By Tony Attwood
So now we have another club with access to more money than is imaginable, while we have a controlling body in terms of Fifa, meandering around attempting to fine Arsenal £34,000 because of what it felt was a misuse of sell-on clauses in contracts.
But there is a wider problem here. In fact several wider problems.
First, surely we can’t go on and having more and more mega clubs
Without any serious attempt to regulate the finances. PSG, Manchester City, Chelsea and now Newcastle seem to be able to get away with doing anything they like, in terms of spending, and Barcelona would be in the same group, except they got stuffed by the pandemic.
But these are people who are used to getting their way, all the time. Don’t like a subscription TV station? OK put up a satellite, take the station’s contents (in this case PL matches), and rebroadcast it free of charge. These people can have everything they want. They are not likely to play by the rules.
But let’s take this further.
Do any players have any principles which might say, for example, the owner of this club is a murdering bastard so “no, I am not working for that man?” Not many as far as I’ve seen.
Second, will any players have a sense of morality?
It seems clear to me (and of course it is just my view) that Newcastle United now exist primarily for the glorification of its owner. Will some players with a sense of morals say, actually “I don’t like that owner’s values and I don’t want to be known through the rest of my life as a man who did the will of someone like that owner.”
Third, can anyone reduce the number of games?
The clubs owned by men who use the clubs to glorify themselves, tend to be required to play more and more games, so the owner can have more and more glorification.
And this is worth considering because FIFPro which represents players across the world are getting very worried about the way players are being overused. Sometimes approach 60 games a season.
Even with a player not going anywhere near the League Cup and maybe missing any softer draws in the FA Cup, there are still European and League games, and then the ever increasing number of internationals that Fifa and the regional authorities put on. Add to that, for Newcastle at least, some games played for the glorification of the owner are bound to occur, so the number could rise and rise.
Fourth, what will Fifa and Uefa now do?
Meanwhile Uefa wants the Champions League to get bigger, and Mr Wenger fancies a world cup every two years instead of every four as part of the Fifa president’s drive for world dominance.
But the worry is that instead of saying “fewer games for the players” we have people like Dr Darren Burgess, who worked as performance coach with Arsenal for a while. He is suggesting regimes of hard training, devised so that the impact of each game becomes less, because the body is more accustomed to the game. Although to be fair even Dr Burgess admits that in his two years at Arsenal which included a Europa semi-final, a Europa final and a Carling Cup final, “we just played an obscene amount of games.”
At the moment Uefa and the European Club Association are criticising Fifa, while those running the leagues in Europe are criticising Uefa. And we haven’t even reached the insanity of playing the world cup in the heat in Qatar in mid-season.
Mr Wenger in his proposal for the world cup every two years said, “You have 20% national team football and 80% club football and we want to maintain that balance, but we just want to reorganise it in a more efficient way. This means regrouping and reducing qualifiers in national team football, creating longer periods for players to remain with their clubs and to establish a guaranteed rest period for players every year.”
Interestingly, those are the elements in Mr Wenger’s plan which the media seem somewhat reluctant to report.
Fifth: End the rule of 25?
Fifpro are arguing for at least five days between every match – which either means the clubs only play every six days or the clubs have two or more first team squads.
Now that has seemed ludicrous until now but with Chelsea, Manchester City and Newcastle all able to afford two complete first team squads, plus another 11 backup players in reserve, it could be where we are going. Expect the 25 man squad to rise to 35 and the 11 backup players to play in a newly created tier of European football.
Which really makes the whole point. With Manchester City and Chelsea now having a new ally in the obscenely rich league, their power base has just risen.
Finally, the giants solve the problems. All they want in return is…
Now one might in the past have said, “the authorities will never allow it”, but consider this. Supposing the owner of Newcastle approaches the FA and says, “your grassroots game is a scandal, the pitches are mud baths for half the season and the rest of the resources are pathetic. But I am willing to give you £500m to sort all this out,” they would certainly listen.
And when he then adds, “All I ask in return is…” they will still listen.
Which is not to say that such situations will arise – of course I have no evidence on this at all. I am just suggesting that with this much money floating around, all sorts of changes might now be introduced.
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