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October 2020
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The World Cup every two years and the Euro in between?

by Tony Attwood

The World Cup every two years and the Euros in between? This is what seems to be taking shape in Arsène Wenger’s mind.  At least according to the European newspapers which are somewhat more engaged with European matters than the English media, which are currently consumed with the Liverpool / Manchester United attempt to change the way the Premier League works.

It all started in the German newspaper “Bild am Sonntag”, and has been covered across much of the rest of western Europe.  Mr Wenger is not a fan of the Nations League, in which members of Uefa are participating this week and which is stopping us watch our clubs.

The Nations League was initiated by Uefa in 2018 and has been dogged by the fact that the rules of who plays who and how countries rise up and down the league’s divisions have been deemed by the media to be “unclear”.

As Mr Wenger said, “If you take to the streets and ask people what the League of Nations is, you won’t find many who can explain it,” although curiously if you ask people involved with Untold, we by and large are fairly clear as to what it is all about – and we’ve opposed it as another way of interrupting our watching of Arsenal.

But Mr Wenger is employed by Fifa, and so he promotes the Fifa line.  “Perhaps a World Cup and a European Championship every two years would fit better into the modern world”

He continues, “We have to have as few competitions as possible. Perhaps a World Cup and a European Championship every two years would fit better into the modern world.”    And it seems that this is what Fifa are currently talking about.

The idea Mr Wenger is working on is one that has what is called a “tight organisation” which the current rambling competition most certainly does not have.   “You pack everything up over a month and sell the whole package to TV stations and sponsors,” he has argued.

Continuing he made the point that, “Reputation is not about the time you wait until it is played, but the quality of the competition.”

Mr Wenger’s ability as an administrator in football is of course well known, and with him pushing this idea it could well be something that is picked up.   But it seems unlikely that clubs will welcome anything less than the reduction in the number of international games, rather than an increase at a time like this.

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For football in Europe is in a mess.   Many famous clubs are now surviving merely on the profits from player sales.   As the top Premier League clubs have been spending galore, many (including the likes of Juventus, Benfica, Barcelona and Olympique Marseilles have been try to balance the books with huge player sales.

And that is problematic because although players can be sold for a profit for several years in the end you run of our players to sell.

Part of the trick at the moment is to avoid paying the transfer fees when the player is bought, but instead spreading them over instalments.  This means that some teams (who for the sake of argument we might call Barcelona) owe around £300m in fees.  Which is fine if they can pay, but if the virus continues, TV revenue drops, tourism in Barcelona shows a permanent decline etc it is not fine.

Obviously Barcelona are owed money by other clubs, but that is estimated at around £140m.  And of course if any club does become unable to pay, then the ripples will be felt throughout elite football.  All they can do is to try and save some money somewhere by laying off staff.

Certainly as we have mentioned, Barcelona FC is a major attraction within Barcelona city and so while we not mention the losses from any other clubs stadium tours, for Barcelona FC this is rather important.

And then every time a game becomes a ghost game, retail sales, sponsorship income, TV income, the club shop (or megastore as it is more likely to be these days), all declines.

This is where clubs in the Premier League who have been hoping to rise up the rankings (and thus have invested heavily in players) can get into trouble.   If any of those players don’t make it, their value declines rapidly.

Meanwhile those clubs in the Championship looking to cash in on the riches of the Premier League can get into even more desperate trouble.

All of this makes it look to me as if grand changes are out of order at the moment – both the attempts by Mr Wenger to rationalise Fifa and knock out a Uefa competition, and the elite clubs in the Premier League to reduce  the number of clubs in the Premier League.

There are undoubtedly some good ideas around, but good ideas depend on those involved being sensible, and no one in football is seeming to be very sensible at the moment.

Aston Villa had a net spend of £146.3m in the transfer window in 2019.  They missed relegation by one point.

This summer they had a further net spend of £78m.  Which means that getting in the Premier League and staying there is now thought to cost a bit more than £200m.

Arsenal’s annual profits are usually around £45m to £70m but even we are risking that with the sums we have been spending in recent transfer windows.  But take away some of the TV revenue, and all of the match day revenue, and all that expenditure on players doesn’t look so good.

 

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