Money, Debt and Stupid Fans

February 22, 2011

Picture the scene.

Somewhere in Nyon, deep in UEFA’s headquarters, a throaty laugh erupts from a non-descript office. You open the door to find Michel Platini, chuckling down the phone, tears rolling down his jowly face. After he’s composed himself, he utters;

“Mon Dieu, I cannot believe zis stupid people. I jerst peek a numberre out of my derriere, and zis people, zey pay it!”

I rather imagine that at this point Platini peels off his mask to reveal a reptilian face, because he’s surely not of this planet if he believes £150 is a decent price for a ticket.

The problem is of course, that they can charge £150 for a ticket, in the same way that they can also charge £300 for a ticket. Why can they do this? Simple, because football fans are truly the cash cows of the sporting world.

Football fans, never has there been a more deluded bunch that has ever walked this planet. For years you’ve been shelling out for football kits at the rate of three every two seasons, and enjoying it. Grinning and bearing the continual season ticket price until it gets to the point where a season ticket at Arsenal can cost you the business end of £2000. Liverpool currently fans going mad for the fact that their club has shelled out over £30 million pounds for a player who isn’t even an England regular. Manchester City fans not even remotely bothered about the fact that their club has effectively become the plaything of the UAE royal family. Wages going up past £200k a week, A WEEK!! When Fabrizio Ravanelli joined Middlesbrough, he was pilloried for the fact he earn’t £52k a week, nowadays a player of his quality could easily expect to triple that.

And debt, so much debt.

Over half of all the debt in European football is owned by the Premiership, with the majority of Premiership clubs now being subsidised directly by their owners, it’s almost like they’ve forgotten how to be proper businesses. Spending cash they don’t have, chasing success that’ll never be theirs,  because ultimately, it’s the same few clubs that win everything. Manchester City will never have the same long term success that Manchester United has enjoyed. Why is this? Because money can only go so far, Manchester United have succeeded because they had a core of players and a manager who were (are) solely dedicated to the club, money is a factor, but how much did Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and David Beckham cost?

I don’t have any sympathy for football fans who now complain about the price of tickets, you’ve only yourselves to blame. Personally I think you should stop demanding your club spends money it doesn’t have and start demanding some fiscal responsibility.

Mercenary? Moi?

January 25, 2011

If there’s one word that’s used with gay abandon in the footballing world, it’s “Mercenary”, Mike uses it himself in his return to blogging.

In the footballing parlance, a mercenary is a player who “sells out” their current club, in order to join another; usually the new club will offer the player in question far more money than he is currently earning.  More than most other sports, football has a rich tradition of mercenaries from Winston Bogarde to Sol Campbell, Sven Goran Eriksson and Darren Bent. All held as traitors by the fans, all of them considered mercenaries.

Why though? Where a football fan sees a mercenary, why do I see a normal urge to maximise your earning potential? Do we not live in a society where one is entitled to take their skills and sell them to the highest bidder? Why should Darren Bent be forced to trudge along at The Stadium Of Light when he could be earning far more money at Villa Park? Darren Bent never professed a great love of Sunderland, he isn’t a Mackem, he comes from Tooting for God’s sakes. 

Basically, what happened to Darren Bent happens in companies and in the general working sphere all the time, he got head hunted. The money involved is astronomical, but Bent was essentially head hunted by Aston Villa and Sunderland couldn’t have done a thing about it. This is the way of the world; if you have a talent that people are prepared to pay for why shouldn’t you sell it?

Castigating a player for being a mercenary is childish at best and regressive at worst. It also reveals the strange doublethink that some people have about this subject. Money isn’t always a pleasant thing to discuss, but until we get over these outdated notions of loyalty that infect the beautiful game, I’m afraid that “Mercenary” will be a word we’ll see time and time again.

Rooney’s Wages?

October 20, 2010

"Who's Chris Smalling, Boss?"

Seasoned Fergie-watchers were rather taken aback by his recent press conference. Usually, when Ferguson issues his diktats, they’re a brusque run down of the world, according to Sir Alex and that’s your lot. However, on the 19th October (Tuesday), they were treated to a, quite frankly, masterful performance by the old stager. Sir Alex Ferguson, the man who kicked out David Beckham, Jaap Stam and Paul Ince because he didn’t quite like the cut of their jib, played the role of the stunned and spurned father.

Of course, Ferguson is none of the kind, he’s the most ruthless operator in the game and he knows that Rooney is lost to him and his club, so he’s spinning the events to suit his agenda, which is to win the PR war.

To some degree, this has been largely successful; the story reverberating around sport is that Mr Rooney is a selfish, money grubbing chav, more concerned with the size of his pay packet than playing the beautiful game for the club that nurtured him through the tough times and the good times (not Everton).

As ever, I suspect that the truth lies somewhere in-between Ferguson’s press conference and the view expressed above. There’s no doubt that money is a major factor for Rooney to consider, compared to some top level footballers, Rooney is paid a pittance at a mere £90,000 a week. Of course, this is no small change, even for Manchester United, but when you consider that a player as average as Yaya Toure is estimated to be earning in excess of £180,000 a week at Eastlands, you can see why Rooney may be agitating for a transfer. Whatever you think of Rooney, there’s no denying that he’s a World footballer in the same league as Messi, Ronaldo and Kaka and if he feels he should be paid a wage comparable to theirs, well, you can’t blame him for that.

Personally, I’m not sure that the money is as important to Rooney as it’s made out to be. Rooney has made multiple millions over his career to date, the simple question is how much more money does a player need? Speaking from a small amount of personal experience I’m of the opinion that after a point money becomes less about acquiring things and becomes more about a measurement of your status and importance to the organisation you work for. Does Rooney want more money? Undoubtedly so, but when he grumbles about Manchester United not showing enough ambition in the transfer market, I believe him and I believe that this is the main reason for his wanting to move away.

Compared to other clubs, both in the Premiership and Europe, Manchester United haven’t competed as far as transfers are concerned. Naturally players have come in, but I can imagine that it’s difficult for Rooney to get excited about someone like Chris Smalling or Bebe, especially when Manchester City have been signing players like James Milner, David Silva and Mario Balotelli.

I don’t blame Rooney for wanting to leave if I was in his shoes I’d do the same. Rooney knows his worth as a player and as a commercial entity and in the era of “Player Power”, that’s the only knowledge a player needs.