Baby Boom

The real Gooner of the Year

Football’s a funny old game. On any given day you can never tell which issue is going to take off and burn through press offices the world over. Last year, Platini and Bleater were all a twitter about the 6+5 rule and the issue of debt in football. Those stories burned through the newsrooms with the usual mixture of hysteria, hyperbole, and a smattering of level-headed analysis and then… nothing happened.

Well, not “nothing” but almost nothing. The 6+5 rule was firmly swatted away by the European Commission saying that

Our position is clear: FIFA’s ‘6+5’ Rule is based on direct discrimination on the grounds of nationality, and is thus against one of the fundamental principles of EU law.

Meanwhile, debt in the various leagues seems to have been swept under the carpet. Insane plans like installing an MLB style salary “cap” and other reforms have been exposed as unworkable solutions owing to the multi-various league rules and national laws which govern sports. Sure, they are still looking at the issue, what with UEFA trying to flex some muscle over big spenders even as recently as a few weeks ago, but it seems to me to be a half-hearted attempt to control the problem. What else could I think when I see that Platini is suddenly embracing Roman Abramovich as the model of fiscal responsibility?

No, the story du jour is not debt, or 6+5, or really even the Eduardo ban. The Story of this international break is FIFA’s two window ban on Chelsea’s transfer dealings for signing Gael Kakuta away from Lens. Suddenly, like Florida shark attack stories in the summer, everyone and their brother is being fined or taken to court over the transfer of young men from one club to another.  Leeds United alone are involved in three claims against Manchester City and Everton, meanwhile the aforementioned City are also involved in three claims, all going against them at the moment and their city rivals are involved in no less than two paper stories.

Funnily enough, Arsenal, the club that supposedly started this all with the transfer of Cesc from Barcelona, has been left out of this mess. It seems likely that they learned a lesson after the Fran Merida ruling (which is still under appeal) and have instead opted to just pay transfer fees such as in the cases of Theo Walcott and King Ramsey I.

The thing is, we don’t know what’s really going on. I’m sure some of these moves for these youngsters have been problematic, in which case the courts will sort them out. Frankly, I don’t know how a country like Spain can have a law that says that a player cannot sign a contract until they are 18 and yet at the same time award a club £2m because they had a “pre-contract” with the player.

The worst part of all this is it seems like what we’re seeing is a hysteria start to arise at a time when what’s most needed is an honest look into what’s really going on. When the CEO of the South African Football Association describes Ian Wright, Alex Song, and George Eastham’s joint venture, Cape United FC, as “raping the country” just because they have a profit motive at the end of their business plan. Then I think we may be in danger of stepping off the edge just a bit and need to back up.

It looks to me as if there’s a sort of power struggle going on here, between player’s rights and club’s rights. That struggle needs to be balanced by the courts and rules need to be put in place which make sense and which are legally binding. At the moment the courts, and governing bodies, are siding with  the academies and I think that’s dangerous. It seem like the academies have all the power with these “pre-contracts” whereby they can hold onto and basically do what they want with these kids (footballistically) and where the kid has no power in this situation. Labor (and make no mistake, these children are labor or at least they are being treated like “pre-labor”) has only two means of power: either through contractual obligation of the corporation or by moving on to another company that pays them better, treats them better etc. So, with the courts seemingly ruling strictly in favor of the companies, I think we’re doing a disservice to the kids in this equation.

There needs to be a better system in place to protect both the players and give them the maximum amount of opportunity possible while also making sure that we protect the investment of the companies who can spend years developing these kids talent. Without that balance we will see exploitation and corruption and all the other ills that the courts protect each party from.

And maybe that’s the saddest part of all this; that there’s no way to get around the fact that we’ve commodified these children and put a value on something that most of them would do for free. Unfortunately, I can’t see a way back.

56 Comments on Baby Boom

  1. MLB doesn’t have a cap, per se. They have revenue sharing, but other than that teams are free to spend whatever the hell they want. The NFL, NHL, and NBA have caps, as does the MLS, of course.

    And this has been today’s episode of “Nitpicking 7amkickoff”.

    • @Matt
      I can’t seem to reply directly so I’ll make a rebuttal that is a tad more cogent than your post. WTF are you talking about?

      Tim is talking about the movement of 15-16yo players from clubs that have paid for their room, board, school education and football education and are not properly compensated by rapacious big clubs in any significant way. You’re talking about salary caps on players who have graduated h.s. at a minimum and college to some degree.

      FIFA wants a restriction on international transfers on players under 18yo. There are reasons why the armies draft starts at 18yo and why voting starts at 18yo. Write your opinion but at least have a clue

      • @ctpa, Sheesh, man (or woman), check out the very beginning of Tim’s post, he mentions that UEFA (or FIFA) flirted with an “MLB style salary cap”, I was just pointing out, half jokingly, that MLB does not actually have a salary cap. My comment had nothing to with the rest of his post, which is why I called it nitpicking.

        Nitpicking is defined in Merriam Websters as “minute and usually unjustified criticism”.

        I always enjoy your posts on this board, but take a chill pill and re-read before having a go at me like that.

  2. I hardly see this problem as the epidemic that the press has portrayed it. You can hardly blame a talented 16 year old from Zimbabwe for wanting to take his developement to the next level. The trick is to allow for the Uefa to ensure that the selling academy is compensated in the form of an initial fee and an add on based on first team appearances. This would effect the majority of the clubs business, but given Arsenal’s extensive scouting network I am confident we would do better than most.

  3. Your clarity and analysis are spot on again.
    This problem has arisen because UEFA have failed to put in place a straightforward and universal system in place that protects youngsters, rewards grass roots clubs for initial development and prevents big clubs and the parasite agents from tapping up. Theres no point taking people to court if the rules havent been properly laid down.

  4. I’m no expert in this matter nor did I stay in a Holiday Express to become an instant expert but I do have some ill formed opinions on this topic.

    There seems to be 2 problems involved here. Clubs poaching players w/ inducements that cause them and their guardians to break ranks w/ the entity that discovered the player, developed the player and nurtured the player. For the most part these entities are small and lack the prestige and trappings of a ‘big’ club and can’t compete on that level in the eyes of the player. What they have going for them is an eye for talent and their reputations for developing that talent. I’m talking about clubs like Rennes, Le Harve, Nantes (which had a reality TV program on their football academy) Southhampton, West Ham U, etc., etc., etc.

    I disagree with you Tim that these small entities don’t have these players best interest at heart since they are looking to bring these players into their own 1st team setups in most cases. That is certainly the case w/ a Leeds club looking to haul itself back to the top.

    The second problem is that having ‘seduced’ the player by whatever means, they treat these small clubs and academies like they are a piggy bank, making withdrawals and leaving these clubs with negative balances. Arsenal don’t do that and thus are well regarded when they come in for a player. They pay what is fair and if it is not, they walk away. If a club says no sale, like Le Harve did w/ Pogba, they walk away. Man City, Man U, Everton, Chelsea and now Liverpool are just “stepping on their own dicks”. Business, even football business is about relationships and you can’t go back to a ‘well’ that you’ve polluted. Arsenal know this. That’s why if Arsenal are interested in a player and it’s mutual, then goodwill and a good reputation will see the deal through for us in the end. Just ask Aaron Ramsey who was being courted by Man U and Everton as well as us w/ the same 5m offer to Cardiff. (Let’s not mention the roundtrip private jet to Switzerland for lunch w/ Wenger for Ramsey and family that was the clincher.)

    • @ctpa, the small entities are businesses as well and aren’t innocent in all this. What they want is more money not more protection for kids.

      Furthermore, the player often has to weigh his immediate and long term future. What can Leeds academy offer as far as a career education? It’s pretty good, but isn’t Arsenal better? Why should a 14 year old be tied to Leeds academy just because their scouts got to him first? Shouldn’t the player have rights in all this?

      It’s a huge mess and right now, it’s completely imbalanced and seems to be completely imbalanced in the favor of the clubs. No one is even really interested in the kids or their rights and these kids are 14. Should a 9 year old kid be tied to a club until he’s 18?

      If a Wesley Sniedjer isn’t getting enough playing time and wants to further his career, he has options. What options does 12 year old Timmy have if he’s being mistreated at Leeds?

      • Simple: The EU has to extend its restraint of trade arguments to any player in a member nation at the very least. The problem is FIFA/UEFA having benn slapped down over 6+5 won’t go to bat on this issue although they should have the moral imperative to do so.

  5. It seems to be a thing whipped up by the French, who are pissed off that the English are stealing their players. Once upon a time the French academies were second to none and the French national team was winning everything. Not anymore, and now the French clubs are having trouble holding onto their players – players which they have mostly imported from West Africa. English clubs can’t do this – immigration and work-permit regulations are far tighter than French ones – which is why the English steal from the French, and can do so perfectly legally as anyone over 16 can work anywhere in the EU. Tough cookies for the French, but not so bad for the African players who can stack away a small fortune here, not to mention living in a less racist and more cosmopolitan place than, say, some small town in Brittany.

    • @Mia,
      England ‘less’ racist than France? You are either an idiot or a hypocrite. Any place England set foot, racism, ethnic wars, discrimination, were deliberately and systematically used to divide and conquer. You can trace directly most current world conflicts to the rotten past presence of the English: India, Middle East, Africa, etc. Today’s England has more ghettos than Nazi Germany.

      • I’m not talking about nineteenth-century colonialism (and France also has a history of that); I’m not talking about foreign policy, i.e. the British and – worse – the US’s habit of invading other countries and bombing them to smithereens. My point was about day-to-day racism experienced by black footballers. How often do they suffer racist attacks in England? How often do they suffer racist chanting? They don’t, to my knowledge, but they still do in France. Chimbonda, for example, was attacked by a bunch of racist thugs when he played for Bastia.

      • @T-Town, any place any colonizer set foot race and ethnic distinctions were highlighted for the benefit of the colonizer.

        Also, I’m afraid that the Ghettos in Nazi Germany, where Jews were held prior to the systematic eradication of 6 million human lives, is a far cry from whatever social, class, and race distinctions are used to draw up modern English housing.

  6. Rosicky playing for Czech National team (up 3 nil))and this is a good thing. He’s gets a ‘tuneup’ match against San Marino before the Man City game.

  7. Perhaps the main problem is unscrupulous agents, sometimes from the player’s own family – Anelka springs to mind – who are more interested in feathering their own nests than in the player’s development. It would probably not be good for a young player to sign for City or Chelsea at present but it would be very good, in the short term, for the agent.

  8. To my mind there is no way that you can actually stop big and naturally attractive clubs, pinching, poaching, plucking young talent from wherever they find it. Anyone with talent, no matter what that talent is going to want to sell for the most bucks. Human Nature.

    The problem as I see it is how to ensure the clubs, whoever, and wherever they might be receive adequate compensation for their foresight, expense, hard work etc. for nurturing young talent in the first place.

    The nature of law makes it virtually impossible to arrive at an internationally agreed age of responsibility, so whereas in one country 16 may be the age where contracts may be entered into, elsewhere it may be 18 and so on.

    The ideal solution is always a win-win agreement, where both sides get what they want, or most of what they want. The sides that develop promising juveniles should be rewarded for their time and effort no question.

    The team that signs or as argued poaches, must be prepared to give something back in exchange, bearing in mind that promising youngsters do not always turn in to superstars.

    Here is a situation where FIFA could do some good. (Dream on) At least the bones, or baseline rules could be agreed between all the national FA’s and then move on from there with perhaps a set of options that can be freely negotiated between parties.

    It’s worth remebering that money is not the only consideration. Maybe there are options for loan-backs, or at least permitting the selling club access to loaning players to give young players first team experience and enhance the performance of the selling club.

    There seems to be a lot of options to be explored that will ultimately benefit all parties, and benefit football in general.

    For sure Arsenal lead the way in fairness, and as rightly pointed out elsewhere, you can’t return to a poisoned well. Better to protect that well so you can confidently come again.

    Hell we’re Gooners, we must have some brilliant ideas out there!

    Viva!

  9. Cpta: I take the point about it being tough on the small clubs, but do you really think Platini is concerned about Cardiff or Anderlecht or even Ajax, come to that? What this is about is France – French football is in crisis, and the rich English clubs are to blame.

    Have you seen the film ‘Entre les murs’ (‘The Class’, in English)? It gives you really powerful sense of the disaffection of young Africans in Paris. Their heroes are Henry and Drogba; they idolise the Premiership and talk about French football with scorn. Ten years ago, the French national team was a source of pride and a unifying cultural and political force – remember the ‘Zidane for President!’ banners? Now the reverse is the case and it’s a real cause for concern.

    • Eng 2-0 Cro. Boo-hoo.

      @Mia: I recall some ‘conversations’ in France about why did the French National team no longer ‘look’ ‘French’. Probably originated w/ the asshole supporters of Le Pen.

      • @Cpta: that’s right, Le Pen’s party disowned the national team, which just served to make it massively popular with everyone else, including people who’d never watched a football game in their lives. Here the odious BNP have wisely announced recently that they don’t want to deport black footballers after all!

  10. The simple solution is to follow the Arsenal mode of operation. That should ensure fairness to all in these days of greed.

    • We don’t want to come off as being pompous goody two shoes now do we 🙂

      The reason your noble idea absolutely positively can’t work is that Chelsea have Frank (I was personnally tapped up by Abramovich from Sp**s to get this Chelsea gig) Arnesen and Matt Cook (Man City)(no relation to Matt)who wear moral bankruptcy like a pair of jockey shorts. Arsenal’s management has a some what different corporate culture 😉

    • That was a kick w/ a message because Fletcher was not a threat there. Then Fletcher get in a shoulder charge that says, “message received”.

      Holland get the last laugh although Scotland came dangerously close more than once. If I’m the Dutch coach, I have to think that offense/possession are not my best defense.

  11. Well Tim, you obviously have an optimistic disposition!

    Tedious England, but only to be expected, I guess. Poor France, one down against Serbia, pitiful to see as they may not even make the playoffs. But I suppose from our point of view it’s not such a bad thing? We’ll have lots of rested players next season when everyone else’s are flat on their backs. Still, I’m sad for Henry.

  12. Ha! Would you believe it, [Eduardo] just got his first touch and suffered a large chorus of booing. As expected. At least Joleon Lescott will feel better eh?

    Thats from Soccernet’s commentary of the game. Hypocritical cunts…

  13. Kind of self fulfilling prophecy. Glen Johnson just climbed above DUDU in the little box, a clear cut stone written penalty that was denied….. Sad day. Not that Croatia deserve a win… they defending is AWFUL…..

  14. Congrats to:

    Nic Bendtner for his second goal of this interlull.
    Andrei Arshavin who set up a great goal today (great vision)
    RVP’s dutch team for beating Scotland (Witchhunt FC)
    Rosicky for playing 56 minutes and (fingers crossed) didn’t get hurt

  15. Sigh. Just imagine the crowing there’ll be in the papers tomorrow. Let’s cross our fingers all our players come home in one piece.

  16. Italy 2-0 Bulgaria. Italy played some really good football to get those goals especially the 2nd w/ about a 4-5 pass move.

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