European Super League. Inevitable?

March 27, 2013

To my mind, many aspects of Football are a microcosm of Society.

The reactions and behaviour of Fans, in many ways mirror social attitudes and the economic climate of the broader society. I also see this correlation within individual Clubs as well as between Clubs themselves. The concentration of power within a club, and then the concentration of power between a small elite of Clubs and The Rest.

Everywhere I look, I see the same model.

Look across Europe right now, and we see the collapse of Economies, Sovereign States, Societies and Currencies. The gap between the rich and poor grows exponentially wider. The call from citizens for their rights and privileges grows ever louder. Sounds familiar?

A quick look at the Power Brokers of European Football reveals to me, a group intent on preserving their own. Their Elite. Are Fair Play rules there to protect the grass roots of the game, or to serve the best interests of the few?

We have seen the back of the European Cup with single representatives from member countries. We have seen the merging of The Cup Winners Cup into The Europa League (yip, “League”). The lines between The Champions League and Europa are becoming blurred, with those falling at the first hurdle in the former being dumped into the latter.

Surely, recent talk of some kind of World Club Super League in Qatar is going to prompt some kind of response from our European Leaders.

Now, what could that possibly be?

Written by MickyDidIt

Arsenal Supporters ………….. Trust?

July 10, 2012

A couple of AA stalwarts attended the AST meeting last night and since we didn’t get back until late, this brief résumé will serve to start debate rather than be a detailed deconstruction of the proceedings.

First let me say that the attendees were (at least those who spoke) level headed and articulate – but there was plenty of disagreement all the same. The AST is an effective vehicle for access to the club and we are very lucky that we have a CEO in Ivan Gazidis who gives his time to attend open forums as well as having regular private meetings to discuss particular issues (one is taking place this Friday).

I doubt many other CEO’s of top clubs would be so obliging. For this I have to applaud IG. He does not have an easy job having to juggle the conflicting factions of the business – an absentee owner who will not invest, an entrenched Board in dire need of new blood and a manager who is both brilliant and intransigent.

As far as the meeting itself is concerned, there wasn’t a single point made by the presenters or those who spoke that hasn’t been made many times on here over the last few years.

A lot of discussion early on was over the results of their annual survey. I know some supporters suspect that the AST adopt an anti-Wenger stance but this was dispelled by the response to the question asking whether AW should remain as manager which showed 77% in support of Arsène Wenger.

Amongst the many topics discussed, there were two main points that received general agreement at the meeting but that some on here will probably take issue with, and I would like these to form the basis for today’s discussion.

1. It is ridiculous that the Board refuse to meet with Red and White Holdings.  Apparently neither Usmanov or his partner Farhad Bashiri have ever been invited into the Boardroom to discuss there intentions as major shareholders. They have never been invited into the Directors box to watch a game (he is currrently purchasing his third private box) or entertained in any way by the Board.  They own nearly 1/3 of the club and yet are completely ostracised and this simply would not happen in any other sphere of business. Some kind of dialogue should take place to see if R&W Holdings can contribute to the success of the club whilst still maintaining a self-sustaining business model.

2. The ownership together with the Board are hiding behind FFP simply because they can, and because self-sustainability has been our business model since since moving to the new stadium.

The meeting was attended by accountants, solicitors and people who understand contract law and the belief is that we could be more aggressive in our approach and still comply with FFP.

It was said that the true impact of FFP (if any), extra income from TV rights and the renegotiation of big sponsorship deals are all about 2 years away and the club basically chooses to take the risk of falling out of the top four rather than raise funds to invest in the squad.

The club runs at about a £15m loss annually and this deficit is made up by the profit from the sale of players. There is also a buffer of £30-40m from the sale of players in recent years that is held back in case the club fail to qualify for the CL one season. The feeling was that this money could be invested in the team as the club are likely to be about £70m better off come the 2014/15 season.

FFP is a UEFA policy of some 72 pages and much is left to interpretation and could be easy prey to top lawyers but it does seem already to be affecting the behaviour of clubs although oddly it is the smaller clubs that are likely to be affected the most. Man City were very astute in doing big player deals before the start of the system and continue to exploit it intelligently. Arsenal in contrast appear to be living in the hope that it actually achieves its goals – the general view at the meeting was sceptical that this would actually be the case.


Written by Rasp

Arsenal win the Premier League for the 7th time in 10 years

June 6, 2012

OK, technically we’ve won the PL once in the last 10 years if you want to be pedantic – but my cunning handicapping system based on money spent in the transfer market has revealed that we’ve actually won 7 times and come second on the other 3 occasions.

Don’t worry, this came as quite a revelation to me as well – after all, some would say that we have under achieved recently under Arsène Wenger.

So how do I arrive at this astonishing conclusion? It’s quite simple; I am factoring our ability to compete financially with the teams that have finished above us into the equation. By now you may be sensing that my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek – and it is. But there is a serious point, in fact there are several serious points….. read on……

Here is my Financial Fair Play Premier League table for the last 10 years.

The ‘Position’ column on the right is where Arsenal should have finished if FFP (or actually my conveniently manipulated version of it) were in place. I have taken points away from every club that has spent millions more than Arsenal in that period = financial handicapping. We should, by right, be battling against relegation if our performance reflected our net spending in the transfer market.

So what do I base this ludicrous assertion on? Well have a look at the comparative spending of the big 5 clubs over the last 10 years.

There is a mere half a billion difference between Manchester City and Chelsea and the Arsenal … and guess what, one won the CL and the other the EPL this season so I think we can accept that sooner or later big spending pays off if you judge success in terms of trophies.

The table below shows the net spend of last season’s 20 Premier League clubs over the last decade. Arsenal is in nineteenth place with a balance of minus £4.5m.  Only Blackburn are below us. The real under achievers are Totnum who are third with a net spend of £232m and Liverpool in fourth with a net spend of £207m – and not a Premier League title between them to show for it. So maybe 200m is not enough, but 500m gets the job done. Or maybe those two clubs are just poorly run?

Even relegated Wolves have a net spend of £50m more than Arsenal over the same period and that with only a brief flirtation in the EPL.

Chelsea top the list. As everyone knows, they entered a new era when Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003, but they are run a very close second by Manchester City who were bought by the Abu Dhabi United Group 5 years later in 2008 and will undoubtedly outspend Abramovich over the next few years.

The statos amongst you will no doubt correct me on some of my figures but what I think everyone can agree on is that Arsenal cannot compete with City or Chelsea in the transfer market. Usamov is currently not in a position to inject his millions into Arsenal and I for one hope he never is, but that is another debate.

Personally I am very sceptical about the effect of the real FFP as I cannot see UEFA penalising the biggest clubs in the world in a way that would encourage the formation of breakaway leagues. However, I believe that Manchester United, Liverpool and Totnum will be reigning in their spending in the future and the two Spanish giants are almost certain to be affected by the impending crisis in the Spanish banking system.

Like all arguments based on statistics, there is always another way of looking at things. In this case, the problem is that if I was to recalculate my version of the FFP table and to base it upon expenditure on wages instead of net transfer spending, then Arsenal would not rate as highly. In fact, if you based expected league position on wages alone, Arsenal are about where you’d expect.

The basic maths shows that we pay disproportionately high wages in relation to the amount we spend in the transfer market when compared to pretty much every other PL club (I haven’t checked the all). This policy was no doubt borne of necessity due to the costs associated with building the Emirates – but do we have to persist with it in 2012?

My hope is that we are rethinking our wage structure and some of those players who have been rewarded handsomely but failed to achieve the potential we saw in them, will be moved on this summer. If Mr Gazidis and his team (who quite frankly haven’t impressed me so far) can renegotiate some more lucrative sponsorship deals and increase revenue worldwide, then we should have the financial clout to fend off all but City and Chelsea in the domestic transfer market. We should also be able to reward our top players at the ‘market rate’.

The other teams with aspirations of being able to compete at the top (tots and pool) know that they have to build a 60,000 seat stadium to generate the income required – and as every Arsenal supporter knows, the true cost of that is 5 or 6 years of difficult transition and financial prudence.

Our footballing style and club ethos may be enough to make up the rest of the disparity between us and the super rich teams but it won’t be easy. The football hierarchy for the EPL has been set for the foreseeable future and Arsenal are in a great position to be the ‘best of the rest’.

It’s going to be an interesting few years ahead. The landscape of the Premier League has changed forever. The early portents for our future development will be revealed by this summer’s transfer activity. I believe we will inevitably continue to be a feeder club to the super rich teams but we should be the front runners in signing any player we target when we are not in competiton with the big spenders.

The big question is: will we continue with our current policy, or will we increase the amount we are prepared to pay for top players as our revenue increases?

Written by Rasp

Disclaimer: I gathered the stats reproduced in this article from what appeared to be reputable sources. The odd figure may be a point or 2 out but the overall picture is correct I believe.

Is FFP the solution UEFA?

December 5, 2011

The visit of the sky blues of Abu Dhabi to The Home of Football and the subsequent infiltration of this very blog the day after got me thinking….

It is often stated that the top clubs are set to align themselves with various sponsors (whether related or otherwise) to ensure that they do not get caught by the FFP regulations. That this can be achieved within the regulations is yet to be seen.

Additionally there is another issue that has not been settled. The FFP regulations will prevent those that fall foul of the regulations from competing in the UEFA Champions League, the first measurement period is 2011-2013, from then on it will be three year rolling aggregates. The first competitions clubs can be excluded from are the 2013-14 Champions and Europa League. Here comes the rub….the current agreement between UEFA and ECA (the European Club Association) expires at the end of 2014. Therefore in order to keep Europe’s biggest clubs under their banner UEFA may be forced to tread very softly over FFP enforcement or risk the big guns taking their toys away.

So this moment in time that us Arsenal fans are waiting for and the Board promises us is going to level the playing field is already here, and does anyone see it really working yet? If it is being taken seriously by the top clubs it should really be hurting those teams who are spending the owners money.

So this is the problem, what is the solution? An extension of the homegrown rule could actually help us, and could in light of the above be a more gentle approach by UEFA to addressing concerns of financial doping whilst also forcing the clubs to work for the good of the game.

Currently the Homegrown rule in the Premier League states that 8 of the 25 man squad (over 21) have to have been registered for three years domestically at a club in England or Wales. What if this was extended? What if not only did they have to be registered in England or Wales but actually registered at the club for which they now play and that the maximum number of non home grown was lowered to 13 and of the remaining half had to be home grown at the club.

Surely the clubs have a duty to the game to put emphasis on developing young talent that will succeed.

Ok I admit my suggestions are biased to the current Arsenal setup. Of the current squad Walcott, Djourou, Song, Szczesny, Wilshere, Frimpong, Coquelin, Gibbs, Miquel, Oxlade-Chamberlain (will be three years by the time he is 21) would all be Club homegrown. Then Rambo as homegrown under old rules.

I know Arsène isn’t a fan of the homegrown rules but I think he has overseen the development of a Youth Academy that could flourish under a stricter regime.

So what’s it for you, FFP or a Europe wide Homegrown Rule that will level the playing field?

Written by Gooner in Exile

UEFA’s New Financial Rules Will Benefit Arsenal – written by Red Arse

August 27, 2010

Written by Red Arse

O.K., with the transfer window coming to a close very soon, it might be worth having a look, again, at the new UEFA Financial Fair Play Rules, which will, in conjunction with the new EPL Home Grown Players rules, change forever the way Clubs administer their finances and have a huge knock on effect on the valuation of transfer values and players’ wages.

The background to this new onslaught on the financial funds sloshing around European Football is undoubtedly specifically aimed at the English Premier League clubs.

Unlike the prudent Gunners, many clubs in the PL are funded to a greater or lesser extent by sugar daddy owners. The most notorious abusers of the current Premier League financial laissez faire has been for many years the Chavs, where Abramovich has poured hundreds of millions of pounds in “loans” to bolster what was essentially a bankrupt club.

This money was poured into acquiring players, at hugely inflated prices and wages, with which no club other than, peripherally, Manure could compete. This tactic of collaring the market for the best players, eventually won the braggart Mourhino the PL. Boo!

The Mancs have also been funded in an extraordinary way by the Glazers, who have funded the club by borrowing huge bucks. And now, Citeh have been subsidised by its new owner, Sheikh Mansur, again with hundreds of millions of £’s being poured into the club.

In the most recent accounting period, 2008/9, 15 out of the 20 clubs made substantial losses.

In other words, a massive three-quarters of the Premier League clubs will need to reduce significantly their spending on players’ wages if they are to qualify for European competitions, once Uefa’s “financial fair play” rules are introduced. With effect from season 2012/13, they will have to, at least, break even.

Wow! Do some of these clubs realise how little time they have left to get their houses in order?

However, owners will, according to the rules, be permitted to invest in clubs, via permanent shares rather than by way of repayable loans, which will enable them to build a solid infrastructure such as training grounds or youth development facilities, but will not be allowed to overspend on wages or transfers. The sugar daddies will not be able to call in their loans and simply walk away, if the going gets tough, however unlikely you think that might be, and the normal Company Law rules will apply to their shareholding.

Michel Platini, who many think of as an anti-English plonker, and that includes me, warned of the “danger to football” posed by debt, overspending and “rampant commercialism”. As I said, I don’t like the man, but there is an element of sound commonsense in this.

Clubs cannot return losses of more £38m for the three year period, 2012-15. After 2015 the clubs will be given a further leeway of £25m, for losses during an additional three year period, after which the figure will be substantially reduced.

In the Premier League, besides Chelsea and Citeh, Aston Villa are subsidised by the club’s owner, Randy Lerner, and they lost £46m in 2008-09, while Sunderland lost £26m. Liverpool lost £55m, principally because they had to pay £40m interest on the £250m “purchase” price borrowed from their bank, RBS, by Gillette and Hicks.

Manchester United made a profit in 2008/9 only because of the £81m sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid; in previous years, since the Glazer family took over what was then the world’s most profitable club and ladled huge debts on to it, United have sustained substantial losses every single year.

Clearly, (heh, heh), it is going to be a difficult period of adjustment for all the loss making clubs, like Manure, Citeh, Villa and Chelski etc, who play, or are hoping to play, in European competitions.

Put simply, clubs in European competition can only spend what they earn. The financial fair play rules will require clubs to break even over a rolling three-year period, if they want to play in the Champions League or Europa League.

There will be some leeway enshrined in the rules for the six years after 2012, but as mentioned, some Premier League clubs, notably Manchester City, Chelsea and Aston Villa, could still fall foul of the rule unless they change their spending habits pronto.

Manure, however, believe they will pass the rules threshold, despite the handicap of paying out £45m to service their debts every year. Should be a neat trick!

On the other hand beautiful Arsenal (hooray) and shitty Tottenham (boo, hiss) will pass the test comfortably.

Clubs that breach the rules will not be granted a Uefa club licence to take part in European competitions.

In recent years, Arsenal’s prudence has played a part in their being priced out of the transfer market, which has been dominated by the usual suspects. Starting next year the boot will be very firmly on the Arsenal foot!

We are the Mighty Arsenal! You Will Feel the Financial Power!