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Is Football Becoming A Circus?

Football without a ball being kicked - Takeovers, transfer windows and what does the Man City takeover mean to the Premier League?

It`s fair to say that Monday 1st of September was an important and surprising day for fans of the Premier League. Abu Dhabi business group 'Abu Dhabi United Group` completed a takeover of Manchester City and created, whether you want to believe it or not, the second coming of Chelsea.

So what do we know about the new owners? Well the most significant point is that they are an arm of the UAE`s sovereign wealth fund. This group is the second biggest institutional investor in the world and controls over £500 billion worth of assets, and let`s not forget that Abu Dhabi as a whole manages oil reserves estimated at £1 trillion. Needless to say, the 'pot` is pretty much never ending.

'Our goal is very simple - to make Manchester City the biggest club in the Premier League, and to begin with, to finish in the top four this season."

Clearly their goals are set, the money is in place and every other team in the league is simply lucky that there wasn`t more time left in the transfer window. But what does this mean to us? Well quite simply, Manchester City now have better financial backing than Chelsea, Abramovich`s millions look pathetic and insignificant in the shadow of this corporate behemoth, and I`m sure he felt fairly shocked when he was out muscled financially to sign Robinho yesterday before the deadline.

This is a new dawn in English Football, and while predicting the future is a struggle for me after losing my crystal ball, it is likely that the top 4 will not be the same again. Will it become the top 5? I very much doubt it; the estimated revenue from the Champion`s League which (most likely) Liverpool or Arsenal will lose over the next couple of years will see a gap appearing at the top of the table.

But, am I fussed about the top of the table? Not particularly. I want to know what it means for Villa. Well I suppose you have to look at it in two ways, firstly on a mental level, for Randy Lerner and Martin O`Neill to build a team over a number of years with the goal to get into the Champion`s League and then for an investment like this to happen, it must be extremely disappointing and it only makes it that much harder. Aston Villa, Everton, Portsmouth to name a few have been working on reasonable budgets over a number of years, only for one rich investor to come in and take a mid table side straight to the top in two very demoralising. So much for developing football on the pitch, this is financial football played in the office. In reality, it is no longer a case of building a side; it is more a case of buying a side. It`s not illogical to see something of an old western showdown appearing between the top, money happy sides...except instead of firing bullets, they are firing paper.

'A place in the Champions League is quite a jump from last season, but we are ready to sit down with the manager, find out the players he would like, and bring the right players into the club,' Al-Fahim added.

If Abramovich at Chelsea wasn`t enough of a wakeup call, this should be, welcome to the new era. Traditions are invented, history created and all of sudden Chelsea`s at the top of the table, and if you asked a young child about it, they would probably think it has always been like that. Liverpool fans will argue that because their club has so much success in its past, and such a rich heritage that their club is immune to getting pushed down the table by the most recent takeover fad to come out of the UAE, but, sorry boys, it doesn`t work like that. Heritage and tradition will not mean anything when it becomes a question of money, and right now Manchester City answer the question with a full thesis.

The transfer window is the greatest example of this, while cash tight Everton made two last ditch signings, the new Manchester City owners had no problems putting in a number of high profile offers totalling well over £100 million; £32.5 million for one player is a drop in the ocean compared to what we will see in the coming years, meanwhile avid fans look on, watching Sky Sports news for any last minute transfer deals which might send their team to the top. It`s no longer about what happens over the course of the season, it`s about who can buy the best, most expensive players in the world during the transfer window...because this isn`t a risk anymore for some teams, if they spend £30 million on a player and it doesn`t work out, they will just spend £30 million on another player to replace the old one, who is of course quickly forgotten. All of the sudden the transfer window is a spectacle to match the biggest games of the season, I couldn`t help but find myself checking back on Sky Sports yesterday, but at least for me, not because I was interested, but because I wanted to see what new levels of madness the football world had reached next.

You could say I`m cynical, but this is the new generation. Football is no longer the sport of the people; for many teams it is the sport of a few people with money to burn. Say goodbye to your heritage, to your traditions and to your football clubs..."And next up on Match of the Day, Roman Abramovich Investments United Vs. Abu Dhabi Oil City...played in front of a full capacity crowd sponsored by Dubai Investments, today`s match ball is the new Nike developed especially for the game here in Dubai to suit the needs of the players, part of the world Premier League sponsored by McDonalds, Coca Cola, Budweiser and Marlboro."

Ok, maybe that won`t happen this season...But in the mean time, I can`t help but feel that football is becoming a circus, with trapeze artists and lion tamers pretending to be footballers, designed to make us go "wow" after every kick of the ball. Now the circus has rolled into town, do you think it will roll out again?

By Villa4Europe

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The Journalist

Writer: Villa4Europe Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday September 2 2008

Time: 4:39PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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As a Pompey fan I completely echo your thoughts and look forward to a battle between yourselves, us, Everton and Tottenham for the best of the rest. Like you said, the Champions League prevents there realistically being a top five so we can only hope to scoop Arsenal or Liverpool into our battle. However, how long will it be until the next superpower takes over a Premiership club?
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02/09/2008 16:51:00

I think the only future for football is to make money lose its power. I'm not suggesting you remove transfer fees or anything, but clearly there needs to be a cap on wages and transfer fees. I don't think it'll happen any time soon though. The rich who control the game will love the drama of this investment coming to the country. In the end, it's not the people in the prem who will lose out, it'll be the lower leagues whose players will become less and less significant, lose more motivation because it'll be harder than ever to be a top player (and thus have more effect on the national squad)... I think it's very very worrying for the future of the game, the way clubs are being treated as toys for the rich. I just wish these investors had the integrity that Lerner has.
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02/09/2008 16:59:00

really well said. i saw my thoughts spewed out in front of me, on my computer screen - like the contents of my stomach were, last night after witnessing this latest apocalyptic travesty to hurt and stain the beautiful game. the most ridiculous thing about it is that Villa are building up gradually, to compete at the top - to buy the best players eventually. and man city stroll in as a smaller, less successful club and usurp even chelski in signing a world class player. lord help football
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02/09/2008 17:08:00

A brilliant piece of scabrous journalism. (I think scabrous is the right word??) It is all rather depressing but at least Manchester City is a "proper" great club unlike Chelski whom Danny Baker memorably once called "a rich man's QPR". (This was before QPR got a bit rich themselves.) Manchester City actually won titles when the playing field (excuse the pun) was more even. So did Villa. Chelsea did it once in 1954 and were never going to do it again without the big bucks from RA. Common sense will reassert itself when one of these zillionaire owners gets tired of his plaything and walks away, taking his cash with him and letting all the air out of the financial balloon. I comfort myself with the thought that one of these years Chelsea might find themselves in the Isthmian League. That would be an opportunity for Frank Lampard to take the going rate for playing in those venerable surroundings and prove once and for all that it was never about the money. In the meantime, there is a lot to be said for supporting a properly run football club and taking pleasure and finding fulfilment in whatever seemingly modest success it enjoys. Maybe there should be a rule that when a club gets to a certain size (ie too big), it should be excluded from the Premiership and made go and play increasingly sterile and meaningless matches with others of its ilk in a Galaxy Series tournament?
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02/09/2008 17:13:00

As a Spurs fan I would prefer to retain the current ownership. Life is full of cycles and the huge borrowing clubs will try to keep up with the big investors. That's a recipe for disaster. Banks will get tougher on the borrowers and there is a limit to how much further they will extend. Being profitable(as United) is not good enough in the long run as they are servicing the debt not reducing it. A bit like an interest only mortgage. Non perpetually sustainable. The Russian will tire of Chelsea and invest in a Russian team. See how clubs like Zenit are on the march. A professor specialising in football today, said that buying a club is at today's values can only be economically sound with a determined exit strategy. All the rats will leave the sinking ships at the same time. Fans will be restricted in ticket purchase over the next few years, Sky subscriptions will level out and fall as people's incomes are squeezed. Sky will suffer from falling subscribers, will be unable to raise monthly rates and companies will be squeezes and their advertising budgets will diminish affecting Sky. There are enough clouds on the horizon to see the benefit of the status quo..
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02/09/2008 17:16:00

looks like football could not be football. we have no chance of competing with the likes of city and ther money chelsea wil always be above us wth ther money arsenal in a couple of years could win it with ther young squad and man united will always be at the top. also liverpool they have game winners when they return maybe they will finish aabove us. then it's a 1 in 4 maybe 5 chance of finishing in the top 6.. forget the top 4 unless your willing to spend what billionaires should be spending nowadays
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02/09/2008 17:32:00

has anybody bloody seen on the new owner is now planning a wait for it............................................................................................... £135million yes 135million bloody pounds not dollars pounds this is already starting to become a joke and he's only been ther for 1 day. hopefully he dies before january.
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02/09/2008 17:38:00

I feel sorry for Mark Hughes, he's been mucked round and will be gone by Christmas. I cant see City making the top four this season. Im pi$$ed off to say the least, as soon as we get a realistic shot at getting top 4 we get blown out of the water by another rich investor.
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02/09/2008 17:43:00

Its ridiculous, especially as its man city. Who the f*** are they??? Greedy big-headed tossers come in and burst our top 4 bubble. Sparkys gonna be out of there in no time. Too much pressure and expectation on his shoulders now. Too many ego's for the poor bloke to deal with. We should be going for the top players. We're twice the club they are (rant over)
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02/09/2008 18:04:00

son_of_cher - I agree "Sparkie's" head must be in a whirl - the whole scene is becomong ridiculous. Cloughie was absolutely correct when he said Sky TV and Sunday games would ruin our game. What hope is there now to see England win trophies?
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02/09/2008 18:04:00

The higher these clubs with sugar daddys rise the further they will fall,I include us.The Man Citeh situation is very bad news for Arsenal and Liverpool.
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02/09/2008 18:22:00

I doubt these new guys will fail. 1 billion is nothing to them and could keep City at the top for at least 10 years. If i owned a football club id never get bored with a bottomless pit of money. They all want to make a name for themselves and get some least we can say city will have bought any future sucess, thats about the only thing we can say to make us feel any better! At least Villa will be most neutrals favourites soon due to the fact that we buy british and keep traditions in hand
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02/09/2008 18:59:00

I can see Fifa bringing in a Wage cap or a limited transfer fund per team very soon in order to keep all leagues in football competitive.
Tallaght Villan
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02/09/2008 19:18:00

I'm proud to support this great club of ours, a club that in truth is a 'Little England' thanks to MON and his dealings, and while the arrival of Manchester City's new owners has now introduced a whole new ball game, we'll still be in there competing, with as good a chance as most of breaking into the 'Big Four'. Certainly there's now a new financial power in the north-west, City going head to head with United and Liverpool, knowing that they have the financial clout to reign supreme. Interesting times ahead.
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02/09/2008 19:59:00

Very good article by the way Villa4Europe. you put a lot of thought, and no doubt time, into that, and it made for a very interesting read.
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02/09/2008 20:04:00

Great article - I do worry about the future of the game. The only positive I could take from this is to think about the reactions from Plattini and Blatter!
Cheshire Villan
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02/09/2008 20:19:00

If we are now going to have a big 5 then that is one of the UEFA Cup spots gone. Carling and FA Cups could get the other two spots so it may be a cup run is our only avenue into Europe. The sooner they all bugger off into a European Super(rich) League, the better.
Surfer Dude
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02/09/2008 20:35:00

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Newcastle soon follow Man City with mega-billionaire owners, I also suspect Liverpool's owners will also be similarly baled out. So I bet the best we can expect, even with Lerner's huge fortune will be to fight for a top-table finish with Spurs, Everton, Hammers and Pompey et al. Champions League - 5 year plan - forget it!
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02/09/2008 20:52:00

SWP must be happy he went back to city, probably thought that he had enough of billionaire owners then Abu comes in signs the player that chelsea were going to sign to replace him, and now there after the player i.e. ronaldo that real madrid were trying to sign to replace robinho.
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02/09/2008 22:19:00

lets fight back and buy the whole England team! if they play together week in week out they have to improve
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02/09/2008 22:27:00

i'm a bit disillusioned with it all at the moment myself. as the article says - all that hard work performed over 2 seasons basically undone by some punters with more black gold than you can shake a stick at. the sooner wage caps come in the better, as without the GBP200k a week wages i'm 99.9% sure that Robinho wouldn't have touched City with a bargepole. either than or let the top 4 or 5 spin off into their own league and we can go back to enjoying more of a level playing field again....
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03/09/2008 06:55:00

So every time we go to see the Villa, we buy petrol and 'pump' money into citeh? To be serious i agree that soon one of these financial goliaths will realise that football is not worth it - how much do you get for winning the Champions League and they will walk away leaving a crash behind them. In the meantime yes we must hope for a cap on wages or transfer fees. Otherwise where is the sport, when money takes over completely?
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03/09/2008 07:56:00

I spoke to a mate of mine who is a City fan and I said he must be loving this, being able to bring in whoever they want and he just said he is embarrassed. His team have become everything he hated about Chelsea. He said it's taken a lot of the passion away from supporting the club.
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03/09/2008 08:50:00

personaly im starting to enjoy Rugby League more than football at the moment, great artical by the way. personaly i think their should not only be a salary cap and transfer fee cap but i think their should also be a limit on how much a club is alowed to spend per season this would be better for our english youth
Astonian Villan
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03/09/2008 09:30:00

The implications are pretty much never ending. With money no object, then I would be surprised if a club is going to entrust a manager with no proven track record, to spend all that cash. I predict Hughes to be gone before the end of the season. It is not beyond the realms of possibility for the new owners to approach Wenger (who I think is the best football manager by a country mile) and say "here is £10m a year wages, do for us with what ever money you want, what you have done for the Arse with next to nothing". If I was a current Man Citeh player I would be banging the door down for a pay rise and if I was in the youth set up I would be looking for another club asap. This is not going to be all plain sailing for Citeh. UEFA and FIFA may well act. It is not implausible for them to impose a restriction of a club being prevented from paying more than 50% of its turnover, in wages. This would be in the interest of Manure and the Arse, so expect this to be an avenue that will be explored. I do not expect it to be the doom and gloom that some are expecting. The clubs I feel for most though are the likes of Bury, Tranmere, Birmingham City, Stockport etc. Any young kid in the North West is going to follow Citeh or Murderpool. Kids in London will follow the likes of Manure and the Arse. Smaller clubs like those mentioned will have very little chance of attracting young support and will eventually just fade and die. The implication of that is, Englands chance of being a dominant force in World football are almost certainly ended because the whole football infrastructure is demolished. And looking on the really bright side, they could have put their money into the Dildo Salesmen from Somali Heath (Birmingham City, for the benefit of those without local knowledge), now that would have been a bugger.
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03/09/2008 09:42:00

Are Little and Large still alive and going to the Citeh games? Sid Little was a great straight man.
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03/09/2008 09:46:00

Am I the only one to think that this can still be a good thing? As long as football has been here the list of big sides has been cyclical. My old man tells me about the days when Wolves were the biggest side in the World ... that must have been a while ago!! When I was a kid Liverpool won everything and I remember thinking how boring it was. Every team can only play 11 players and the Chelski experiment will make a number of players wary of joining for big money and then playing only in the reserves or League Cup. At least the big money coming to England will ensure that we are able to watch World-class players each week. Remember in the 80s/90s there was a time when the best players in England (Gascoigne, Hughes, Platt, Lineker, Ince etc) went and played in abroad for big money and the bigger leagues. Didier Six was a novelty at Villa. Now all the best players in the World want to play here and I think we just have to accept that life has changed and embrace it. I do think that a limit on non-english players in any one 11 should be brought in to encourage English players but that's going to be very difficult with EU legisltation. Interesting times ...
Silver Fox
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03/09/2008 10:39:00

Silver you work for the tax company by any chance?
Astonian Villan
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03/09/2008 13:02:00

We sang there is only One Randy Lerner during the Liverpool game, what has changed?
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03/09/2008 13:05:00

We can only hope that most brilliant players do a Berbatov and say no thanks to the pretend Manchester team and opt for a team with history . However, we all know the mercenaries'll be in faster than Flash Gordon and Errol Flynn combined. To be fair though, there are only so many players teams can buy and, as i've stated already - you gotta be able to play them alá Mourinho, Fergie and Wenger...It'll be interesting to see how many players jump ship and got to Man City....Lucas Neill did it and he's now bloody shocking....can't wait for the Sheikh to start messing with the team because he plays Pro Evo and all of a sudden 1000 angry Mancs complete with stolen hubcaps, Oasis haircurts and Mad For It revolt mentality turn up on the doorstep wanting them to ***** off...I think they'll be on the first plane to Abu Dhabi...
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03/09/2008 16:08:00

Wage cap would settle this whole thing...that would stop these billionaires from using our clubs as toys and do things properly...LIKE OUR RANDY !!
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03/09/2008 17:23:00

The Man City thing has left a very sour taste in the mouth. What are football clubs? Playthings for rich men, statements of personal wealth. The Chelsea thing soap opera has been interesting to watch, welcomed by many because finally someone could beat Man U to the title. The City thing is different though. The brash nature of it, calling £32.5million small change when the average man on the street is getting poorer month by month is sick. Since Monday night though, for the first time in 35 years I thought "I've had it with football."
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03/09/2008 18:36:00


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