It's all about the money

Even though it would probably only scare the small number of local football fans, I think I’m going to dress up like Michel Platini for Halloween this year. Every month or so, the President of UEFA steps into the limelight and makes another proclamation that “UEFA” will be looking into some such or another “problem.” Last month it was the problem of clubs signing young players and yesterday, he decided that he’s going to take on “debt.”

Thankfully, unlike in America, English football clubs are (more or less) private businesses. There’s no monopoly control over the product like in the NBA, the NFL, and MLB. In those American leagues, the commissioner, the owners, and to some extent, the players collude on the product through various methods: salary caps, adding new teams, player rules, etc. Here in Seattle, the Seattle Super Sonics were sold to an owner from Oklahoma City who wants to move the team. This is only allowed if the board of the NBA agrees to it — which they will because Oklahoma City has agreed to buy Clay Bennett (the Sonics’ owner) a new stadium.

American sports franchises are just that, franchises. They are officially licensed products of the NBA, NFL, and MLB. Your favorite team can be moved, bought, sold, torn down, dismantled, fined, and capped into obscurity at the whim of their respective governing bodies. And it’s all legal, because they are a franchise.

Which is what it seems to me that Platini wants to do with UEFA.

I’m not suggesting that the EPL, the Serie A, etc. aren’t subject to their own rules, or the rules of UEFA, rather that instead of monopolistic control there has been a more free market approach. Teams are allowed to live and die by their own books; they build their own stadiums, buy players from each other, and can be bought and sold — sometimes by some of the most disreputable people on earth.

This free(er) market approach has reached its pinnacle in the EPL and I think dicking around with it by forcing teams to operate without debt or other monopolistic controls is ultimately bad for the clubs, the players, and the fans. Now, I say that knowing full well that teams like Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea and some might say Arsenal are in serious trouble over their debt. It’s also kinda frustrating to play third fiddle to Man U and Chelsea who we all know are just playing with funny money. But that those teams might collapse under that debt and that their supporters might be left without a team, or with a team like Leeds, must be seen as solace. For no one in their right mind believes that the system as it stands can survive the crushing weight of its debt and the recumbent fans expectations of that team.

That said, Platini wants to step in, like his proposal to force 18 year olds to sign with the club that they trained with, he claims that his new proposal is designed to look out for football’s image;

My concern is for football’s image. I have to defend the values of the game against a relatively small number of people whose philosophy I do not share.

And what is it about the image that he wants to change?

There have always been some clubs, and some countries, with more money at their disposal than others, and I have no problem with that.

Good, that makes sense, because no matter what rules you enact, how strict the salary cap, how ardently you try to force clubs to live without debt you will always have teams with more money who will win more trophies than teams with less money. This, in turn, will help those rich clubs get richer and honestly, things like the Champions League (with its huge cash benefit to a small number of clubs) only accelerate that disparity. So, if you accept that the rich get richer, then what is the problem?

The problem occurs when the clubs who run up huge debts always win – and that we must stop. Some clubs, and some leagues, have asked us to. We are preparing a plan that will encourage clubs to reduce their debts and give us clear, clean competition.

Why? How is that UEFA’s problem? If Man U wants to run up nearly £800m in debts, why does UEFA have anything at all to say about it? Man U will either sink or swim and their fans will either stand for it or not. The market, as we Americans love to point out, will correct itself.

The author’s example of Dundee reaching the Scottish League Cup final on the back of unsustainable debt is perfect. The author decries the team as “cheaters” but I see their subsequent relegation as proof that the market corrects. No special laws were enacted. No rules enforced. Plain and simple, they over spent, they paid the price. America, land of the debtor, is learning that lesson the hard way now and no amount of government regulation is going to stop the coming collapse. Man U are unable to pay transfer fees they owe from last year. It won’t take long before other clubs refuse to sell them players. They are even unable to pay the interest on their loans! How much longer can they hold the ship together? I don’t know, but I do know that other teams will stop “selling” them players for phony IOUs pretty quickly here. That’s the market correcting itself.

What’s odd here is that this is a 100% reversal on the position he took just a month and a half ago, where in the article linked above, he spoke about the problem of debt and foreign ownership and said

it is up to the fans to take decisions, or for the city of Liverpool or England to take a position. If they are happy to live with it, there is nothing I can do.

Yes, Michel, that’s it. It’s up to the fans. You meddling around with the finances of clubs isn’t going to stop foreign investment. It isn’t going to help Olympic Marseille win the Champions League. All it will do is add another, pointless, layer of oversight on the clubs.

In Arsenal news, Clichy and Diaby have been left off the France squad, this is good news for once because it means that Evra, Flamini and a whole bunch of our competitor’s players will be getting injured under Domenech’s careful tutelage. Break a leg fellas!

Arsenal South won the FA cup. Kudos to them.

Steven Gerrard blames “not spending enough money” on why Liverpool won exactly the same number of trophies as Arsenal this year. Spend more money Liverpool. Hell, spend £100m this season. It will only bring you one year closer to collapse.

Also, in the comedy moment of the day, Man U are complaining that Drogba is a diver. HA! I heard Man U bribed the Russian judge to give Ronaldo a 10 on his last attempt…

The Poop Scoop: Arsenal are closing in on Nasri — who is just like Zidane because they are both French Algerians from Marseilles and they both dribble good. My baby dribbles good too. She’s like the American Zidane.

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