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Why would those owners stay?
As the dust settles on ESL fallout and we can move on from the ‘my enemies enemy is my friend’ and go back to hating UEFA, FIFA, VAR etc, I was looking at it from the owners of Liverpool, Man U, Arsenal and Spurs (Chelsea and Man City have enough cash) and trying to picture how this will end. It is clear that they now see that they have bought into, and helped contribute to a massive Ponzi scheme. Players (and managers) wages have grown so out of control that the owners are scrambling to find ways of continuing to pay them and make a healthy profit. Ticket prices have been maxed out. Stadiums have either been built (Arsenal, Spurs), improved (Liverpool) or left to rot (Man U), TV deals are all that’s left, but unless anything changes to include more ‘glamour’ fixtures those figures are unlikely to increase further.
The American owners would love to implement the NFL system. The ESL would have satisfied the ‘closed off, no relegation, no risk aspect’ but as has been pointed out before the NFL relies on the draft system and the salary cap to keep teams competitive and interested. Neither of these would be possible to implement in football as it would require a global sign up.
To keep making enough money the owners will have to continue to pursue the ESL dream and indulge the bloated Champions League. If we the fans continue to rightly fight against these I can see the owners walking away. Now this may please the likes of Man U, Arsenal and Spurs fans– I’m prepared to forgive FSG – but then you are reliant on the only people left on the planet who can afford these clubs, the oil sheikhs, to come on in. If they don’t, or more likely are not allowed, then the Glazers, ENIC, FSG and Kroenke may just take their money and go. Most of the debts are all tied up with the clubs, not the owners. The owners won’t get their big pay day, or the juicy ‘interest’ payments but at least they won’t have to deal with all this hassle and can just go back to their other franchises leaving at least 4 of the Big 6 facing probable administration. We could just be left with the usual suspects Chelsea and Man City dominating for years to come. Maybe they knew….
Martin, LFC (Pep is Keyser Soze?)
Memories are short
If the email from Minty this morning is anything to go by, your call for fans to put aside tribalism, and especially the idea of defending a club whatever they do, is likely came to nothing.
If the ESL had ever taken off, I suspect that many of the fans saying how upset they were at ‘their’ club would’ve still eventually ponied up the TV money to watch them.
Many were very vocal this week, saying they will stop being fans. But I suspect very few will actually stick with that.
It is like very publicly announcing on social media that you’ve deleted Uber because of how they treat their drivers, only to much more quietly reinstall it a week later when you need to get home quickly…
…This has been a roller coaster of a week. The low of Sunday evening, after ESL news broke out, followed by the almost unbearable high of Tuesday night, when it pretty much died, I pretty much went through the whole gamut of emotions, in between.
For once, I felt united with Liverpool fans (who don’t really like me much, due to my views on their success!), we’d all found a common enemy. Which is why I felt so disappointed reading Minty’s email, saying “let’s forgive FSG”.
I could not disagree more, let’s not. Let’s not forgive or forget, let’s use this opportunity to kick out all of them greedy b*****ds.
Daniel Levy sucked out all fun of Mourinho being sacked, by agreeing to join the ESL, before doing a rapid U-turn.
This is a unique opportunity for football, we can put pressure on government to change ownership rules for football clubs.
Man Utd fans have already organised a “Glazers Out” protest for Sat. 24th. If we all protest in unison, if we utilise the synergy, it could have an irresistible snowball effect.
Don’t be fooled by their puke-inducing, sudo-sincere apologies. They’re just buying time, before they can stab us in the back again.
Gary Neville & Jaimie Carragher have declared war on Glazers & FSG respectively. I’m still waiting for an ex Spurs player find the courage to do the same on Levy.
This moment may never arrive again, let’s not waste it.
Fred (“Mourinho is gone, but I feel empty, instead of elated”), London
…Well, the solidarity is beginning to crumble. While fans of the Shithouse Six were keen to join everyone else in condemning their clubs getting special treatment in their own super special league (and fair play to them, they’ve been magnificent), a vocal minority are beginning to break ranks when it comes to punishment.
Because apparently, while it was right for dozens of clubs to receive points deductions because of awful owners in the past, it’s not right for the fans and players and coaches of THEIR clubs to be punished for the actions of their owners. I’m not sure why me and David Healy are complicit in Ken Bates’ idiocy while Liverpool fans and Jordan Henderson should be protected from any punishment doled out to FSG, but here we are.
But punishment is needed, and it must be fair and just. So here’s what I suggest.
A points deduction for all six equivalent to the distance between the highest placed Shithouse Six team and the highest place Legacy Club, applied at the start of the next season.
If the league ended today, that’d be a deduction of 21 points (the distance between Cities Manchester and Leicester).
Bring “Them” down to “Our” level, and let the league play out.
For teams like Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, you get the feeling their sensible fans would see that as a great challenge. You only need to win seven more games than the top “Legacy” club and you win the league on goal difference – a feat all these clubs have managed in recent years. What a title race we could see! How much fun we could all have!
For Spurs and Arsenal, well, applying that deduction now would leave Spurs five points clear of relegation and Arsenal two points behind Fulham. So their fans are rewarded too. Because they get their genuine Super League experience of finishing close to the bottom, but with all that brilliant merit-based pyramid drama that comes with potential consequences for being a bit crap.
What do we reckon? Sweep it all under the table and return to the status quo, or have the most exciting title race in years, and potentially drama at the bottom too?
I know which I’d prefer.
Andy – Leeds Legacy Fan in Salford
…Steve asked about punishments for the six clubs this morning.
My personal view is there has to be some quite significant punishment. I understand the argument that points reductions/European bans etc punish the fans and players but unfortunately there has to be a punishment and I don’t see any other option. It’s no different from when fans of Wigan saw their team relegated after a points deduction due to their owner’s actions. Or the National League teams being fined and deducted points for the crime of effusing to put themselves in financial jeopardy after they’d been lied to (now this is a fight we should all get behind). The fans and players are just going to have to accept the punishment unfortunately but you can at least be grateful you still have a club to watch in the domestic league.
In an ideal world you’d remove the owners but obviously that’s not possible. I’m not sure how the fit and proper persons test works but maybe there’d be a way they could say all owners need to be re-tested under new criteria but even if they all failed, seeing as they already own the clubs, I don’t know exactly what good it would do. You’d also surely get owners from a lot of the other clubs failing whatever the new criteria would be but then if now’s really the time for a big clean up then so be it.
In reality I think a substantial points deduction (maybe 20 or 30 each) and/or a European ban for a couple of seasons would do it. Plus a big fine. This would hit the owners in the pocket which as we can all see is the only language they understand. It’d also help to level the playing field a bit in the Premier League with other teams qualifying for Europe for the next couple of seasons. Imagine next season if the other 14 clubs knew that the 4 highest out of them would get into the Champions League! The players and fans of those clubs would just have to accept it and experience a season or two of everyone else’s existence. Maybe it’d teach them all some humility as well as that can often seem in short supply.
I don’t know really, it’s a tough one as unfortunately the rest of the Premier League needs those 6 clubs thanks to the whole thing being built on a financial house of cards that would collapse if they left.
My horrible feeling is that there won’t be any punishment at all or it’s just a token fine.
Let’s hear how the ESL would have worked
A truly remarkable story about the future of football, led by the powerful in the game and to be joined by a few more, it was to combat the current all-powerful Uefa and their monopoly on the game within Europe, it was the clubs, wresting some control back, it was a powerplay between huge powerful corporations, it could have been a great film.
But no, the precious fans and media, without any details just decried it’s awful and that was that. The game is back where it was and those who had influence have less, their business and our clubs are back in the financial mire and the rest of football that’s dependent on them will continue to struggle, possibly more so.
I hate this approach, I like to know the details, I wanted to know how they would contribute to their own leagues, how it addressed the current issues. The fixed participation was clearly wrong, but could have been debated and possibly changed, it could have been a great solution, or not, but that debate never happened and the fans feel like the vindicated winners when they were upset in the first place about the amount of football, internationals, punishments, VAR, refereeing etc. They are cheering that they stopped it all and they have their sport back, they are morons who have shut down a genuine debate without any of their grievances being addressed and have less of a chance in the future.
They are now debating about who has the best owner, who issued the best apology and what faceless business suit should be sacked first. It’s ridiculous.
Football is a bit shit, cheating, wages, transfers, time wasting, commentary, handball, VAR, abuse, head injuries, media but the fans in my eyes have voted for all of that before trying to understand what change might actually look like. Negotiation could have happened, the EFL may have never been the solution but the flex for meaningful change.
I think the biggest mistake was the assumption by the owners that the wider world had the mental capacity to comprehend a different approach before shouting against it.
Steve, THFC (I’m not a fan of the ESL BTW, just interested to know the finer details of it)
…As traumatic as the last few days have been, I have to admit that the reactions I’ve read from both fans and journalists have entertained me more than actual football has since the pandemic began. Truly epic temper tantrums, utterly irrational reactions, but understandably and even justfiably so, because it was in response to an utterly ludicrous proposition.
I’m a big fan of nuance. So while I totally agree with the sentiment of being against the ESL, I found this idea that it was “about greed” very funny – can we all please remember that football is a business with incredibly low profit margins and revenues, and that almost everyone involved in football ownership have far more important and lucrative businesses? I didn’t see any greed in the ESL proposal – I saw fear. The Spanish and Italian clubs are afraid of going bankrupt, either due to COVID or due to trying to keep up with the likes of City and PSG. The English clubs are afraid of being left out of the next big elite competition. The clubs wanted guaranteed membership in the ESL without threat of relegation because they are afraid of mismanagement leading to failure, not because they are greedy. Any businesses involved in funding something like the ESL, whether its banks or sponsors, would want the biggest clubs guaranteed membership in the ESL because it mitigates the risk of paying huge money to stage Atalanta vs Villareal four times a year while Bigclub X and Bigclub Y flounder in the lower division.
I’ve found myself often wondering what the reaction would have been if the ESL had not been a closed shop, but had rather been entirely performance-based (ie. underperforming clubs like Arsenal would still be invited to be Founding Members, somewhat against sporting merit, but no clubs having guaranteed membership or protection from relegation, with all other clubs having the right to be promoted to the ESL). Based on what I read, it seems to me that the majority of fans and journalists would have reacted exactly the same, while managers and players would not have unanimously opposed the proposal. Atletico, in particular, made it pretty clear that they are not opposed to an ESL, they are only opposed to a system with protectionism and without sporting merit.
I also personally like to be detail-oriented. So when people talk about punishing the clubs involved in ESL, sure, I’m all for it…but by which mechanism? Are we suggesting that there is a rule in UEFA or Premier League governance which they have broken? Or are we just foaming at the mouth with rage, wanting someone to be punished for making us upset? Steve, Ontario made a similar point this morning but I think it was a little disingenuous to suggest there was no “proof” of anything when there were multiple statements made on official communications channels, and legal documentation signed between clubs and the ESL. But I am still wondering which rules have been broken, and what is the established penalty for doing so. Let’s go with that and not invent punishments because we are oh so very upset.
The idea that FSG are bad owners is possibly the most illogical take out of all of this. As Minty rightly pointed out this morning, which club ownership group is better? I don’t mean this in a Whatabouttery kind of way, but in a pragmatic sense, what is the point of wanting FSG out when almost any other potential owner of the club would be worse, in either an ethical sense or a competence sense (or both)? FSG are no angels but they are pretty benign, in terms of their source of wealth and other commercial activities. They are also among the most hypercompetent sports team owners in the world. Yes, they have repeatedly made blunders which should never have been made in the first place – but they have also repeatedly walked them back. They have repeatedly caved to fan pressure. I’m sure fans of other clubs, be it Tottenham or Newcastle or any number of other clubs, would love to have owners that backtrack their bad decisions when fans voice their discontent. The idea that FSG must be removed to prevent bad decisions from being made in the first place is preposterous unless you are specifically advocating for a 50+1 rule.
Speaking of which, the 50+1 rule (or fan partial ownership, more generally) would genuinely solve a lot of problems. I don’t know how realistic it is to implement now that clubs are worth hundreds of millions of pounds, it was probably easier to implement in Germany way-back-when, but one would imagine that if it could be achieved, it would protect clubs from making decisions against their fans’ interests and preferences. If anyone with expertise on UK corporate law could share their thoughts on how realistic it would be to implement this for UK clubs, that would be very enlightening and interesting to read.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland
Young people have been priced out of football
It’s ironic that Agnelli’s complaining that younger people aren’t interested in football because he’s part of the cabal that caused it to happen. I fell in love with football and Arsenal while watching the 1989 title decider at Anfield live on free to air TV. I watched Arsenal’s annual Champions League ups and downs live on free to air TV. In order to become a football fan you need to have seen actual football so you’re not going to sign up for Sky Sports if all you’ve seen are the painful England matches or Burnley vs Port Vale in the FA Cup. More and more of the sport is being hidden behind paywalls to the point that I can’t even watch highlights of half the games played.
As a grown man with a good job even I can’t justify a subscription to Sky Sports on the off chance that my team will be televised so how are young people going to? Drug dealers know that the first hit should be free so why were the Premier League scraps thrown to the BBC games that even their own fans would have thought twice about watching?
In their pursuit of profits they’ve splintered the TV rights so now I have to have Sky Sports, BT Sports and Amazon Prime to actually watch my team. The answer wasn’t another TV deal, the answer is cheaper, easier and flexible access to the sport. Free extended highlights of European games on terrestrial TV and free to stream apps. A reasonably priced unified streaming package where I can cast from my phone to my TV. Matches scheduled so that MOTD can have more than two games to show on a Saturday.
The reason why young people don’t follow football is because they’ve been priced out of even having their interest piqued. Going further down the rabbit hole will just price more people out and they need to pull back.
Let’s talk about financial reform
I see a lot of email lately about financial reform of the game.
Good. This conversation is 20 years late however and should have been had when Sky first invested. But I don’t want to imply it’s bad to have it now.
Let’s go one point at a time.
1. Salaries – people calling for a cap are forgetting it’s legally impossible to impose a salary cap on players. Instead I would suggest a salary cap on teams. And not a cap based on % of profits or earnings because as City have proven that can be gamed pretty easily.
Instead a flat cap on every team. For argument’s sake let’s say every team can only spend £200m a year on salaries. That way individual salaries are never capped (and thus no law is broken) but the effect is the same – wanna pay Messi extortionate sums? Comes at the cost of having a team of youth players because that’s all you can afford.
2 Transfer Fees – Get rid of cash transfers. I know this idea is super radical and the fact it comes from American sports will turn a lot of people off but it’s a good idea. If you wanted to sign Ronaldo you would need to trade 3 or 4 players that the other team wants in exchange. Essentially both teams get strengthened. Making the competition stronger. In US ice hockey they regularly have different winners of the biggest trophy precisely because of this system.
The biggest problem with this system is in how you deal with the actual trade of players. In the US the player contracts are like commodities and can be traded freely without consent of the player themselves – my understanding is some legal framework here would need to change to facilitate this.
3 Agents – thanks to people like Pini Zahavi, Jorge Mendes and Mino Raiola a lot of people forget why agents exist in the first place. Back in the “good old days” players and their families regularly got shafted by clubs because they didn’t understand contract law or their rights. Agents filled that need to protect the economic future of their clients. Even Raiola fills that need, he’s pretty exceptional at it really. The problem is they’ve been incentivised to continually move players on to get some of that transfer fee. My second suggestion deals with this a bit as no transfer fees means no giant agent pie slices. To further correct this issue I think imposing a restriction on how much teams and players can spend on agents would help. Again – you can’t cap the agent as it’s unlawful but you can cap the people who employ them.
4. Governing bodies – as others have pointed out fifa, uefa and FAs have managed to paint themselves as heroes of the everyman. They’re absolutely not, they’re just the devil we know. They all collectively allowed the corruption of the game to fill their pockets. I think the first point should be transparency – no deals in the background and every single expenditure (including executive salaries and bonuses) should be publicly published every year. Hard to be shady with no trees around.
Secondly if they’re gonna be president of a sport that is designed (supposedly) for the fans should we get to vote them into power? This way they at least have to appeal to us.
5. The Game Itself – I’ll draw a lot of criticism for my final point and I’m ok with that. I watch football as entertainment – like a movie for example. If a movie is shit, I stop watching it. I have my favourites (I’m a huge fincher fan) but should that favourite make a shit film – I turn it off. Their job is to entertain me. Football is also entertainment. As such I’d like to see a rule creates which encourages and rewards attacking play and discourages “digging in for a heroic draw” maybe instead of 3 points for a win the point are determined by the amount of goals?
I don’t have a solution to this and you could argue there shouldn’t be one as it’s my personal preference. I just don’t find two teams trying to draw and hoofing the ball to be entertaining. So much so that when Liverpool do it I turn them off too.
I have limited time on earth and if I’m gonna donate that precious time to things there has to be a reason for it. Football is entertainment. When it’s not entertaining – it’s not football.
Let the flaming of my last suggestion commence.
Lee (yes that Lee)
50+1? Forget it
50+1 will never happen in English football, forget it.
Redbird capital have recently invested based on FSG’s valuation of £5.33bn, let’s call it five for calculations sake though. That is an astonishing amount of money, which I’m sure many would struggle to comprehend. But let’s try.
LFC have about 30k season ticket holders willing to shell out up to £869 for a season. To give these fans the 51%, they’d have to stump 100 seasons worth of tickets, each, £80k.
Let’s go wider, to the estimated 1.7m fans willing to buy a shirt for c£60. Splitting the 51% between these, assuming they all take it up, would cost them £1470, or about 24 seasons worth of brand new shirts. I have a shirt, but I don’t have £1470 spare. I wonder how many are in the same situation.
Maybe we could spread it even wider? LFC have 30m Instagram followers. It’s still £83. Each. For 30million people.
Just not happening.
KC (and as the value of the club falls, so does the number of fans)
On Kroenke and Arsenal
I read Sarah Winterburn’s article on Kroenke with interest. Sarah is 100% correct of course: Kroenke is an avaricious leech, a coward who has interest in nothing except trousering cashmoney. If you look at his sporting endeavours (or even his marital ones), you see someone with a clear pattern of sucking blood in exchange for money. This is why I surprised when I read an article on 365 claiming that Arsenal “were somewhere in between” when it came to the ESL farce – this is categorically false. If anyone would be pushing hard for inclusion in a closed shop money-spinning racketeering scheme that even Bernie Madoff would be ashamed of, it would be Kroenke. It is his wet dream: no investment, maximum returns, no need to spend on transfers, guaranteed huge income stream in perpetuity – before selling off his asset for a fat killing.
Kroenke is a disgrace and he needs to leave. There is one problem though, and I have been repeating it since 2006 on here: Arsenal fans.
In short, they are the most spineless fans in the Premier League without question. Ask yourself what kind of fans watch their team lose 8-2 and hold up banners lauding the manager? When Usmanov was on the verge of acquiring the club, Arsenal fans actually went on a protest to stop Usmanov getting the club! So what happened? They got Kroenke instead. Nice one lol. I know which of the devils I would rather have. This is the fans who spent a decade claiming “you cannot compete with oil money”…before showing off about finishing runners-up to PL champs Leicester City. Where most fans would be apoplectic with paying the highest season ticket prices in Europe to witness the years of dross witnessed under Wenger, Arsenal fans? Fine with it!
Believe me, if any Chelski / Liverpool / Citeh / ManYoo manager conspires to lose 5-1 at Anfield, 6-0 at Stamford Bridge, 6-3 at Etihad, a customary Old Trafford defeat followed by a 3-0 thrashing at Everton, ALL in the same season….their security pass would be instantly deactivated. At Arsenal? The fans chanted “One Arsene Wenger”!
Kroenke has had his stake in Arsenal for well over a decade, and the club has plummeted obscene depths. Even now, Arsenal fans didn’t say a thing after the club decided to appoint the YTS work experience lad from Spain who had never managed a football team before. A club with a huge wage bill, sits in mid-table, unable to compete with mighty West Ham, Leicester and Villa – and yet the fans are salivating over a Europa League exit to Emery. Now, contrast the actions of Liverpool fans when Hicks and Gillet took the p*** at Liverpool? The Scousers might have their detractors, but they are passionate about their football club. They ran those two Yank cowboys out of town double-quick. And I have no doubt the same fate will befall JW Henry; he’s finished there. Chelski, another club whose fans have an unsavoury reputation? One big protest outside Stamford Bridge in a pandemic, and Abramovich lost his nerve. These are serious fans who take action. Bruce Buck will lose his job.
Arsenal though? LOL. Leave off Sarah. Mark my words: Kroenke will still be at this club, unscathed several years from now. And the Arsenal fans will carry on blaming “oil money”, or a VAR conspiracy, for the fact that AFC has now become a mediocre punchline – and has been since about 2008.
Stewie Griffin (I compare this ESL stuff to the Jan 6 insurrection in the US. You need to make an example of these people who attempted an outrageous coup, so they never do it again. Hilarious to hear the co-conspirators appeal for “unity” and show contrition only after their coup failed and they got caught! Perez should fine each club £100m, UEFA should ban the Big 6 from all comps for two years, and the FA should dock every single Big 6 team 15 points for damaging the integrity of the competition. Arteta and Arsenal fans can then show off about finishing 4th in the Championship)