Who Benefits from Financial Fair Play? – Part 2

In Part I we looked at the pros and cons of the upcoming Financial Fair Play rules (FPP). In Part 2 we look at a few answers by Martin Samuel on questions posed by various readers. We choose the best answers for a quick summary of the disadvantages of FPP.

(Getty)

(Getty)

And the modern era’s greatest achievement would never have happened?’ Really? Blackburn Rovers winning the league in 1995 was the greatest achievement? Arsene Wenger building a side for less than £40m and going an entire season unbeaten, a feat which had not been done for over 100 years previously, when there were about 12 teams instead of 20? Get a grip. Inzagi, Dublin.

Don’t they do arithmetic in Ireland any more? Thierry Henry £11m, Dennis Bergkamp £7.5m, Sylvain Wiltord £13m, Jose Reyes £10.5m, so that’s £42m right there and we’re only through the forward line. Having watched Arsenal for much of that wonderful season, I’m pretty sure they had a defence, a midfield and a goalkeeper too, and that the best player was Robert Pires, who cost a further £6m. Lauren was £7.2m, Gilberto Silva £4.5m, so let’s leave it there, shall we? Every team, to some extent, buys the title, including lovely Arsenal. The moment they could not buy at the same level, success dried up. Blackburn’s season was exceptional because they also overcame all the disadvantages of being a smaller club, something Arsenal have never known.

Successful teams like Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool have been built up on the back of support of their fans. Decades of loyally supporting their clubs, watching the club grow and the stadium improved, are suddenly turned over by a rival having a foreign dictator spending hundreds of millions of in ill-gotten gains on their latest plaything. This repellent injection of money bypasses decades of development undergone by other clubs. Only one word for it: cheating. Brianconwy, Conwy.

Oh, cut the sanctimony mate. There is not a single elite club that did not at one time invest to the very limit of its means, and in some cases beyond, as a way of growing the business. Just because that happened before you were alive or took an interest in football does not make it any less significant. And why does it matter whether the owner is foreign? Aren’t they foreign at Liverpool, United and Arsenal, too?

The success of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool was founded on visionary football people like Sir Matt Busby, Herbert Chapman and Bill Shankly and their current financial power is a result of that. Over the years, they have built up the fan base and infrastructure to make them the leading clubs in the country. Chelsea and City’s recent success is entirely the result of a foreign owner spending an obscene amount of money. Apparently Martin Samuel prefers the latter but he knows it is difficult to defend so he pulls out Jack Walker as an example instead. Presumably even he knows that it was at least 10 years since a local millionaire could afford to buy the title for his club. Today it takes a multi-billionaire with money to burn which you will only find in countries where they don’t have the mechanisms for redistributing the wealth that we have in western democracies. I’m struggling to see why turning the Premier League into a fantasy football league for those kind of people is a good thing. Hans, London.

If Sir Matt Busby’s vision was so enduringly successful, how come Manchester United went from 1967 to 1993 without winning the league, and were relegated in that time? Sir Alex Ferguson built the modern Manchester United and his success coincided with a financial sea change in English football, making one club disproportionately powerful and advantaged. We can only hope that, when he goes, the next guy really messes up, because if he doesn’t, with Michel Platini’s rules in place, one club will keep getting stronger and stronger. Why this is unfair is that the elite position of the clubs you mention is a moment in time but it is a moment that they are seizing to alter football irrevocably and ensure their superiority through the ages. It is the richest clubs, in league with UEFA, who have ensured that the money required to succeed in football these days is beyond the average local businessman. They made the top of the table a territory for only the wealthy, and now they bleat that wealthy people are buying their way in. And don’t tell me what I prefer, Hans. I prefer room for all. And change. Because it’s interesting.   

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Getty

This is going to affect the small clubs. If, in future, a Premier League club came in for a player like Wilfried Zaha at Crystal Palace, his club would not be able to hold out for a large transfer fee as the buyer will only be allowed to spend so much. If the £12m Palace would currently get for Zaha became £4m, to make up the difference would cost the fans an extra £21 per ticket at every game. Zak Adams, The Elephant. 

This is, of course, what the clubs are hoping, that financial regulation depresses the market and cuts costs. Somehow, like Zak, I don’t see the benefit of that being passed on to the consumer. Also, while most clubs would be limited in what they could offer for Zaha, a few wouldn’t. You can guess which ones.

Arsenal’s history is founded upon money. Worse, it is founded on using that money to bribe their way into the top division. They did not earn their way in as they were not good enough to finish in the promotion places. But hey, they are in a nice position, so let’s just pull up the drawbridge and make sure nobody else can join. An Observer, United Kingdom.

And now, some history. In 1910, Henry Norris became the majority shareholder of Woolwich Arsenal, after the club had gone into voluntary liquidation, becoming club chairman two years later. He tried to merge Arsenal with Fulham and when this was blocked moved them to a new stadium at Highbury. In the final season before the Great War, 1914-15, Arsenal finished fifth in the Second Division but when the league reconvened in 1919, John McKenna, league chairman and owner of Liverpool, made a speech recommending Arsenal’s promotion ahead of Tottenham, because they had been a league club for longer. This overlooked the fact that Wolves, who also finished above Arsenal, were among the founding members of the league in 1888. As a result there has always been speculation that Norris bribed McKenna, although he might simply have threatened to expose the final match of the season between Liverpool and Manchester United, which was believed to have been fixed. Norris later left football having made under the counter payments to Charlie Buchan of Sunderland as an incentive to join Arsenal. One of his final decisions was the appointment of Herbert Chapman. And this may seem ancient to you, but it was only a moment in time, just like Manchester City and Chelsea’s resurgence now. Arsenal only grew organically once an act of larceny had placed them in the top division. No elite club is unblemished. 

Excellent idea, Mr Samuel. While we are at it let us scrap any idea of FFP completely and allow the entire Premier League to be bought up by oligarchs and Sheiks. Then we can watch teams of extravagantly expensive foreign imports and the competition for their services will drive salaries and transfer fees ever higher. This will really encourage clubs to invest in domestic talent. The four signatories of the letter to Richard Scudamore are all clubs which grew organically over years or decades: they were not suddenly presented with hundreds of millions like Chelsea or Manchester City. GzzzaEsq, London.

Is this the moment for the Manchester United history lesson? John H Davies is the man who formed Manchester United from Newton Heath in 1902, when the club was burdened with a debt of £2,670 and faced liquidation. For the time, his investment was immense, buying players and improving the ground. James Gibson was another chairman whose investment was disproportionate. He spent £40,000 during the Great Depression and rebuilt Old Trafford after the war. These seem trifling amounts now but equate to millions, in real terms. Nobody is advocating a whole league of billionaire owners, but the point is that every club has needed to make a great leap at some point in its history. In the days of Davies and Gibson the finance required for these moves was more realistic. Chelsea and Manchester City did not create the circumstances in which only £500m was good enough; the organisations and clubs that now seek to judge them did. So there is no moral difference. As for inflated salaries, look at the progression of record transfers. You’ll find Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool did as much to inflate the market as Chelsea and Manchester City.

The FFP rules will be enough if implemented properly, which they aren’t so far because Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea have basically sponsored themselves with absurd amounts of money to get around the rules. For example, City get £40m plus each year from Etihad for their stadium name rights. Sain, Munich.

No, so much more of level playing field to have your ground paid for by public money as happens throughout Germany and in much of Europe. Maybe we could stick the bill for the Allianz Arena on to anything Bayern Munich are showing right now and see how healthy their figures look.

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What you are saying is the only way to challenge the established elite is through excessive over-spending and that natural progression via youth, intelligent buying and living within your means is not a viable strategy. I’m sure the Arsenal Invincibles side would have something to say about that, considering it was built on a combination of youth and cheap intelligent buys. It is perfectly possible for any decent sized club to build their way up and challenge for a top four place like Everton. Spending billions is just a quick fix, lazy method. Peas, London.

Oh please, Peas. We’ve already exposed the lie of the cheaply assembled Invincibles team but to claim that Everton are proof of the way a club can build slowly. How many times have they finished top four in this modern Champions League era? Once. What happened? Because they didn’t have a high UEFA co-efficient ranking they were drawn against a good Spanish team, Villarreal, and eliminated in the qualifying round. And, throughout, their best players have been taken by other clubs: Wayne Rooney, Jack Rodwell, Mikel Arteta, Joleon Lescott. What do you reckon will become of Leighton Baines this summer? Everton are the argument against FFP, the proof that any attempt to build organically will be systematically undermined. That is why Everton are against it.

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Utter nonsense. Financial fair play should be bought in ASAP to bring a more level playing field. Martin Samuel fails to address the point that Man City and Chelsea have contributed hugely to the inflation of players wages, which in turn is fed through to fans by increasing ticket prices: simple economics. If you look back to the Eighties and Nineties there were many teams competing and winning trophies, such as Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest. FFP properly implemented would allow managers of clubs outside the top four to mount a challenge, particularly if player wages were reduced or even capped. Jay1200, Sydney, Australia.

So let’s go back to Jay’s golden Eighties and Nineties. A few highlights. Stan Collymore (Nottingham Forest to Liverpool), £8.5m, British transfer record. Dennis Bergkamp (Inter Milan to Arsenal), £7.5m, British transfer record. Andy Cole (Newcastle United to Manchester United), £7m, British transfer record. Jaap Stam (PSV Eindhoven to Manchester United), £10.75m, record for a defender, record foreign signing. Sander Westerveld (Vitesse Arnhem to Liverpool), £4m, record for a goalkeeper. Marc Overmars (Ajax to Arsenal), £7m, record for a winger. Dean Saunders (Derby County to Liverpool), £2.9m, British transfer record. Bryan Robson (West Bromwich Albion to Manchester United), £1.5m, British transfer record. But you’re right, it is only Manchester City and Chelsea that have been forcing prices up.     

Will people please stop using Germany as an example of how football should be in this country? The game is part-nationalised, with national and local governments paying for stadia. Of course it would be cheaper to watch Arsenal if the council had paid for Ashburton Grove. But they didn’t, so it isn’t. Bill, Barnsley.

Every club should earn what they get, not buy it. Look at Borussia Dortmund, they’ve done it and believe it or not that could happen in England if the playing field was fairer. Thatguyoverthere, Galway.

Dortmund were kept afloat by a loan from Bayern Munich that was so above board it wasn’t disclosed for 10 years. Before that, they were in a financial black hole every bit as disastrous as Leeds. This is their resurgence, not the way it has always been. Bill makes a very valid point about the way stadiums are financed on the continent. We have tied ourselves in knots over the City of Manchester Stadium and the London Olympic Stadium here, yet German or French governments offer direct assistance to clubs on infrastructure, rebuilding and relocation.

Arsenal v Everton - Premier League

From former Arsenal captain, Tony Adams: ‘I think that a significant factor, 90 per cent, in why we achieved so much is that Danny Fiszman invested £50m in the club and we were able to go to the next level. I got my first decent contract at the club, so did David Seaman, we were able to bring in Dennis Bergkamp and that was before Arsène Wenger arrived. David Platt, Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka came, and we were able to pay top players from around the world.’ Simon, Manchester.

And there it is, from the mouth of Arsenal’s great captain and from Simon, who appeared to take every pro FFP post as a personal slight. Every club, at some time, needs to invest, to expand, to take that next step. The hypocrisy over attitudes to Manchester City and Chelsea rankles because it is the judgemental elite that have made this so financially prohibitive in the first place. You may think Arsenal rose to prominence organically but I’d say Tony knows the truth. 

Read the rest of the questions and answers over at the Daily Mail website.

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  1. Point penalty under new spending rules | TOKNOWTHEGAME.COM - February 8, 2013

    […] Part 2 – a few answers about FPP and how most clubs have benefited in the past with investme… […]

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