According to its official history, the formation of the Football Association and the early years of organised football in England was one of “high ideals and ready compromise”- in stark contrast to the Augustus Gloop levels of avarice that have been exposed by the coronavirus crisis.
The fans provided the cover for the hangers-on that have surrounded the modern game, allowing their business to go on unimpeded. The men in suits, whispering in the stands, their dealings now exposed without the noise of the crowd and the constant steam of supporters to obscure it.
It took a dinosaur named Gunnersaurus to bring the dysfunction into sharp focus, Arsenal relieving the man in the mascot suit of his position after 27 years in a cost-cutting drive. This at a time when they were in the process of signing Ghanaian Thomas Partey for £45million on reported wages of £200,000 a week. Arsenal announced 55 redundancies in August due to the Covid-19 pandemic but then signed Brazilian defender Gabriel Magalhaes for £23.14m from Lille, the Premier League outfit revolving in a different moral orbit.
Arsenal chief-executive Vinai Venkatesham says he has had sleepless nights over the redundancies, although probably not as many as the people losing their livelihoods at the Emirates, nor the staff at EFL and non-league clubs who may not have jobs in a month’s time.
The English Football League has indicated that it needs a £250million bailout from the Premier League to keep its 72 proud clubs going: about three Harry Maguires. But the Premier League will stump up a grant of just £50million, says the Times, leaving Port Vale keeper Scott Brown worried that Leagues One and Two might “go out of existence”.
Macclesfield have already gone and before that Bury, both community institutions as disposable as the Gunnersaurus outfit.
Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish chipped in with more insensitive top table analysis, now known as Dychonomics after the Burnley manager’s crass bailout comparison to hedge funds.
‘No other industry is asking firms to bail out competitors,’ squealed Parish, pointing to the financial pressures of his Premier League outfit, one who bought in Eberechi Eze from QPR for £19.5million in late August.
Of course, what you definitely need at a time when the so-called football family should be pulling together is a breakaway of Championship clubs; that is now on the cards. The Daily Telegraph report that those ‘threats loom again after “rebel” chief executives met secretly’ on Tuesday.
‘More than 10 Championship clubs previously expressed appetite for a break away to secure more TV money,’ the story added. The current five-year TV deal is be worth around £120m, a fraction of the £1.4billion carved up in the Premier League.
Championship executives were ‘appalled’ to see transfer spending in the top tier hit almost £1.2billion this week. Mehmet Dalman, the Cardiff City chairman, believes around half of the clubs in the Championship may now be for sale because there is no end in sight for the financial disaster caused by Covid.
Ongoing reticence in agreeing to the EFL’s £250million continues between Richard Masters, the top tier’s chief executive, and Rick Parry, the EFL chairman.
A counter offer from the Premier League has been ruled out until next week, but several top tier clubs want any potential instalments to be delayed even further to allow the second transfer window to close on October 16. A package for League One and League Two is certain to be reached, but the main reservation expressed by smaller top tier clubs is that their financial outlooks are already broadly in line with effective rivals in the division below under the parachute payment system. As a result, the Premier League is expected to require assurances that the second tier will curb excessive wage spending.
The last available accounts show Norwich, Derby, Sheffield Wednesday and Wigan all spent beyond 150 per cent of revenue on wages. Reading were hit worst of all, recording figures of 226 per cent.
Normally slugs wait until the rain has finished to emerge but it seems football’s invertebrates are crawling out with the pandemic nowhere near done.
Manchester City CEO Ferran Soriano piped up about the inclusion of B-Teams in the EFL, an idea about as palatable as Donald Trump’s suggestion of injecting disinfectant to beat Coronavirus. Obviously jet-setting Soriano has missed the almost total fan boycott of EFL Trophy games due to Premier League inclusion.
“One of the challenges is the EFL [is] a business that is not sustainable enough,” said the City supremo. No shit. His club is part of a Premier League set-up which corrals the game’s wealth, media interest and homegrown talent and he wonders why lower-league clubs are struggling to kick-on.
‘Why would anyone listen to the oil men when considering the future of the English pyramid?’ said Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt quite sensibly, reacting to the mind-fart of Soriano, who joined English football in 2012 but considers himself enough of an expert to tear up over a hundred years of tradition.
2012 was the year Seb White and his friends set up Stand Against Modern Football Fanzine. Theirs was a sporting howl of our time; they could see the distorting influence of money on football and they were right. We’re looking through the curtain, like those fans in club bars, unable to get into the stands, on a horrible sport run by arseholes in Armani.