Saturday, May 08, 2010

England: How Did Our Football Get In This Current Financial Miasma

Niklas Chuch is an Englishman, and an old friend of the du Nord family, who gives us a perspective on how things have gotten to such a crazy financial state in the world of English football.

It is insane for sure.

I think Pompey were coughing something like 80% of monthly earnings on players wages. But the money is a result I think of the change in the European cup competitions. This year Liverpool were one goal away from a European final, and how did they get in that competition? By LOSING in another European Cup competition. That is just nonsense.

The premier European cup competition is named the Champions League when it is pretty much anything but. It has gone from a glorious wonderful competition to a competition of utter stupidity. It has clearly been tailored for a world wide TV audience. And as that it works very well. It reminds me of how the Harlem Globetrotters were viewed in England in the 70’s & 80’s long before Hip Hop arrived and clued everyone up to proper NBA basketball. It looks great on TV, Inter versus Barcelona or Real against Liverpool. But it is bogus and fake. It is not a proper competition any longer. Most of these teams are not champions. And the teams are seeded, designed to keep certain nations teams from the upper places of their domestic league away from each other till late in the competition. Nonetheless the TV rights earns zillions and zillions of euros and the clubs have gotten bloated, the English more than any other nation it seems to me.

And on top of this in England another whole set of stupidity was introduced via the creation of the Premier League and its attendant other divisions.** All of this topped off with a layer of uber greedy bad capitalism via the floating of football clubs on the stock market. For example Man United a club in the financial black, handsomely in the black in fact, bought by someone who borrowed over 60% of the money to finalize the deal. Once bought the debt incurred in the purchase is given to the club plunging them into huge debt. And all of this facilitated because the club got greedy in the first place and turned a football club into a bloody public limited company quoted on the stock exchange. It is pretty depressing to see this Bruce.

We seem to have destroyed the soul of the game. I mean, you went with me to watch a team playing in Division One but that league is in fact the third tier professional league in this country. How the hell can it be called League One? I suspect the League Authorities thought by not calling it League Division One but League One it somehow made it ok…..

I love the game but I hate what it has become. I saw a photograph today of spurs players with champagne celebrating after their win over Man City because they have come FOURTH in the bloody league. They have also of course qualified for the so called Champions League. It seems to me that when players celebrate coming third and fourth in a league competition you gotta ask yourself what has gone wrong.

Bit of a rant there it seems. But it seems to me that we have lost something of the purity of the game and of the European cup competitions. Once the competition was comprised of the champions of each European domestic league, then all names thrown into a bag and a draw made. The luckier ones played the champs of Malta. If you were really unlucky you played the champions of Italy. And the really unlucky ones got a trip to some weird eastern block team. What we have now is a fake, an enjoyable fake for sure but a fake nonetheless, in same way as the Harlem Globetrotters are/were. You know as well as I do that given a choice between watching the Bulls in their prime or the Harlem Globetrotters you (&I) would go the Chicago way each and every time. What the competition is now is the same as the ball games played by the Globetrotters and what we once had as a competition was the equivalent of games as played by the Bulls.

We have lost something for sure.

**Things started to happen in 1992. The teams in the 1st division, which had been run by the Football League since 1888, left to form the Premier League. But the key is that about three years prior to that the Football League had eventually decided to allow live coverage of games. It had been requested for many years but always declined on the basis that showing live football would discourage people from attending games. This is why even now the Saturday 3:00pm games are not live in the UK [at least legally] unlike in say Germany and why we have these daft games kicking off at 12:30 or 5:30 pm so the TV firms can show live Premier football on a Saturday. At first when it went live the coverage was on the BBC and free to everyone. But the size of the audience soon alerted people in the game to the money available in showing this stuff via a pay channel like Sky. Once this was grasped the move to create the Premier League happened.

The creation of the Championship [old 2nd division] and these daft divisions League One [old div 3] and League Two [old div 4] were really undertaken as the Premier League grew in size dwarfing everything else. So the Football League has tried, not unreasonably, to jazz up the lower divisions.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yet, we have league in this country where on day one of the new season EVERY team has a chance to be champions. Sadly, even our own countrymen feel that makes our league sub-standard. I love the EPL and know MLS is flawed but I will take optimism over hey we may make 7th!! anytime.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Revelation said...

My biggest beef with MLS is the playoffs. Our entire 30 game season is a prelude to a four game season and the winner of the four game season is the "champion". Makes no sense and also makes the championship very arbitrary. Give me "playoff intensity" every match by making every match count. Having fell in love with the game in Germany, I love the intensity of each and every match from the first match day to the last because every point matters for bonuses, pay, maintaining employment...

As for English football, I think it is telling that Leeds United when from Champions and Friends League qualifiers to relegation is a few short seasons. They needed that huge, huge influx of cash from the champions and friends league TV rights. Without, they couldn't afford their payroll or the transfer fees to get players of that quality. Unfortunately, I believe we are in for a long haul of Manchester United or Chelsea winning the league every season with Arsenal threatening every few seasons. No one else has the money and the stability of Champions and Friends league cash to maintain (unless of course another Russian oil sugar daddy comes along and buys a team) the three rosters necessary to compete and win the league.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Revelation said...

oops, should have read:

...Leads United went...

I will now flog myself with Strunk and White...

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Wes said...

In reading this I have two reactions. The first is to say, "let's stop it with the old nostalgia bit" and the second is "God I hate all this money talk." I agree that the amount of money means that the rules have been fixed to make sure that the same ole folks stay in the Champions League. However, as a Spurs fan, I was ecstatic to see my boys pull off 4th. Why? Because I might just be able to see them play the likes of Barca and Bayern Munich. We sure as hell may get stomped on, but I get to hope just a bit.
The same goes for relegation and promotion. Blackpool (eff-ing Blackpool!) might get into the Premiership next year and sure they'll be trounced, but for one year they'll get a chance to fight like hell against the best teams in the country for their fans and anyone who watched Derby fans show up week in week out just to sing their team to destruction knows that that isn't something to be sniffed at.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Revelation, What the heck do you think the Champions league is, its a glorified playoff system. So get over the MLS playoffs. Every game counts in MLS almost every year one or two team don't make the playoff by only one point. SO don't tell me that every game does not count. Plus the playoffs are great to watch.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the late '80 or early '90s, the old Euro Cop did have a real draw and the first round match of the day, in Sept no less, was AC Milan vs Real Madrid. It was a real match and you either went up or out.

Everone in Europe, an few in the USA, wathced or listened.

Ah, the old days.


10:10 PM  
Blogger Joe the Curmudgeon said...

In the USA, we love to have a winner and a loser, so the playoff system suits us very well. Over the years, we have watched the major US sports expand their playoffs and almost every season a sub .500 team will eek in. Talk about diluting the meaning of winning.

Of course, the great evil of GREED drives all of this, whether in the US, the EPL or Europe. Everything is maximized for TV viewership, since corporate advertising money provides the greatest source of income for the teams. Of course, this drives up the cost of a lot of consumer goods, but that's another story.

Getting promoted to the Premiership guarantees the incoming squad some 25MM pounds sterling, if I am not mistaken. Some teams will bank most of it and try to make do, while others will spend it like kids in a candy store. Either way, most promoted teams will drop back in a year or two.

The massive spending sprees by the likes of Chelsea and recently Man City have soured me on the English game, somewhat. I am resigned to the international transfer windows but the massive player movement makes it hard for this Yank to care much about any one side long term. I respect Man U (much to my chagrin), because they had a great core of long time players. I am sure other sides did too, but I was dumb then.

What I really don't like is that the US style of wall street shenanigans (leveraged debt) has crept into UK Ownership. I blame the US owners, mostly, that seem treat the UK sides as a fancy toy. Sure the Saudi and Russian owners enjoy their fancy toys, too, but they paid cash.

I also know these teams mean SO MUCH to the local English fans. If you are from Luton or Swansea, then that's your team. You hope one day they make it to the big time. This is a passion not seen in any US sport. Baseball has many hardcore fans, but they play 81 home games a year. Pro Football is just a drunk-fan fest. NBA is a game of giants and bad referees. Most fans aren't even real fans, they are merely bettors, playing the lines, hoping for an outcome that suits their wallet.

We have 1,000 channels TV to thank for this flattening of allegiances. I live in LA, but don't consider the Galaxy MY team. Nor Chivas. I like watching them, but my whole existence won't be compromised if they don't do well.

Remember, it's just entertainment, people, and I enjoy watching ANY entertaining game, even the A-league. Tonight, at the same time, I had two soccer matches on, plus baseball. During college football, I'll have four games on at once. Am I greedy for watching so much? I suppose so, but really it's just an embarrassment of riches these modern times offer.

Within ten years, I expect to see a Global Football League, with 24 or so of the most popular teams peeling off from their national leagues. Perhaps every continent will be represented. The money will be insane, and the stakes higher than ever. Rupert's Fox will probably be the instigator.

It'll still be cloudy and grey in England, and the fans will drown their sorrows when their side realizes they can't win the table with five games remaining. But the teams' management and the league offices will still do all they can to extract every last dollar or pound or euro from the "fan".

I hope this rant was useful.

11:12 PM  
Blogger Revelation said...

Anonymous, if that is your real name,

I hate the Champions and Friends League. Probably more than I hate the MLS Playoffs. At least the MLS Playoffs have the background of all other US sports having playoffs and many other leagues in the Americas having playoffs.

I'm actually a huge proponent of teams leaving their domestic leagues for the "glory" of an European League or even an global league. Let the big teams (or those that think they are big) to break free. Let them have their one big match a week. Of course, they'd be ineligble for the domestic cup competitions so those teams would have schedules free from too many complications. They'll love it.

9:38 AM  

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