Anyone but Newcastle: how the league is seeking to control the lunacy it has created

By Tony Attwood

The view is growing that clubs throughout the Premier League are uniting in an alliance not to sell players to Newcastle United, as a protest against the takeover of the regime so awful even football supporters can’t find it in themselves to say a good word about it.  

This policy has been mentioned in many sources such as 101 great goals, TodayUKNews, and even the Telegraph (who are supposedly offering free access to all their content at the moment, but seemingly not to annoying bloggers who criticise what they write).  The Express has jumped in with “Newcastle may have eight January transfers blocked because of angry Premier League rivals”

Of course, there is a problem because although their fans won’t mention it, the club has been handed over by Ashley virtually debt-free, and with lots of spare capacity in its FFP accounts to spend vast sums without the League or Uefa getting edgy about it.

On the other hand, it is said that Newcastle don’t have a particularly extensive scouting network across Europe, so they are struggling a little to find who they want.

But this raises an interesting point: seemingly there is nothing in the Premier League rules that stops clubs conspiring not to deal with one club.  The normal monopoly rules don’t apply in professional football in the UK because it’s well, a monopoly.  

Of course various clubs get the sort of bad press that Newcastle are getting at the moment. Arsenal have suffered from this endlessly, not least with the repeated notion through last season and on into the early part of this season that Arteta was a terrible manager and needed to be sacked.

But there is something else.  It would seem quite likely that Eddie Howe is not the ultimate choice of manager for Newcastle, but an interim, steadying the ship until the club can attract one of the top managerial names from Europe.

Such managers, if out of work, could be quite attracted by work at a club with endless pots of cash, especially in a situation in which attempts to limit the amount clubs can spend on transfers have been repeatedly undermined (as it turns out, on Newcastle’s behalf) by Manchester City’s battle with the FA, and Uefa.

But an alternative scenario could be that members of the Premier League could work to tighten the Financial Fair Play rules, to stop the Premier League from turning itself into a version of the French league or German League, in which one club wins the league most of the time, and just occasionally lets someone else get a look in.

Of course, the reasons why PSG regularly win their league and Bayern Munich always win the German league are quite different but in each case one club wins most of the time.  And that is without mentioning the Greek League where Olympiacos have won 21 league titles in the last 25 seasons.

Which takes us to the heart of the problem.  Between 1966/7 and 1972/3, the league was won by a different club each season.  Between 2004/5 and 2014/15 three clubs won the league (Chelsea four times, Manchester United 5 times, Manchester City twice.  Which is probably by and large fine for the supporters of those clubs, but not much good for competition.  On the other hand in the last six years, four different clubs have won the league, which for me is a step in the right direction.

Of course, I want to see Arsenal win the league again, and of course I’d then want to see them repeat that achievement, but in this debate, it is possible to have contrary views – a view of what is good for professional football in this country and a view of what I want as a supporter of Arsenal.

And here’s another aspect of the problem.  Of the nine clubs promoted to the Premier League in the three seasons before the last one, five have since gone down.  Norwich and Fulham have come up and gone down twice, playing the game of picking up their Premier League bonus, and the solidarity payments, and then expecting to be relegated the next season ready to repeat the trick.  Fulham are using these bonuses for a stadium rebuild – there’s a video at the end if you are interested.

Given that the foot of the table is being taken over by clubs happy to yoyo between the leagues (because there is good money in that) and a select group of two superrich clubs who seem to be able to spend with impunity and who now have a third member of their little group one might start to think that competitively, the league isn’t working.

The move towards banning ludicrous overpriced sponsorship (“Official tractor supplier to Manchester United” indeed) is a step forward, but a lot more needs to be done.  If you want to see what happens when competition dies, consider France.  Average attendance in the top league is around 22,000, the TV deal with Mediapro collapsed and disputes still continue.  (Amazon has a new deal in France, Canal+ is in dispute).

Just because the Premier League has had it so good for such a long time, does not mean it always will be. A certain amount of care might be needed.  Here’s how Fulham are using their yoyo money.

15 Replies to “Anyone but Newcastle: how the league is seeking to control the lunacy it has created”

  1. All clubs and fans of clubs like Arsenal want to keep the status Quo to keep them at the top and everyone else below them by over spending, buying up all the talent, stealing youth players from other with money then passing them off as home grown….No.. Good Luck to the Geordies and about time we say one of these monopoly clubs relegated…..

  2. What I just don’t get is why/how they let Newcastle be sold to new owners they did not want anything to do with in the first place ?

    It’s not like they did not know they were dealing with a country drilling money, did they ?

    So this decision making process is just insane from what we can see.

  3. Interesting that you omitted the period 1998 to 2005 when Arsenal won the title 3 times and were second every other season – presumably that doesn’t fit into the “teams dominating the league is bad” narrative.

  4. money, money, money … we’ll never see the end of that”lunacy”, tony, unless …
    this is (part of) my answer to the “” guardian article (there’s something about France – “If you want to see what happens when competition dies, consider France” I agree with, absolutely)

    1. Top of the list: salary cap. Inflated wages are the root of all evil in football.
    “Agrégation” is the highest qualification required for being a teacher in France; at the very end of their careers, “agrégés” make (not all of them, mind you) the equivalent of £35000 net a year; surely very good football can be played for £35000 a week, tops. Of course, that should be a worldwide measure – F.I.F.A. officials would oversee that, and be put to good use, for once.
    2. The PL dates back to 1992, so does the CL (RIP European Champions’ “Cup”), and lo and behold!!, 1995 was the year of the Bosman ruling. Of course, there’s a reason why this ruling was such an easy win for the Belgian: all the fat-cats-who-never-find-themselves-fat-enough, were behind him. As a consequence of it, the PL became the only League worth watching on a weekly basis, the rest of Europe (barring Spain, and to a lesser extent, Germany, maybe) became something of a football wasteland. Six of the eleven players who were in Deschamps’s starting XI for the 2018 WC final against Croatia, have never played a single game in Ligue 1 (on October 7th, 2021, in the team that bet Belgium 3-2, Koundé, Lucas Hernandez, Théo Hernandez, Varane, Pavard, Pogba, Griezmann were the “0-Ligue1-game-players”); well don’t tell me there’s nothing wrong about that. As a result, most of Ligue 1 games are simply unwatchable if you do love football; just check French clubs’ results in Europa League, they speak for themselves, don’t they? “Rumilly-Vallières” – an “entity” 99,99% of French people have never heard about, played the semi-finals of the 2020-2021 “Coupe de France”, a few days before that “Canet-Roussillon” had played the quarter-finals, even though, because of COVID, the two clubs hadn’t had another competitive game in their respective leagues, in a year or so. Please don’t bullshit me with the magic of cups, it can only mean that French so-called “professional” clubs are but empty shells, “Truman Shows” of real professional football. Elsewhere in Europe, Ajax Amsterdam should by now be reaping the rewards of the tremendous job they do at youth level, and be reigning o’er Europe thanks to De Ligt’s, De Jong’s, Van de Beek’s, and Ziyech’s comings of age. Instead of which, VdB and Z. cut sorry figures at Utd and Chelsea, DL looks like a young Orpheus chasing his dreams of good football down in the underworld of Calcio, i.e. Premier League’s retirement home, DJ feels as comfortable at Barcelona, as an honest, sound and healthy Gotham citizen would, after being locked up in Arkham asylum. Some might benefit from this mess, but it’s certainly not us, the fans.
    So … clubs/associations should be piling up the amount of money needed in provision against whichever fine “Europe” will condemn them to (it should be easy with the savings on wages) – and opt out of the “Bosman” decision, in order to implement an obligation for all the clubs in European Leagues, to have at least 6 out of 11 players present on the pitch at any time, available for selection in the team of the country where the League games take place – something U.E.F.A. officials might be made to oversee (they’d be put to good use, just for once).
    3. In the same order of ideas, clubs should be forbidden to buy fully-fledged internationals in order NOT to play them. It seems reasonable (to me, at least) to say that you may be regarded as a fully-fledged international once you’ve played at least 450 minutes for your country in competitive games. The club I’ve supported (almost) all my life is a good (“very bad”??) case in point here. At the start of the 2020-2021 season, Arsenal wrote £350000-a-week Mesut Özil off their 25-man-list. From the day that disgraceful decision was made, Mesut should have had the right to play for any club of his choice – his wages still being paid by Arsenal. Some lesson might have been learned, if “Mou” had brought MÖ10 at Tottenham, so as to play him right behind Kane and Son. We Arsenal people would have felt like cheated-on husbands paying for the hotel rooms, and deservedly so.
    I like Nathan Aké and Divock Origi a lot. Divock won a CL for Liverpool, and ever since he’s been rotting away in Anfield’s dungeons, and so has Nathan in City’s. They are “fully-fledged” internationals, so that by January 1st, 2021 both of them, having not played half of the minutes played by their clubs in competitive games since the start of the 2020-2021 season, should have been allowed to move to whichever club they had found an agreement with – while LFC and City kept paying their wages. THAT should be the rule, guaranteeing the fans they’ll pay for watching the best, most competitive games, played by the very best players.
    Can you imagine a Philharmonic buying top musicians out of their “rival” orchestras and holding them hostages, preventing them to play any music any longer, just so that particular Philharmonic might be labelled “the best in the world”, now and forever? What would the music-lovers-from-all-over-the-world’s reaction be? And yet, this is what we football fans are made to swallow, week in, week out. At the moment, not only have Nathan and Divock been sidelined by their clubs, but they are also forbidden to play for rival clubs: how difficult is it to win titles under those circumstances, and how can top-tier clubs keep getting away with it?
    How such “strategies” may have escaped whatever “competition law “ trial might exist, is truly beyond me, too.
    4. The ONLY transfer window of the season should open on may 24th, midnight, and close on august 6th, midnight. No deal could be struck outside these 15 weeks. Hopefully the January transfer window would fast become the hazy figment of a discomforting nightmare, and the Raiolas/Joorabchians/Mendeses, …, the dementors/soul-suckers of our football world, might even get patronused into oblivion, as a result.
    5. Of course, as others have said/written, “supporters should be put back at the heart of ownership structures”. No more state-owned clubs, no more clubs turned into oligarch’s money laundering machines, no more absentee American landlords. Clubs run partly by former “legends”, as Bayern is, might be a good idea too.
    6. Well, all of this would be a start, at least. There is more to do, of course, and if I hadn’t already turned this contribution into some kind of manifesto, I would talk about refereeing/VAR, or international football and what football “gains” from games like England-Andorra or France-Faroe Islands, of the insane number of games professional footballers are made to play in a single season, also about the imperious necessity to pass the footballing equivalent of a “G.I. Bill”, providing an escape route for injured players/academy youngsters who never make the grade, or again the need to leave European “Leagues” behind (give us our “Cups” back), etc …
    But to those who fear the quality of the games might drop, as a consequence of implementing all or some of the measures above-mentioned, I’ll just say this. One of my best friends has been a Liverpool fan ever since he was a lecturer there for two years, more than 20 years ago. When football is not the reason why we are jumping down each other’s throats, we occasionally make presents to each other. When I retired, on December 31st, 2020, of course the wanker bought me David Peace’s “Red or Dead”.
    I urge every football fan to read the chapter in Peace’s quasi-biblical narrative, about the two Arsenal-Liverpool games of march 1963. I don’t know how much the two teams put together would be valued in 2021 currency, neither do I know how much money was made out of the two games, but I do know that across the years of professional football, there have been games like these ones, games of “epic proportions”, “furiously fast and instinctively skillful”, “battles to delight even the most demanding of us”, games that we “count ourselves amongst the luckiest men on earth to have seen, to have witnessed”, and I do know that the intensity of these “raging battles” had very, very little to do with money.

  5. Billy the Fish

    “All clubs and fans of clubs like Arsenal want to keep the status Quo to keep them at the top”

    In case you didn’t notice we are not at the top.

    In case you didn’t notice we live by our own means and went 10 years on a zero net spend to put us in this position of being self sustaining.

    In case you didn’t notice whilst enduring those austerity years we had a genius of a manager that maintained a top finish to help pay for our stadium. He got endless abuse for NOT winning anything and for NOT spending anything, or at least enough.

    So could you explain exactly what you mean by “Clubs like Arsenal” ?

  6. @Billy the fish – the only club that wants to keep the status quo is Watford. You are unsighted because of the fog on the Tyne and need a talk about my genaration, or perhaps you need a wet on the wall.

  7. Billy the Fish

    The 6 seasons between season 2001/02 and 2007/08 Newcastle had a net spend of around £83 Million.

    The 7 seasons between season 2001/02 and 2007/09 Newcastle went through 11 managers.

    In the 17 years since Bobby Robson left in 2004, Eddie Howe is the 19th manager.

    In 2009 Newcastle were relegated. They won nothing. That is when Newcastle’s real problems began.

    Who’s fault was that Billy? It sure as hell wasn’t Arsenals.

    We run our club very well thank you very much and we run it on what we earn. We are not part of a Monopoly or a Cartel or anything like it. When we play bad we struggle. Nobody looks after us, bails us out, does us favors, or gives us points.

    We have to get it right or we will sink down the table, as Newcastle did, for no other reason than they got it wrong, badly wrong.

    We built a new stadium which ham strung us for years at a time when Obramovic turned up at Chelsea and then the Mansours at Man City, to join Man Utd as the mega rich.

    We have suffered more than anyone at the expense of these Billionaires and their playthings, so why on earth you want to lump us in with them I don’t know ?

    Now we have Newcastle, a club so badly run it is beyond belief, being bailed out of their hole by one of the most distasteful Governments on the planet and all you can say is ‘good luck to the Geordies’. Really ?

    If bitching about Arsenal helps you to look in the Mirror that’s up to you.

    At least get you facts straight before you do it.

  8. Billy The Fish.

    And what about Man Utds role in this Monopoly of yours ? Lets have a look at their history shall we ?

    From 1969 to 1974 they finished 11th, 8th, 8th, 8th, 18th and 21st when they got relegated. They won nothing.

    Some Monopoly that !

    Between 1975, when they came straight back up, and 1986, they won 3 FA cups and finished in a range of places from 2nd to 10th.

    Some Monopoly that !

    Fergie United joined in 1986 and if you recall only in his fifth season by winning the FA Cup did he save his job by the skin of his teeth.

    Some Monopoly that !

    Fergie turned United around eventually winning Uniteds first title for 26 years in 1993.

    26 YEARS.

    Some Monopoly that !

    Fergie turned United around, as Wenger did Arsenal. Not a Monopoly. Not a Cartel.

    There are 2 Clubs, Chelsea and Man City, that have ‘bought’ their way to success, just 2. Maybe those 2 are a duopoly if you want to use that to justify your views, but you cant under any misguided notion lump us, or even Man Utd in with those 2.

    If you want to come here defending the indefensible at least have the decency to have at least some idea of what you are talking about.

  9. And just one final thing Billy. How about Liverpool,? I assume another member of your imaginary Monopoly ?

    Between 1973 and 1990 Liverpool won 11 titles.

    Then they went 30 years without a single title. 30 YEARS.

    What happened there Billy? Did they go to jail, straight to jail, without passing go?

  10. Amazing! Sp*rs fans are crowing about their new manager and figure that their season has been saved. They are planning a new DVD already. You’ve got to give it to them…an endless supply of optimism.

  11. I still remember the outrage against Blackburn Rovers when they started to buy top dollar players . But they could not do anything as the money came from their owner and die hard Blackburn fan , Jack Walker .

    I laughed at the sputtering that went on when they first bought Alan Shearer , then Chris Sutton , by tabling higher bids than the rest . Nearly all of the pundits were pulling their hair out saying that this would signal the end of the EPL as they knew it !

    But logic and reason took hold and soon it was back to square one. Man Utd back on tract to win everything before them.

    So too ,it will come to pass that this too will blow over. When the bids are raised , the players and selling clubs will do their bidding.

    Am just waiting when the Chinese investors come a calling in droves. The fun begins. That the Americans might decide to cash in their chips is a distinct possibility .Brush up on your Mandarin, it may come useful !

  12. I’m still waiting for Billy The Fish to explain exactly what he means when he says “Teams like Arsenal”.

    Maybe he’s a Gold Fish in which case given they a have a memory of 3 seconds perhaps he’s forgotten he said it.

    Probably for the best.

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