If you’re a Chelsea fan, you should be fairly familiar with the ridicule over money that we spend. We are known to be everything that is wrong in modern football. And then came Man City, Malaga, Anzhi, PSG, Monaco etc. The much maligned lot in football. The least respected too. And I think these clubs deserved some respect and credit for what they are doing to football community.
It’s not just the ones above. Man Utd, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich etc. It’s their party that Roman crashed into. And this rich list in football is growing and I think will continue to grow. The influence of money in football has been increasing. I don’t find anything unusual about this. The influence of money in the society is increasing and football is a part of that society. The rich and poor divide is bigger now than it has ever been. Some go to the best schools and some don’t get schooling at all. Some live the palatial real estate, some don’t have a place to live. That’s the world we live in. If anything, I’m surprised that the revolution in football has arrived late.
Take any other sport – different teams and different players train in very varied quality of facilities and come through very different structures and administrative process and through very different investment profiles. You don’t find the Bangladeshi cricket team saying that the Australian cricket team is superior only because they’re richer and have better facilities to produce and train talent. The world is unfair. The inequality is the absolute norm. Any attempt to change this is pure vanity. The important thing to note, it could all be a zero sum game. There are pros and cons if your club has and spends a lot of money.
Money does not guarantee success. There are enough and more examples to support this theory. Money is a key ingredient for success though. Particularly for sustained success. Money comes with its own problems. And some clubs that don’t have the money will even be grateful for that for you gotta be managing more than just football. And lack of money doesn’t mean failure either.
Lot has been written about how money has ruined football. Excuse me? I thought it’s a boon that there’s so much money in football now. Better training facilities, better fitness and healthcare for players, better lifestyle for anyone associated with football, better access to live football and anything football. This can’t be a bad thing. When football was a local sport, money wasn’t necessary. It’s hardly a local sport. Every big club is global. Every big club has an enormous fan base across the world. Any club that wants to spread its wings across the world can’t do it without any money. So much so that three-fourths of the revenue comes from non-match day sources.
When you’re a club that’s content and less ambitious, you don’t need money. You don’t need titles. You just need your regular flow of income and you ‘maintain’ the club without having to make a ‘step change’. Not all clubs are ambitious. The ones that are ambitious spend a lot of money. And they may get their returns.
If you’re a club that’s content and happy with just ‘maintaining’ the club, it’s absolutely fine but there’s no point in trying to undermine the achievements and ambitions of the clubs that have a larger vision than yours. The ambitious clubs will always behave very differently in how they approach the market, the competition and how they go about achieving their goal.
It’s a fashionable thing for the content clubs to say that ‘we operate within our means, our values and our principles’. In most cases, that’s euphemism for saying ‘we are simply content at where we are and we are happy with the status quo’. In some cases it’s even a mask over ‘we lack ambition and we need a good story to match our lack of ambitions’. Cool, we can play the ‘values and principles’ card.
There’s nothing wrong in being content. Clubs like Everton, Arsenal and Spurs are limited in ambition and that’s fine. The problem begins when they start comparing themselves with the ambitious clubs such as Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City and get all too jealous about their aspirations and achievements.
Fact is, there are several leagues even within the premier league. Global clubs, champions league clubs, top half aspirants and survivor clubs. Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City really have global plans. Arsenal are a global club but act like a champions league club. Clubs like Everton, Newcastle and Spurs are simply top half aspirants who every now and then toy with the European opportunity.
And the global clubs operate very differently. They are much more demanding of their managers and players, they are ready to invest money, they are ready to take risks and they want to constantly expand their horizons. Football is a business though not always run like a business. And it’s been a business for a long time. Only now, the outcomes are hugely fluctuating and hence gets some negative connotations to this sport being a business.
And every club benefits from this sport being a business and particularly from the big money investing clubs. It is the likes of Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City that have been raising the premier league stock globally and the league as a whole has benefitted tremendously. The commercial revenue of the league has gone up manifold thanks to the big investments that are being made by these clubs. The big spending clubs can take a lot of credit in making premier league a globally marketable high revenue product.
And all premier league clubs have gained because of this. They all have a share in the increased commercial revenue because there are some clubs that are trying to raise the bar. This season, while the champions Man Utd have earned £60m in TV revenue, even the 20th placed relegated team like QPR have got £40m. This is not going to happen if the top clubs don’t invest money and bring in exciting talents from all over the world. The less spending clubs should be grateful to the big investing clubs.
While it’s fashionable to moan about the big spenders like Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea, it should be noted that this is only a supporter behaviour. None of be clubs are particularly concerned. They do some lip service but no one really wants to stop this. Because they are all benefited. They need the billionaires to make the football economy flourish. If this is a big concern as its made out to be by the supporters of the champions league clubs and top half clubs, they should make a formal protest with the football authorities. They should press for a regulation that would restrict foreign ownership and have rules in place to discourage that (though they may not succeed given the legal complications). They can threaten the football authorities that they want to break away and form a new league or something like that. Basically, make a real serious attempt to stop this. They don’t do that. Because they are getting benefitted by these ambitious global clubs.
In most cases the moaning about money is just a pure excuse for one’s own lack of ambition and aversion towards risk. And in some cases, it’s sheer desperation and in crude terms simple jealousy. If the supporters of the globally smaller clubs are proud about their ‘spending within means, playing by values and principles’, the supporters of the big spending clubs can be proud about being the pioneers, the risk takers, the market makers and the clubs that will expand the boundaries of their football league and can forever change the face of football in the world.
Some ignorant fans seem to think that FFP is the saviour of sorts. They can’t be more wrong. I think FFP is fundamentally flawed and it will be totally counterproductive too. FFP will only ensure that he current cartel of top clubs will stay at the top and totally crush the hopes any other club to make it big on a consistent basis. If you analyse, all the established clubs (Man Utd, Bayern, Juventus, Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid etc) are better off with FFP as there’s not going to be another Chelsea or Man City or PSG or Monaco to threaten their superiority. You see how Roman Abramovich and Chelsea are now supporting FFP. That should tell you something.
As a Chelsea fan, I’m very proud of what my club has done to football and the premier league and how we have been a pioneer and a blueprint for other clubs to follow. And I’m proud that the league and the teams in the league are more prosperous thanks to our efforts in generating and spreading revenue. I only hope the game changers likes Chelsea, Man City & PSG are respected for what they’re doing and they be given credit for how they are revolutionising football.