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?