By Tony Attwood
- How Arsenal have built the youngest team in the Premier League
- Why the demand for a new high-scoring Arsenal centre forward is wrong
“…But unless they’ve got an oligarch or state fund to pump money, it’s hard for clubs to keep up with the relentless rise of Premier League players’ wages and transfer fees.”
So says the Guardian newspaper in a recent article which ironically has the headline “Van Gaal warns Ten Hag against joining ‘commercial club’ Manchester United”, and the sub-heading “‘He must choose a football club,’ says Netherlands manager.”
Clubs get money in three ways. One is through being run by a state, or the owner of a state, or the brother-in-law of the ruler of a state or …. well you get the idea. Manchester City and Newcastle United are two obvious examples.
Another is by finding a person who is not actually the owner of a country but is still staggeringly wealthy. Everton is a prime example of this, as the club can only exist through the wealth of Farhad Moshiri, rather like Chelsea under the now-disgraced Abramovich.
Abramovich after all took Chelsea from a history of one league title in 99 seasons to five in 17 seasons. Quite an improvement. Not quite as good as Arsenal in the 1930s, but not bad.
But money doesn’t always guarantee quick success as Everton’s plight reveals for Farhad Moshiri has not managed to deliver any success at all. They last won the league in 1987 and are only avoiding relegation this season because Watford, Burnley and Norwich don’t have the cash to splurge.
Meanwhile, Everton managed to lose £120.9m in 2020/21 – a figure which includes the last part of pandemic induced losses, but also shows a record turnover.
Now if you have been holding onto the notion that there is some Premier League control over finances (which would be pretty laughable considering the Manchester City spending) you might wonder how Everton have exceeded the £105m threshold of “allowable losses” and yet sail on regardless. Especially since all-told Moshiri has spent £500m trying to reach fourth place which is currently occupied by, well, if you really want to know, Arsenal. Moshiri has put in almost £200m into the club in the last two years and now owns getting on for 95% of the club. He must be wondering where it has all gone wrong.
And indeed he might also be wondering where Alisher Usmanov has gone – what with the ex-Arsenal shareholder being suspended for being too Russian – although it turned out that despite the treatment he got at Arsenal, Usmanov looks rather like one of the good Russians.
But once again Moshiri’s greater expenditure in the team has yielded neither profit nor success. Worse they are seemingly finding it tough going to get their money back on players they have previously bought.
And there’s another thing. While over time we have been able to learn quite a bit about Usmanov, it proves tougher to get a line on Farhad Moshiri, why he backs Everton, and why £500m hasn’t built a title-challenging team, but has built a relegation facing one. The Guardian reckon that when the new stadium is completed Moshri will have spent £1bn on the club that he doesn’t watch.
But it does look like Abraomovich is going to get all his money back through the forced sale of Chelsea, and maybe that is the thought sustaining Moshiri. Abramovich can’t make a profit out of Chelsea, but he can recover losses and still have quite a few friends. Moshri could well be thinking that ultimately that “no profit” rule will go, and he’ll make his profit. Providing football clubs keep going up in perceived value and Everton don’t drop into League Two.
In reality, however, Everton is symptomatic of another problem in football. The perceived value of clubs has no relationship with their earnings even when sponsorships are considered, and even when a club is allowed to have an “official tractor sponsor” as Manchester City did.
So what is the attraction? It could be the link to offshore (ie unrestricted) gambling and cryptocurrency (ie fantasy money). Certainly, money has to come from somewhere and those sources seem unending at the moment. Yet there must eventually be a limit to the number of will and whacky billionaires ready to pour in a ceaseless amount of money.
Or could it be that maybe there is always another billionaire around the corner who, rather like fans with their unending belief that if one only sacked the manager and brought in a new man, everything would be fine, think just another £100m ought to do it?
That, as we see throughout this and every other season is generally nonsense. But what is true is the fact that just because you’ve picked up load of cash somewhere along the line, that doesn’t make you immune to believing nonsense. In fact, it is quite possibly it makes you more likely to believe that football clubs can make money.
- Are Arsenal really making progress, or are we starting to slip back?
- Luton 3 Arsenal 4: maybe it is time to say positive things
- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.
- Luton Town v Arsenal: Grim football, fewest goals, lowest possession rate