For me though people talking about the size of the fees and wages killing football are barking up the wrong tree. The issue isn’t that prices have escalated but about what it does to the competition. I have no problems with clubs making lots of money and players getting huge wages in isolation. Where it becomes a problem is when the money starts to warp the competition, when the league is not decided on great managers and coaches getting the best from talented players but buy who can spend the most money and pay the biggest wages. This problem has been escalating for years and this current spree is just the next logical stage. Essentially for years we’ve been fed the lines that football clubs are businesses and thus have the right to make as much money as possible (be it from tickets, commercial opportunities or noodle partnerships) and that they can then spend it on whatever they want. By and large fans, governing bodies and clubs themselves have accepted this. What we seem to have left behind is the fact that clubs have a moral duty to fans and the game itself to try and maintain the spirit of competition that makes any competitive sport interesting. It is unfashionable now to suggest that big clubs might need to look beyond their naked self interest and consider the wider good of football as a whole.
Hence why we have situations like the Chelsea ‘farm system’ gaining praise as ‘good business sense’ rather than censure for being against the spirit of the game. Stockpiling players for profit is the future apparently and we just need to get on board. I don’t blame Chelsea for this, they are just smarter than other teams, I blame the wider governing bodies and even the fans for meekly accepting this reality. From a European perspective I’ve actually enjoyed this Neymar transfer- the big two in Spain have had things their own way for far too long so to see another team getting one over on them is quite satisfying. However for teams in Ligue 1 it must be profoundly depressing to see one team spend the kind of sum on one player that would cover a mid-table teams transfer budget for several years. Major leagues all over Europe are becoming less and less competitive and it’s driven by the financial might of the top clubs. Bayern have 5 Bundesliga titles in a row, Juve have won Serie A 6 years straight, 9 of the last 10 La Liga titles belong to either Barca or Real and in 25 years the ‘ultra competitive’ Premier League has only produced 6 different winners. How is this healthy for football? If you’re a young person choosing your team why would you choose anyone other than the big clubs knowing it would take a miracle to ever see your team lift a title? People criticize the likes of PSG, City and Chelsea for being ‘new money’ and having ‘no history’ but they’re simply a product of a game so disfigured by money that the only way to be competitive is to hope a billionaire decides they want to chuck $$ at you. Any attempts at building a team in a sustainable manner are rendered pointless as the big boys just pick off your best players as Southampton, Leicester and Monaco fans can attest to. Anyway this worked out quite a bit longer than I’d planned and I don’t see any way back for football without some form of bursting bubble and subsequent crashing a burning of these teams. I guess I’m just raging against the dying of the light of the game I’ve loved since I was a child. When these giant transfers are announced, with the immense fees and wages, people react and say things like “Football is broken”, “I’m done with Football”, “It’s too far removed from reality”, etc. I think it’s worth keeping in mind that there are bigger, more consequential problems with money in the world.
1. The global derivatives market’s total notional value is sometimes estimated as more than one quadrillion USD, despite estimates that Global GDP is around 10x less than that. (For those unaware, Derivatives were what made the 2007 US housing crisis become the 2007 Global Financial Crisis). Why this situation came exists, and whether it’s actually a problem, is complex and too lengthy to write about here, but the quantities involved are worth being aware of. (As it happens, the type of people who own football clubs are also the type of people who invest in derivatives).
2. US political campaign spending is spiraling out of control. Tens of millions are being donated by corporations to political campaigns, diluting the voices of average citizens. (As it happens, the type of people who own football clubs are also the type of people who donate millions to politicians). I know that we watch football for a bit of escapism, among other things, But reacting to out of control transfer fees as though the rest of global finance makes sense might be a lack of perspective. To talk footie for just a second, I think people are right to be disgusted with the Pogba and Neymar transfers, but nothing to do with the amounts involved. The sad part about these transfers is that Pogba decided to ignore United’s Europa League status (and almost paid the price), while Neymar ignored that PSG in Ligue 1 isn’t the right fit, league-wise, for one of the best players in the world in his prime. Don’t be upset about arbitrary numbers and out of control finances. Do be upset about prioritizing marketing and finances over sporting achievements and prestige.
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