By Tony Attwood
Chapters I and II of the Competition Act 1998 prohibit anti-competitive agreements between businesses and the abuse of a dominant position in a market.
That might not sound like anything remotely relevant to football, but suddenly it becomes so as Newcastle United have repeatedly commented that rivals are “refusing to do business with Newcastle in an effort to deny them success.”
And in a sense, they have a point in that Matt Targett from Aston Villa was the only player to join Newcastle United from another Premier League club during the summer transfer window.
Newcastle are reported to have spent around £200 million across two transfer windows and are looking to spend again in a similar fashion in January.
But for the first time the club has admitted that Premier League clubs won’t sell to them since the takeover by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. On the face of it, if that were ever proven to be so, that could well be a breach of the 1988 Competition Act.
Of course, clubs have to be free to decide who they want to sell, that is not the issue. It is more a case of how they decide who they want to sell to, and there is a range of laws in force in the UK which aim to stop companies from ganging up with their competitors to see off another firm that is perhaps trying to muscle in on the market.
Certainly of late Manchester City have shown no reluctance to sell to Arsenal – although perhaps that is because Manchester City are so certain of their impregnability that they really don’t mind who they sell to.
Meanwhile, it is also reported in the Telegraph that “The Football Association are investigating several clashes between the Newcastle and Liverpool coaching and support staff on Wednesday night,” which seems to be something of a growing phenomenon in football. Not violence in the stands but in the coaching area.
Elsewhere, Hector Bellerin has finally left Arsenal to rejoin Barcelona whom he left as a 16-year-old. From 2017 onward there were tales of him trying to go back there and now he has indeed gone. He spent last season on loan with Real Betis and now has a one-year contract with Barce.
Bellerin has always been a gent in his relationship with everyone at Arsenal, and I particularly remember him at an event some years back, sitting and talking with Jeremy Corbyn. The annoying prat Piers Morgan then came and sat at their table and tried to muscle in on the conversation. Corby and Bellerin immediately switched to Spanish (Corbyn’s wife is Mexican) leaving the mono-linguistic Morgan totally out of it. A lovely moment.
Bellerin’s final message is worth noting. He wrote, “Hello Gunners. Feels like it was only a couple of years ago when I touched down in London for the very first time. From day one I truly felt at home and I’ve said time and time again how this city has shaped me into who I am, and how much I owe it.
“It’s with a lot of sadness that today I say goodbye to this club, the fans, the staff, the players and our family all together.
“There’s been highs, so high, and lows, so low, but I’ve enjoyed thoroughly every single experience I’ve lived with you Gunners. It’s not always been easy being an Arsenal player these past 11 years, but it’s always been an honour to carry the weight of this badge and defend it almost 250 times in front of you all.
“I want to thank Arsene, Francis [Cagigao], the late Steve Rowley, Steve Bould, Neil Banfield, Unai Emery, Freddie Ljungberg and Mikel. Thank you to the staff who work tirelessly for us to have it all ready when we step onto the pitch. Physios, conditioning coaches, doctors, chefs, kit men, cleaners, security, and everyone else who is a part of this family.
“Thank you to the players who have made my time here unforgettable. And most importantly, thank you Gunners, thank you for your continued support throughout all these years, for how supportive you were in the good and the bad, for how enjoyable it’s been to play in this beautiful stadium and for sharing together every single step of this journey of mine.
“With the sadness of a goodbye, but the excitement of a new beginning, I say to you all THANK YOU. Once a Gunner, always a Gunner.”
That, at least in my opinion, is true style.
Arteta wrote in reply, “We today say goodbye to Hector and we thank him so much for his loyalty and commitment to Arsenal Football Club. During his 11 years with Arsenal, Hector won three FA Cups and made nearly 250 appearances – such a huge contribution to the club.
“I’m privileged to have played in the same squad as Hector for three seasons, wearing the Arsenal shirt and sharing many great moments on and off the football pitch together. We thank you Hector and wish you and your family all the best for your return to Barcelona.”
As I said, style, on all sides.
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