Money, Money, Money | OneFootball

Money, Money, Money

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The 4th Official

How can Newcastle United be the richest club in the world? That’s not a rhetorical question; it’s said with a touch of humour and with a sly chuckle. They really are the richest club on the planet, and it has me asking it with a genuine concern for the people’s game.

I have deep concerns about where the game is heading these days. The English Premier League is the richest in the world and has been for decades, so this Saudi led takeover isn’t anything new. From Abramovich to Kroenke to the Glazers and Sheikh Mansour, the money in that league has seen the clubs lucky enough to be there fortunate and delighted to leave the rest of us a little envious.

This particular takeover from the quite despicable Mike Ashley leaves a pretty bitter taste in the mouth though. Ashley is gone from St James Park, and the Newcastle fans have every right to be grateful for that.

The human rights issues, the murder of a journalist, women’s rights or lack thereof, the use of capital punishment, the chemical castration of gay men, all this and many more concerns mean that politics comes into play regarding the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF) investment into English football.

The fact that all nineteen other Premier League clubs have called an emergency meeting for next week highlights the worries they have. The Saudi Arabian connection could see sponsorship deals and TV deals being affected. Saudi Arabia had banned beIN sports until just recently, and they pump a fortune into the English game.

It can’t be lost on any or all of us, who it is that’s concerned right enough. The lack of any concern for anything or anyone other than themselves is a tad ironic when it comes to bemoaning the realisation someone wealthier than the rest of them put together has just bought a rival football club.

I don’t grudge Newcastle or their fans anything here, not in any way. If we are all being honest, then we’d all very likely accept this if it were our own club, despite the moral dilemmas it brings. Some may disagree, but most football fans would accept this quite happily.

I’m happy for the Geordie fans; they’ve had to endure Mike Ashley for fourteen years, and being a Rangers fan, I’m fully aware of the negativity he brings to a football club.

He cares only about money. Making money. For himself. To be rid of him is a good thing. He’s not interested in the betterment of anything but himself and his companies. The fact he’s departed the scene will be a source of joy and relief for everybody connected with the club.

I’m actually hearing stories from friends down south that he’s interested in buying Derby County; yes, he really is that much of a moocher.

OXFORD, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 04: Mike Ashley owner of Newcastle United talks to managing Directory Lee Charnley ahead of the FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between Oxford United and Newcastle United at Kassam Stadium on February 04, 2020 in Oxford, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) The 4th Official uses images provided by the following image agency:

Getty Images (https://www.gettyimages.de/)

Imago Images (https://www.imago-images.de/)

No, I’m perfectly at ease with Newcastle fans being excited about their future; they’ve rid themselves of a man who let their club slide, who wouldn’t invest properly in its infrastructure, so PIF will have to spend huge to get get them on the right path.

My concern is for the game as a whole here. The days of Ajax, Red Star Belgrade, Celtic or Steaua Bucharest being successful at the highest level are long gone. The Champions League has now become a bore. There’ll always be one of seven or eight clubs capable of winning it. The clubs I’ve just mentioned, along with others such as Benfica, Porto, Rangers, PSV, Bruges and a host of others, are now being marginalised to the point of non existence in the grand scheme of things.

We’ve already seen the European Super League proposal. It was shot down in flames, but when you read that Barcelona lost almost half a billion euros last year while Real Madrid lost three hundred thousand euros, we all know that isn’t going away. It’ll be back on the table, and it’ll be tweaked slightly but it isn’t going away.

It’ll happen. In one form or another, a super league of some sort will be with us soon enough.

For me, there’s absolutely no way Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is buying his way into English football just to see the club he now owns (Newcastle) challenge. He’s doing so in the knowledge of what’s in store over the next decade.

The world is changing; football will also change in a considerable way. Those with the wherewithal and the financial ability will invest massively in order or in the hope of being associated with what is coming and making sure they’re in it when it comes.

Good luck to Newcastle and their fans, but as I’ve stated, where will that leave the majority of us who follow football clubs that don’t play their football in the big five leagues?

Rangers and Celtic will battle it out to win the SPFL; they do so every year, as they have done since the late eighties. Yes, I’m fully aware the same scenario is unfolding on a smaller scale throughout the game, and Scottish football is no different here.

It’ll be the same in Denmark, Sweden, Turkey, Russia and just about every other league in Europe. The same three or four teams will challenge each other while the rest just play for places or avoid relegation.

The teams with the most money will always rise to the top every season, in every league. It’s the way it is now, and it’s why I am seriously worried about how the game will look in another twenty years.

There has to be competition in football. It’s essential that every club can aspire to be the best they can be. That’s now becoming nigh on impossible.

When a club such as Newcastle can quite literally buy their way to the very highest echelons of the game, it’s time we all took a step away and seen that for what it is.

They could buy every player from Ajax, Rangers, Celtic, Porto and Benfica perse without denting their own wealth while not being a fraction of the size of any of those clubs.

My worry is where those big clubs in smaller nations will be in twenty years. Sponsors, TV companies, advertisers etc., will invest in what is attractive. They do so while expecting to see a return on the monies they put into a product. That’s going to be more and more difficult as each year passes.

I wrote here a while back about the ineptitude of those running the SPFL and how they’ve undersold the product. That’s my fear; if they’re undervaluing our game now, then they will totally capitulate in the near future, I have no doubts about that.

People might read this and say, “yes, but it’s always been this way”, and I would agree, the biggest clubs in the largest countries will always be the ones easiest to market and to prosper, but what about the game as a whole?

UEFA have bowed down to the bigger clubs and the powerhouses of European football. So much so that there are only five qualification places available in the Champions League. That’s done to pander to those nations that feel they should have x or y teams in it.

UEFA is being dictated to by TV. They plough money into UEFA competitions, the major TV companies in the big five nations throw the most money at them; therefore, they all get four places at the big table.

That isn’t going to work for much longer as we’ve seen this year with the proposed Super League. As I said, that’s coming and soon.

Where will it leave the rest of us? Not in a good place and without a viable future, that’s for sure.

At the moment in Scotland, we have Rangers and Celtic making huge losses, and unless there’s a change in the near future, all we will witness is a downsizing of mammoth proportions here.

Celtic are already downsizing while Rangers (in order to challenge them) have had little choice but to over invest over the last five years under their board of directors and investment team. That can’t go on much longer, and whoever wins the SPFL this year should see the forty million pounds from the Champions League, and it’ll put them in a position of strength within the Scottish game.

But it’s only within the Scottish game. In an era where clubs are spending forty million quid on the likes of Joelinton, what actually does that money bring to your club because it sure as hell isn’t making your team competitive in the Champions League.

When clubs throughout the big five countries are spending hundreds of millions on their squads, forty million isn’t going to see you challenge them or be able to compete at the highest level.

Rangers and Celtic both failed miserably in the Champions League qualifiers, but both did enough to get through to the Europa League group stages. No mean feat, to be fair, as the competition was cut from forty eight clubs down to thirty two with the new Conference League also having thirty two clubs which allowed for an extra sixteen clubs qualifying for the group stages of one of UEFA’s competitions.

Is that Rangers and Celtic’s level nowadays? Also rans? Both have had disastrous starts to their Europa League campaigns, both sitting on no points with little chance of getting through their groups.

Rangers have done pretty well in the last two years, reaching the round of sixteen before being knocked out, while Celtic have found it more challenging in that time period, finishing bottom of their group last year and reaching the last thirty two the year before.

This is where Scottish football is in the here and now, but for me, it’s only going to get a whole lot worse over time. I simply don’t see an answer to the problems we have and the bigger issues we’re about to nosedive into.

Steven Gerrard hinted at it in a press conference recently where he said quite clearly that unless you ‘spend big’ every transfer window, you don’t just stand still; you go backwards. It’s the nature of the beast, and the Rangers manager knows it, having played at the very top of the game for two decades.

Rangers didn’t spend a penny in the transfer window while Celtic rebuilt the entire squad with the money they received from transfers out. The simple fact is Rangers didn’t have the money to invest in their squad this summer, three players coming in on free transfers while seven or eight left at the end of their contracts.

Celtic spent what they could on players but have still left themselves way short of any kind of depth to their squad.

This is where two of the biggest football clubs in world football find themselves. Yes, the covid pandemic hasn’t helped, but it’s a reality we all need to get used to.

The game is becoming uncompetitive, and it’s all down to TV and some of the wealthiest men on earth wanting to use the game to their benefit. Don’t get me wrong; it is what it is but as a fan of Scottish football when a team a hundred miles down the road is now the richest football club on the planet? I just can’t get my head around that at all, and it makes me laugh.

Newcastle aren’t anywhere near the size of Rangers or Celtic. Nor are they comparable to Benfica or Ajax or another thirty enormous clubs throughout the continent. I’m in no way disrespectful here; it’s just a fact.

We have the European Clubs Association (ECA) that’s set up to look after clubs interests, but I think it’s time the clubs outwith the big five set up their own organisation in order to look to the future of the game, particularly in the next few years. If they don’t do something about where the game is going now, then it will be too late to protect their own futures.

Years ago, there was talk of an Atlantic League where the biggest clubs in some of the smaller leagues were trying to protect themselves from what’s happening now. It didn’t happen then, but something like that needs to be looked at as soon as possible.

The writing was on the wall, and they saw it coming but did nothing to protect themselves, while UEFA will never do anything to help them with the critical situation they’re facing. They’ve lost the plot here, doing anything and everything in their power to keep the Juventus, Barcelona, Madrid, Man Utd, Arsenal and PSG’s happy but have no concern for teams that have as much right to a Champions League or Europa League place as a team that finishes sixth or seventh in a so called top league.

It really is time for the owners of clubs and the fans of teams in the smaller leagues to start looking into alternatives and protecting themselves and their future because sugar daddies are only heading one way, and the governing bodies couldn’t care less about them.

They have to look to find a way of protecting their investments. We’re already seeing the richest just strolling along and taking the best fourteen and fifteen years old from all over the world while being able to buy the best players in any league for a fraction of their worth then punting them on a year or two for ten times what they paid for them.

Money talks, money buys, money sells and money is destroying the very heart of the game. The writing is on the wall and it’s high time those in a position to do something about it started protecting their own interests, their fans, who keep them going and their club’s futures because no one else is going to. The rich will keep getting richer and the rest of us will continue to get marginalised and smaller due to a lack of money, money, money.

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