The big issues facing football, and why no one is addressing them.

by Tony Attwood

Slowly very slowly football clubs in England are starting to realise that there is not going to be a return to the old ways, at least not any time soon.  There are too many problems – the current season running past the end of contract date, actually finding time to finish the current season, and how to evaluate club positions if not, what to do about the clubs that simply run out of money, what to do about players who say that their club has simply broken its contract with them, and so walk away (without a transfer fee)…

At this moment, no one has any idea how any of this is going to shake out at all.  Around half the clubs in the Premier League insist the league must be over by 30 June because of the contract chaos that will follow.   Some want the mass playing of games at Wembley, to get money out of Sky and the Sprout, others want 30 June as the ultimate deadline, with league positions worked out on an average points per game at that point.

Also sponsorship contracts tend to end on 30 June as well, and so new sponsors will want clubs playing in new shirts etc after this date.

PGMO desperately want to make sure no one uses the current crisis to take a look at their inner workings and devotion to utter and total secrecy.   Some clubs which have owners who will put in what it takes, or vast stockpiles of reserve funding (Manchester City and Manchester United come to mind), will be wanting to move around the transfer market, particularly as most other clubs will have shattered finances by then.

Many clubs have no idea what money they will have, meaning they don’t know if their owner will put money into the club.   The Kroenke family could put some of its billions upon billons of wealth into Arsenal, but their normal attitude is to take money out not put it in, so that seems unlikely.  Which means the few clubs with mega bucks to spend will have it all their own way and will hoover up all the players they want at knock down prices.

Clearly the rest of the league are going to object to this and will want to vote through ways of stopping the rich from exploiting the rest.

We’ve now been told that Arsenal’s executive team has taken a pay cut of a third or more of their salaries, but there is no move on player wages – which in Arsenal’s case comes to £230 million a year.  With this issue not resolved there can be no transfers in.

So, in the Premier League there currently three bands of club.  At the top, headed by Manchester City, those who can spend what they want to get who they want from clubs that need money.

In the middle we have the clubs that will probably come out ok but which are not going to be buying and will instead work hard to hold onto their players.

At the bottom the clubs that through their massive spending, borrowing and wage bills, are screwed.  They are pushing for games to resume asap, because they need the TV money.  Wolverhampton might be in this list because of their crazy borrowing programme, although they might now be bailed out by their Chinese owner.  It all depends how he feels.

No one is quite sure where Tottenham stand.  They have been making money, and they have a mega rich owner, but they have the massive stadium costs to pay off, for which they are utterly dependent on sponsor and TV money.  If that dries up for much longer, they are done for unless their owner puts in a fortune – which seems unlikely.

The problem all the clubs have is an absolute lack of leadership from any of the governing bodies to get everyone out of this mess.   So clubs are making their own decisions to suit themselves.  But in essence the universe the Premier League has created is a bubble, and that bubble could burst any time.

Lower down the leagues it is seriously being suggested that around half the League One and League Two clubs are not going to come out of this crisis.  Worse, there are few clubs in the National League that have the finances that would allow them to take up a place in League Two.  Fleetwood Town may have had six promotions in ten years, but there are few others that could simply hold their place in the Football League at the moment.

Meanwhile the government, for so long the lap dog of the impossibly incompetent Football Association, is stirring with thoughts that it might by pass the FA once and for all and set up a football regulator as a department of government.

At the moment, football comes under the department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.  Sport dominates that.  Football dominates Sport.  The Premier League dominates football.  Could politicians seriously take on the Premier League and win?

Tracey Crouch who was minister for sport said she fancied a review of football governance and reform of the Professional Footballers’ Association.   The latter looks a bit crazy – I am not sure how government can march in and reform a single trade union, which thus makes anything she says slightly odd.

But the fact is, everything is up in the air, apart from the bits buried in the sand.  As long as the media keeps running articles that focus on changing just one thing, they are probably not going to be getting anywhere near the mark.

This could be the end of football as we know it, not because of coronavirus, but because everyone just wants to look at individual bits, rather than football as a whole.

5 Replies to “The big issues facing football, and why no one is addressing them.”

  1. i suppose it’s unlikely that the uber-rich premier league would bail out clubs in the lower leagues with some of the tv money they have socked away for years?

  2. Mike…..I am not certain that the uber-rich clubs give a s**t about lower league clubs, nor that they have socked away anything from TV money paid over the years. I do know that they:

    1) Are looking at survival in some cases and at profiting big time from the availability of players in the case of the ultra-rich clubs.

    2) They are for profit businesses and entertainment industries and that is that. They are not charitable organisations and will never rise to that level of empathy.

    3) We are currently in a situation where the blind are leading the blind and where the sweet FA, the UK government and FIFA,EUFA are desperately grasping at straws in order to start the cash cow once again.

    4) Right at the bottom of this s**t stack are the fans and supporters who will actually determine whether clubs survive or even thrive once again.

    The solutions proposed by the morons-in-chief are pitifully inadequate and doomed to be resisted or rejected by all and sundry. When the times are calling for a unified and well-reasoned approach to solving this Football crisis, the sweet FA, the government, FIFA and EUFA, the clubs and the sponsors/tv media are all running in different,selfish directions.
    It is a cluster f**k of major proportions and will be a serious blot on Football in general for years to come.

  3. @omgarsenal,

    Well, at the beginning of the crisis, in the Bundesliga that was some of the attitude we were seing : why should we care. Then at some point, as they say in german, the penny fell. And they started thinking : wait a second, how are we going to play each week if there are no clubs to play against…

    So, however rich and mega rich these clubs are, they have no alternative to help each other. Or, they join a yet to be formed european league comprised of only the rich clubs. Why not ? It could offer the perspective of a premier league which would be more local, more competitive and to which fans could identify themselves a lot easier.

  4. @ omg

    Of course the fans at the bottom may well have a say in this but, as I assume you are suggesting, many will no longer have jobs, many will no longer have savings, many will not be able to afford to go to games and many will not afford the luxury of Sky Sports etc. And in terms of sponsorship etc., companies will have a smaller market to sell to (i.e. people who can afford to buy whatever it is they’re advertising) and will probably have a smaller audience to which they can actually advertise anyway.

    As both you and Tony have pointed out. At a time when leadership was needed the legacy of the greed years leaves us with nothing.

  5. Chris……..the milk of human kindness is NOT known to flow in the veins of the rich owners but apparently Stan the man has agreed to pump in some cash to support AFC, so who knows!

    I agree entirely with your supposition. This has been coming for some time and now is the time it could happen BUT FIFA and EUFA will react very negatively and might suspend any club joining such a league UNLESS FIFA and EUFA run said league, as that is a cash cow they’d love to milk. I like your perspective on a more local, homegrown EPL with a few more championship teams moving up… might just be the salvation of Football in the UK. There is also the possibility of having the Scots drop a few teams in to enliven the pot…..there is merit in this.

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