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 seasons...how 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?