So onto my favourite topic of the world’s governing bodies. Michel Platini has today announced a plan to ensure European clubs live within their means, and a method of punishing them if they don’t. All well and good, we think. Without scratching beneath the surface it seems like a good idea, as all clubs ultimately want to play in European competition.
The new idea is to monitor club’s finances over a three year period, issue warnings to clubs who are ultimately failing to keep their finances on an even keel, and if necessary, ban clubs from competing in the either the Champions League or the Europa League. There are also exceptions to this ‘break even’ clause, so wealthy owners can spend their millions on new training grounds, youth academies and stadiums. So generally, it’s a good idea then? Err, no.
Firstly, this new proposal does absolutely nothing about existing debt. So Manchester United and Liverpool are free to just live with over a billion pounds worth of debt around their collective necks. So instantly, in my eyes UEFA have failed before this even begins. But let us move on.
The Premier League are against the ‘break even’ idea because it limits ‘competitiveness’. Now there is more chance than ever of the same five or six clubs finishing in the same positions year after year because no upstart can go out, spend £200m and put themselves in the frame. However, that evens itself out because there is also no chance of another club ‘doing a Portsmouth’. Let’s face it here, the Premier League don’t care a jot about individual clubs going out of business, all they are interested in is their ‘product’, the self proclaimed ‘best league in the world’. As a result, despite the Premier League having a valid point, it is “spoken with a forked tongue”.
No, it WILL still be possible for a club to spend a lot more money than they have, and hence still compete with the bigger clubs. How? Quite simply by charging the supporters more money than they do already, both through TV deals and at the gate. Then of course there’s club merchandise, and match day food, so either way, John Terry won’t miss out on his Champions League football or his £180,000 a week wages. Don’t worry about poor little Mr Terry.
Quite simply the only losers here are the supporters, and the culture of ridiculous wages for average footballers continues. Instead, UEFA should have dealt with the biggest issue at hand. So as much as I agree with Platini’s principle, I’d have taken it further with the below:
- Introduce a wage cap, provisionally set at £100,000 a week starting in the next two years
- Force clubs to use the money saved on wages to reduce ticket prices, thus attracting a more genuine supporter base, and less of the ‘prawn sandwich brigade’. I’d go further by forcing a sliding scale of prices across all domestic leagues.
- Introduce a new law ensuring that at least three of the match day squad came through the ranks of the club, thus giving the youngsters more of a chance
- Force clubs to have at least three players from their home nation in their match day squad, thus ending the era of an entire squad of foreigners, and home grown players having to move down the leagues to progress
- Bar all clubs from European competition with a debt greater than the overall value of the club until the debt has been reduced.
If you’re reading Mr Platini, I’m coming for your job.
As always, I’d appreciate your comments.
October 26, 2009
Saturday morning was pretty normal for me. I get up, walk the dogs, eat some fried food and then consider whether I can afford a trip to Meadow Lane. In the end, I decided I couldn’t as I wanted to go to the Shrewsbury match next week, but it did get me thinking; I wondered how many other Notts fans have the same problem every other Saturday, and in the bigger picture, how many football fans in general?
I support a team who plays in the fourth tier of the English game, so what must it be like to be a regular at Spurs, for example? As a result, I thought I’d have a look and find out, and it makes depressing reading.
Whilst I find paying £18 for 90 minutes of football at Meadow Lane (or £25 for most league games at Celtic Park) distasteful, I was amazed at what I discovered at some Premier League clubs. I started with Spurs, for some reason, and I found that tickets would cost me between £27.40 and £42.10 for a ‘smaller’ game (against the likes of Birmingham and Burnley) or £42.10 and £73.40 for a big game. £73! How the hell can that be justified?
Next, I’d decided I’d have a look at one of the ‘big 4’, so I thought I’d look at Manchester United. Straight away, I noticed United didn’t bother categorising matches, and tickets were priced between £27 and £49. Once again, these prices are distasteful, but not quite as bad as Tottenham.
I then looked at Chelsea, who offered general sale tickets for between £44 and £64. Indeed, the deeper I read into the ticket price issue the more depressed I felt. My next port of call was the Arsenal website, which turned my depression to anger.
Like Spurs, Arsenal run a categorised system for different games, and for the smaller games tickets cost between £32.50 and £64.50. However, the bigger games are priced between £47 and £92! By this point, I’d decided enough was enough, and I stopped looking and started writing.
Compare this to the German Bundesliga, which is the up-and-coming league in world football. Most grounds hold in excess of 40,000 fans each week, and almost every game is a sell-out. Here, it is possible to buy a ticket for the equivalent of £9. Yes, that is half of what it costs to watch Notts play Crewe. It’s also possible to get tickets at the San Siro for a Milan game for about £12.
So why the big difference? Obviously, there is a link to the Hillsborough disaster, and the change to all-seater stadia. Indeed, part of the ‘Taylor Report’ specifically recommended that ticket prices were increased to help drive out the hooligan element of some clubs. However, this change has now come at a massive cost.
Football is no longer the game of the working man. I don’t know about you, but most of my friends are now ‘armchair’ supporters, who may go to 3-4 games a season, simply because they don’t have the cash to go to more. And it stinks.
The game in this country has never been richer, with Sky and ESPN pumping in about £1.7billion in the latest TV deals, and yet fans are having to spend more and more to actually go and watch their teams. Some clubs then have the audacity to complain about ‘a poor atmosphere’ at the game!!!! Yes, oh mighty Premier League club, that is because all of your fans are corporate fans, as they are the only people who can afford to go!
I believe it is time for some kind of government intervention to force a ‘price cap’ on these clubs, and stop forcing the real fan out of the game. I know this is a football blog, not a political one, but I think it is necessary to start a protest group of supporters all over the country, forcing the Premier League money to be distributed more fairly, and as a result to bring down ticket prices everywhere.
It’s time clubs stopped fleecing their fans, as without them, there would be no professional game.
I think a few too many clubs have forgotten this. It’s time they were reminded.
As always, I’d appreciate your comments.