened 100 years ago, it doesn’t mean human pandemics just don’t happen any more.  What about

  • Asian Flu: 1957-1958
  • AIDS pandemic and epidemic: 1981-present day
  • H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic: 2009-2010
  • West African Ebola epidemic: 2014-2016
  • Zika Virus epidemic: 2015-present day

Oh, but they didn’t happen to us, so they don’t count.  That seems to be the attitude.  As a result no one in football seems to have been ready for this.

Not that I am suggesting they ought to have known this event was coming along at this time, but rather they should have realised AN EVENT would happen.

Here’s an example.

On July 23, 2012, a massive, potentially civilisation damaging solar storm just missed Earth.   Such an event, had it hit the earth, would have taken out all our electrical systems, and they would have taken anything from six months to ten years to get back together, depending on the size of the storm.

In 2014, Pete Riley of Predictive Science Inc. published a paper in which he calculated the odds of a similar solar storm hitting Earth within the next 10 years, by extrapolating records of past solar storms from the 1960s to the present day. He concluded that there may be as much as a 12% chance of such an event occurring.

So all anyone needs to do is to think, “in a world like ours, everything could fall apart for any one of a million reasons, so let’s have a few precautions in place.”

Precautions such as keeping some cash in the bank, and having something in the contracts that says if there is a national emergency that stops football happening then this is what happens to the players.  Also by thinking it is a good idea not to have debts that are built on the assumption that everything will continue as before, only be bigger and better, forever.

The point is, in our world things change, and they can change incredibly quickly, but the world we live in now seems to be based on not thinking about the future at all.  Everything is a gamble.  Everything is short-sighted.

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It seems no one wanted to think forwards, just as those clubs in the Championship trying to get into the Premier League by spending vast fortunes have not thought, “what do we do if this doesn’t work?”  I guess a few club owners are thinking, “how many oil-rich middle eastern countries are there which don’t have a club yet?” but then are refusing to think, “this battle between Saudi Arabia and Qatar could get out of hand.  Then what?”

As it is, the Kronkes may be thinking that they are in the wrong businesses – sports clubs and retail.  Not really flavour of the era as things stand.   But Mr Kronke is worth about $10,000,000,000 and his wife is worth about $8,000,000,000 on top of that so they are not short of a bob or two even if all their sports clubs and shops witness a mega downturn.

But instead what we hear is that Arsenal players were asked for a 12.5% pay cut if they do not reach the Champions League next season, which they probably think is unfair.  And quite reasonably, if that is not in the contracts.  After all, if I were an Arsenal player I’d be saying, “hang on this is not my fault – you, the club owners and directors decided to hound Mr Wenger out.  Then you brought in Mr Emery, and then got rid of him.  You decided to blow a vast amount of money last summer when all the statistics show that doing that rarely results in a club moving up the league table.  You, the owners have the responsibility, not the players you have selected.   Besides which, you wrote the contracts.

Maybe, in the end, the players will meet the management halfway, and that will smooth things over, but that won’t change the fact that the club is where it is, because of the actions of the owners and their instructions to management.

Just because a load of bonkers supporters wave placards and hire planes with the message “Wenger out” on them, does not mean that this is an absolute reality that has to be followed.

Just look at the win percentages of our recent managers – this excludes temporary managers and those who managed before Chapman.

Name From To M W D L F A Win %
Wenger Oct 1996 May 2018 1,235 707 280 248 2,156 1,147 57.25
Emery May 2018 Nov 2019 78 43 16 19 152 100 55.13
Arteta Dec 2019 Present 12 6 5 1 19 10 50.00
Chapman June 1925 Jan 1934 411 204 97 110 879 616 49.64
Graham May 1986 Feb 1995 460 225 133 102 711 403 48.91
Whittaker June 1947 Oct 1956 430 203 106 121 802 568 47.21
Rioch June 1995 Aug 1996 47 22 15 10 67 37 46.81
Allison May 1934 May 1947 279 129 74 76 534 327 46.24

Of course, there has been a lot of talking between Europe’s top clubs, the leagues and the governing bodies, but so far only a few things have become clear.

First, no one prepared financially or contractually for something big to happen, even though anyone who thinks about it knows stuff happens.   It might be a comet hitting the earth, it might be a sudden change in the weather with a winter that hits and just keeps on and on and on.  It might be a pandemic, it might be a solar storm.  But five minutes looking at the history of the earth reveals STUFF HAPPENS.

And no one seemed to build this into their thinking.  All they had to do was write into the rules, “If it becomes impossible to play matches, because of government decisions of “acts of God”, then a) shareholders will get no dividends, b) directors and players earning over £x will take a 50% paycut, c) deals with broadcasters and sponsors will be suspended.

It is not the case that no one would sign such contracts – of course they would.  Sky or the Sprout might have said, ok with that clause in, we will take £1m a year off the contract because we have to spend that on insurance, and then fine, it is done.

All it needed was a little forethought.  And maybe a little less greed.

2 comments to Two simple rules: stuff happens, and if you’re worried don’t sign the contract

  • Nitram

    Perceiving the dangers, then spending the necessary money, then justifying that spend, is not easy.

    It takes a lot of forethought.

    As you have mentioned there are a fair few catastrophes that could not only cause a Global meltdown, but the end of life as we know it and are generally known as ELE’s or Extinction Level Events.

    There was a great documentary on tv a few years ago looking into these events and their likelihood. The following is a link to another article outlining a few of the most likely events to happen, some of which are well ‘overdue’.

    https://www.thoughtco.com/extinction-level-events-4158931

    1) The Sun Will Kill Us

    As you mentioned, Solar mass ejections are a real threat and indeed highly likely to occur sooner rather than later.

    2) Geomagnetic Reversals

    Happened before so almost certain to happen again. When ?

    3) Meteor strike

    Killed off the Dinosaurs. Some say the next biggy is well overdue.

    4) The Sea

    Rising levels? Tsunamis? Take your pick.

    5) Volcanoes

    There are many still rumbling away that could cause big problems but none so potentially catastrophic as the Magma chamber under Yellowstone park. If this blows we are in big big trouble. Again it is well overdue in it’s historic cycle.

    6) Global Warming and Cooling

    Well this is the one everyone is very aware of and is happening in front of our eyes and yet we are still not doing anything like enough to halt it’s progress.

    7) Global nuclear war

    Given the mantra ‘There are more out than in’ this is definitely one of the most likely ‘events’ to cause, not just global Armageddon, but depending on it’s scale, the end of humanity.

    and last but not least

    8) Viral pandemic

    The thing is, we know something is going to happen, it’s just when and to what extent.

    Some are more likely than others. Some are more imminent than others. Most, but not all are out of our control.

    The fact is the cost of preparing for these events is enormous, and in some cases, in reality pretty pointless.

    With the ones that can realistically be prepared for, getting Countries/Governments to invest the necessary monies into projects that will almost certainly never produce any benefit in their lifetime, is very difficult.

    And even if it does it can still be pretty difficult for Governments to show a tangible return on their investment.

    Take for example the current pandemic.

    Lets say Governments had invested the Billion’s of Dollars Bill gates estimated would be needed to prepare for the next Global Epidemic. Or put another way, the one we are currently going through.

    As soon as the virus reared it’s head in Wuhan all the measures that had been put in place would of kicked in and extinguished the event before it even got going.

    So what would we, the people, see what we get for our Billions of Dollars? Well very little actually. All the work done is in preparation. A lot of what the money is spent on is effectively invisible.

    All the ‘Germ Games’ are enacted. All the logistics put in place. All the equipment held in storage. But we, the public see none of this, even when the epidemic strikes.

    We don’t see an actual army, warships, war planes, missiles and soldiers, as we do for our investment (rightly or wrongly) in preparation for war.

    So as I say, when the Virus appears, and then disappears, apparently with very little fuss, it actually looks like we got very little for our Billions, because nothing much happened.

    But nothing much happened BECAUSE of the Billions spent before hand.

    So when a president is asked, ‘what were all those Billions spent on’, he says, ‘well only last year it saved 10 Million lives’, will we believe him ?

    Where’s the proof? Where was the war? I didn’t see anything happen.

    And that is what I see as the fundamental problem with ‘Preventative’ measures, because unlike war, with all it’s pyrotechnics, where we see in all it’s graphic blood and gore where our Billions went, we see almost nothing happen.

    Getting people with money to invest in something that may never happen, and even if it does there will be very little to show for their investment, is extremely difficult.

    It’s a bit like getting people to spend money on insurance. I think we all have an underlying distrust of insurance and insurance companies because for the most part it feels like pouring money down the drain.

    Would we all insure our cars if it wasn’t illegal not to, despite the potentially catastrophic financial consequences of not doing so ?

    I don’t think many would.

    Insurance is a pain in the backside. Always was, always will be.

    If you spend money, a lot of money, most people want something tangible to show for it. It’s human nature, it’s as simple as that.

  • omgarsenal

    Nitram……….great overview! Governments and the ¨competent authorities¨ refuse to look further ahead than their current election cycle. Look at Trump and Boris. They are more worried about re-election than about people or society. Hell, a well-known conservative political commentator in the US recently said ,¨ a lot of the people dying due to covid 19 were old and sick anyway.¨

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