Aston Villa - The Gold Rush
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The Gold Rush

In June 2009 Aston Villa club captain Gareth Barry moved to Manchester City for £12 million, bringing to end the speculation and uncertainty around Barry's future. City's ambition and direction had won him over and given the fact he is now a league champion it seems like he made the right decision for Gareth Barry. He had been a great player for Aston Villa and after many years of loyal service on the pitch he was now ready to move on and deserved to do so. The reputed salary of £120,000 a week seemed almost irrelevant given such persuasions. Equally, when Steven Gerrard was on the brink of joining Chelsea the possibility of future success with the club he loves convinced him that he belonged in Merseyside red. He duly put pen to paper and signed a new deal worth an estimated £140,000 a week. A great player at the top of his game getting paid what he deserves. Enough said.

The romantic in me wants to believe that such deals have nothing to do with money. The cynic in me tells me otherwise. Indeed, I have to get the calculator to work out how much £140,000 a week is per annum. The digital display assures me that it is a lot. I am forced to reflect that I have been so used to such figures being banded around I have begun to normalise such salaries and financial transactions, as though this was a game of monopoly. How on earth, though, did we get to these mind boggling levels in the first place?

To put things into context, in 1992 when Alan Shearer signed for Blackburn Rovers, the £3.6 million deal broke British transfer records. Today, he is still the Premier League's all time top goal scorer (260) holds the joint record for most Premier League goals in a season (34) and is a three time golden boot winner - just to mention a few of his many accolades. 16 years later Robinho completes a £32 million transfer to Manchester City, signing on for around £160,000 a week. He gifted them 15 goals for 41 appearances in his first season and in his second season he scored 1 goal for 12 appearances in all competitions. How times have changed.

Income from broadcasting rights has changed the landscape of English football. With war chests perennially over flowing, a culture of transfer brinkmanship developed, in which clubs offered more and more money to ensure they got their man. According to recent published figures wages soared by 201 million in 2010/11 to almost 1.6 billion and account for over 70% of revenue, a 14% rise, which is deeply concerning when revenues rose by only 12%. On anyone`s abacus this is a serious deficit. Surely a lot of people have been rubbing their hands gleefully for some time, though if those are the economic conditions, one cannot blame the players for taking their market worth. If you create a gold rush then eventually people are going to come along and stick their pan in the river. Before long there will be crowding on the bank. Such is life.

Only elite clubs with huge commercial arms can seek to offset the cost of paying headline wages and even those, (particularly Chelsea and Man City) might find still the implications of Financial Fair Play a big ask. This will also be tough for clubs outside of the top six. Consider our beloved Villa. At one point it was reported that 88% of our revenue was being spent on wages. We might be the 5th most successful team of all time in the Premier League rankings yet we don't have a lot to show for that in recent silverware. We do have a recent history, however, of spending stupid money on bench warmers and clod hoppers. In terms of the cost in gold, we are right up there. We also have a wealthy benefactor who has pumped around £200 million into Aston Villa Football Club.

Bored yet? Probably - that's because we have stopped talking about football. Remember that business about 22 men, a field of grass, some white posts and a ball? Whatever happened to that? Well it might make a comeback yet. In 2008 the world went into the start of financial collapse owing to irresponsible banking and mismanagement of financial markets. In layman's terms, good old fashioned greed helped open up the gates to economic hell. As a result we are in the grip of a double-dip recession; public services are being stripped down to the bone and everyday house holds are feeling the pain. Clubs are part of economic society and are feeling the strain too. This will force transfers and wages down, with clubs unable or refusing to pay what they once did. I think we are already seeing the shoots of financial sensibility dictate transfers and wages. Villa for one are now cutting cloth accordingly and spending wisely.

Though what of the elite clubs? If yours is run by an Arab dynasty or a Russian oligarch you might think you are safe and that you can win everything until kingdom come. Unfortunately, FFP is about to spoil that and stop exorbitant and unrealistic spending. G20 clubs will need to reconsider. Perhaps this is why Bale has stayed at Spurs and Chelsea are being linked with £10 million deals for the likes of Moses, have shied away from blockbuster buys for the likes of Hulk. Will Man Utd's big summer signing be Leighton Baines? People may see this as ridiculous and expected the gravy train to go on forever. It won't. FFP is happening and clubs will need to get in line.

FFP is FIFA's first real attempt to get their footballing house in order. Long overdue as well in my opinion. With big clubs recording huge losses you don't have to be Einstein to realise that it cannot continue unless we want a league where only the club with an Arab dynasty or an oligarch behind them can actually dream of winning anything. In both sporting and economic terms that is unsustainable as a whole. I do not want to see my beloved Aston Villa either a) going to the wall in a bid to keep up or b) just making up the numbers because we do not have the money to compete. The inevitable question, of course, is this: have we actually been part of a sporting competition over the past 15 years or is this just veiled sporting entertainment?

This question is easy to answer in the NFL. I have remained a big fan of American Football for some years, partly owing to the level of fairness and sporting competition. Nowhere in sport is revenue and finance so equally shared. Moreover, every franchise has a salary cap and as a result every ball club has a chance to make it to the Super Bowl. Wouldn't it be great to start the season knowing that you had, in financial terms, an equal chance to win the Premier League as the other 19 teams; that it was fair across the board. Until financial equality exists and clubs are restricted in what they can spend it does not matter who Villa hire as manager. We will not challenge or win the title in a league where the chequebook wins. The monopoly and strangulation of our game must end if Villa are to challenge for silverware.

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The Journalist

Writer: Villa_Grizzly Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday July 8 2012

Time: 10:33AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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We don't expect to win the league, we just want to watch decent football and see the team (via the management )play better than we see on the local park every week. Wage caps won't happen (unfortunately.) Deal with it and work out ways to get around it and achieve moderate success compared to available expenditure.
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08/07/2012 10:44:00

When you look at the very top of the Premier League, it's not football any longer..... it's BUSINESS. A kick around against another team is just a by product.
Pride of Lions
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08/07/2012 10:55:00

Grizzly, much of what you say is no doubt true. However under FFP clubs with large stadiums and high ticket prices will still have a considerable advantage as will those that are well positioned in the CL at the start. Even under FFP it is hard to imagine that say Wigan, no disrespect intended, will be able to compete equally and Villa with a medium sized stadium, even if reaches capacity, and relatively low ticket prices will still struggle at the top end of the game. Who knows the Barclays and bank scandles that are beginning to unfold may do as much to even things up over time, by reducing wealthy city jobs, and therefore seat prices in the capital as much as anything else, oligarchs excluded.
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08/07/2012 11:00:00

FFP is run by EUFA not FIFA. Villa not being in a European competition at the moment won't be affected in any negative sense at the moment. The "control" only kicks in if you are in Europe. This is part of the reason why EUFA have not looked at the Etihad deal as yet. We are about to start the second season of the process leading to the controls kicking in after the third season. At that point someone will look at the Etihad deal. In the meantime clubs do need to get their houses in order if they wish to comply. In between now and then of course all clubs in the EPL are going to get a pay rise. Under the new deal which kicks in after next season with the UK based TV providers to UK TV screens a £1bn increase in the fees paid will mean that the team finishing bottom of the EPL will get more that Man City got last season for winning it. On top of that that foreign rights are due for re-negotiation shortly and the interest in the EPL is going up & up & up with a corollary rise in price. City pushed a vast amount of losses into the last accounts prior to the accounts that count to the FFP figures - clever eh !! On top of that they won the EPL as you probably noticed. United get £80m for a training kit deal, £400m to the certainly one time EPL champions & maybe more by the time the deal is looked at may well seem like chicken feed. Winning that EPL alone is reckoned to be worth between £100m-250m alone. I don't see City failing it and at the moment Villa really ought to be spending in order to try to get into the big six otherwise their place as 5th most successful team is not likely to last too much longer. Your not exactly owned by a pauper after all !!
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08/07/2012 11:08:00

Sorry that one is written by Grayfield18 from Manchester but loves living in Birmingham :-)
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08/07/2012 11:09:00

wish they could sort it, put wage caps in, etc... But they won't and I agree with Gordonsleftboot, as usual, the new rules will help the bigger clubs ... hence they didn't look at debt at all, as that would have penalised them! Sad times, I'm hating the PL and what I feel is the ruination of a once very good league.
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08/07/2012 11:35:00

Its still a good league...We just need a rule to stop clubs for buying players for more than 20m
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08/07/2012 11:58:00

It seems that in the majority of cases football fans are not that interested in the financial side of the Premiership because money's realpolitik is destructive to romance. It is difficult to admire players once you know what disgusting greedy b******* they are. Its impossible to take the Premiership seriously as a competition, once you know the disparity of incomes and the way regulation has locked that disparity in place. Its impossible to have dreams of future glory when you realise how mega-clubs have at least two teams and your club is lucky if it can field one. Its hard to have confidence in UEFA's FFRs until we have seen how they deal with one of the massive European clubs (Milan, Man City et al) should one of them fail to comply (there surely will be at least one). The NFL offers an interesting comparison because we can see the benefits of proper regulation and the absence of the pressures of relegation. No one could accuse the English game of offering much regulation and they tend to leave it to the HMRC and the courts in The Hague, to decide who is a fit and proper owner of a club. The leveraged buy-out mitigates more towards reducing inequality than any football regulatory body in the English game. So for those who can deal with the truth there is nothing better than seeing the underlying financial reality but most fans prefer to keep paying their rip-off prices and carry on their dreaming.
Steve Wade
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08/07/2012 12:34:00

A very well-written and well-thought out piece. I do have to beg to differ on the assessment/comparison of the NFL however. As much as the principle of the draft system is sound, the reality is different. Essentially, an NFL team can have one awful season and pop back up as a superbowl contender the following year because they pick up a marquee player in the draft. The best (and most recent) example is that of the Indianapolis Colts, who, having lost ONE player to injury (Payton Maning) last year went from first to worst and are now able to get the best quarterback available in this years' draft. Nobody will convince me that they didn't plan that strategy. As a consequence, the teams in the NFL who are not quite good enough to challenge, but are responsible enough not to "throw" a season to get the highest pick are being hurt. The Browns, Dolphins, Chicago Bears et al will not see the Superbowl until they have a marquee quarterback - and that won't happen while teams such as the Colts do what they have just done. As much as I too love the NFL, it is a far-from-perfect system and is a sport where a single player can be the difference between championships and bottom of the barrel....
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08/07/2012 12:43:00

Replies to some comments: 1.The idea that it only applies to clubs competing in Europe is a redundant point. Yes FFP will apply to clubs playing in official UEFA competitions but as everyone aims to be in those competitions all clubs will need to comply. Indeed, the fundamental driver is to make qualification for such tournaments possible for all clubs, thereby breaking the G20 monopoly in Europe. I acknowledge there are abundant criticisms to this idea. 2.FFP is happening and is relevant to all clubs now."The 2011–12 season was the first season which counted towards the 2014–15 assessment. Clubs, however, will be allowed to make a loss of €45 million (£39.4 million) over the three years, falling to €30 million from 2015–16 IF the loss was covered by equity contribution only. The first season that UEFA will begin actively monitoring the financial situation of individual clubs is 2013–14, but this will take into account losses made in the two preceding years (2011–12 and 2012–13). From 2013-14 UEFA will be able to ban clubs from playing in European competitions the following season if the rules have not been met but it is not until 2018 that clubs will be expected to bring their annual losses below £8.8 million (based on 2010 exchange rates) Only actual "football-related expenditure" — a club’s outgoings in transfers and wages — will be counted over income from gate receipts, TV revenue, advertising, merchandising, sales of players and prize money is included in the assessment. Any money spent on infrastructure, training facilities or youth development will not be included." (Taken from -coutesy of Wikipedia)
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08/07/2012 13:50:00

The way the Europa League functions actually handicaps the weaker clubs because if a club takes it seriously it has to increase the size of its squad to play two games a week, and the prize money is only around £5m (if you win it), and if the club finishes only a few places lower than otherwise they lose that £5m from their Premiership earnings. So it is a poisoned chalice for middling to lower status clubs. So if middling clubs had any sense they would boycott the damned thing. It functions for the benefit of the top clubs but even they do not treat it seriously, because it does them no good, except to weaken any club trying to improve.
Steve Wade
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08/07/2012 14:18:00

FFP won't work. Most football 'fans' and 'supporters' are -- in reality -- 'consumers'. They want to see the big name players and the big clubs winning things. The club corporate lawyers will kill FFP stone dead if they can and the broadcasters and 'fans' will be on their side. Platini talks a big game but he can't take on SKY, the big clubs of Europe and the oligarchs and scheiks. The fickle nature of many Arsenal fans is evidence that most supporters can't see the big picture. This is despite the fact that Arsenal is a well run and financially stable club with regular Champions League football. If FFP does somehow get introduced then the big clubs of Europe will surely go it alone and form a breakaway Euro league in a similar manner to how the EPL was formed twenty years ago.
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08/07/2012 14:42:00

FFP needs stricter rules too tho... MC owner got his airline company to sponsor city for 200m so he basically pulled a get out of jail free card... NFL is great and very fair but the rules seem to hard to implement it would take away from the game in some ways,..
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08/07/2012 14:45:00

PoL -- footie isn't just business. People like Abramovich are in it for the (reflected) glory. Chelskov's accounts are dire. It's also worth mentioning that it was Boro' who started the wage madness in England when they put Ravanelli (a Bosman) on 60K a week (silly money in those days). Also, apart from Citeh I can't see any of the 'big' clubs guaranteed a place in the CL. Fergie is arguably the only thing preventing Manure becoming the new RedScouse. Ditto, Wenger at Arsenal. We know what Abramovich is like and Drogba will be hard to replace @ Chelskov. These clubs (and their so-called 'supporters') want guaranteed top level Euro football. If they can't earn it on the pitch then they'll want in via a closed shop European Super League.
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08/07/2012 15:59:00

btw, I didn't mean the RedScouse of the 70's and 80's. I meant the current also-rans.
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08/07/2012 16:22:00

Apologies, vitaladmin was meant to be done via my The Fear... darn! The admin one is the 'job' one so to speak! Hey ho. Some great points. For me, when a league is set up as ours now is, for 'big' clubs like Villa, Everton (formerly Man City, albiet they have not bought their way in) etc, you know something is wrong. We've not won much but always had a shout. Now we don't and nor do at least 5 other 'big' clubs. Chelsea being a smallish club who also bought their way in. They either need to sort out the league (they won't) or all clubs just have to hope to strike 'lucky' with obscene money owners like that foul Russian bloke and the latest Arabs at Man City. Hence, footie is ruined!
The Fear
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08/07/2012 16:51:00

The clubs that have the influence an power within Eufa woud be most penalised by introducing real financial fair play rules, such as salary caps which is why they'll never happen. A wage cap based on the average earnings of players in the top leagues of europe would be a real leveller, but is only a pipe dream.
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08/07/2012 16:56:00

Can anyone clarify why the 'rich' clubs are so powerful? Might seem a stupid question with an obvious answer, but my query relates to what is the voting system in the Premier League - do things need a two thirds, three quarters or simple majority? Whichever it is, in my fantasy world, it would be great to see the rump of the Premier League pass a motion requiring part of all gate receipts to go to away clubs, and all Champions League prize money to be shared eqally by all 92 clubs in the PL and Football League. Clearly the 'rich' clubs would not like this, but tough - they could always resign and go and play with themselves or in a European Super League. My fantasy examples are not key - you could substitute others. The real question is why can't the many exert greater influence over the few to ensure a more level playing field for all? Another fantasy rule - UEFA to introduce a maximum wage of £250,000 a year all across Europe, except each club allowed two "star" players who can exceed this limit, if in their country's Premier League. The result - likes of Rooney, Silva, Ronaldo earn vastly reduced but still big money, but the mass of good but not wow players earn what in anyone else's terms is a startlingly good wage of £5,000 per week for doing something they love. With the milliions saved, the TV deal would come down, admission prices would come down, gates would go up, and the competiotion and ability of a wider mix of teams to win trophies would be miles better. Don't tell me this is nonsense dreamland - I know it is! Trouble is we are in a nonsense nightmare land already where the people who play football get grossly distorted wages they do not deserve. Pop stars, great opera singers, golfers, and great footballers can understandably expect a high market price for their exceptional talents. But there are 500 Premier footballers (20 x 25 per club) - which by definition means thty are not "exceptionally" talented. What do our 500th best golfer, tennis, snooker, rugby etc players earn. Or the Prime Minister, never mind doctors, nurses, teachers etc. Why can't the clubs like Villa, Everton and all the 'other' PL clubs fight for and vote for more sanity, even if not as revolutionary as my fantasies? If it pushed the big clubs into a Eurosuper League, it would be better for us, and better for most clubs than what we have now.
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08/07/2012 17:28:00

Excuse me Villan444, who do you call "we"? I expect us to fight for whatever it takes to win the league. I don't care about decent football. Stop the losertalk, and don't be scared, it's not supposed to be easy.
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08/07/2012 17:33:00

SV -- The wealthy football clubs are so powerful because over the last twenty years footie has become a massive global industry as opposed to being just a mere game. Barcelona, Manure, Real Madrid etc are global 'brands' in the most popular sport on earth. In Europe, UEFA is the tail wagging the dog. They are just administrators. Platini is wearing The Emperors New Clothes. Sooner or later the clubs -- or more likely their lawyers -- will notice. Then they'll either make UEFA do what they want or do it anyway.
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08/07/2012 17:43:00

Yes, but if given an ultimatum for more sanity in the game, those global superclubs who don't like it would have nowhere to go, other than a Euro SuperLeague. I, for one, would be happy to risk "losing" them, along with all the consequences.
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08/07/2012 18:36:00

Its down to supply and demand topped off by sheer greed. You cannot regulate against Human nature. So called top players demand more in Wages every time a top club approaches them and thus the spiral continues. To us the GFC is a real thing but to the Ronaldo's etc it is a mere annoyance. The Villa have just bought a Player from outside English Football and I don't here him squealing for mega Pounds, and like him there are hundreds more. Until a top club stands up to these over paid players then the system will continue as before or until someone the likes of Man U goes bust
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09/07/2012 03:41:00

By the way, what a splendid post and great replies. It's refreshing to have a discussion carried out in informative and thought provoking way as this topic is.
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09/07/2012 03:44:00

kevinl48 I agree. McLeish Out.
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09/07/2012 08:06:00

I do appreciate that in terms of aspirations everyone will feel ffp applies to them. We all want our club to be in Europe. In reality however it is the clubs in or around the top 8 that have to be concerned. Though, i don't believe it will ever really work. It was already fixed to allow the clubs with debt not to be counted. The EPL was brought into existence to allow the rich clubs to get richer and to squeeze the money away from other clubs. Villa voted for it too. The CL was created to keep the top clubs within EUFA it was to stop the breakaway they talked about prior to it coming into existence. I think if FFP was actually to impact on the top sides then they would re-think the breakaway. There are already talks of an American membership of a CL type league, after all it's as long by plane to New York as some parts of Europe. My name relates to me being a Manchester City fan btw not that other club in Birmingham. One of the reasons City is spending so much on the infrastructure around the ground is not just the benefits that will flow from an enhanced youth academy but to increase allowable revenue. The complex will have hotels on it and the like and the income will contribute to income for the club. Doug's plan to convert the North Stand at Villa Park into a stand with hotel would have worked too. I have a lot of respect for Villa fans great club & knowledgeable fans. If this debate was on a City board it would have descended into a great deal of abuse by now !!
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09/07/2012 08:31:00

UEFA are already looking into Man City's finances and the final sanctions have not yet been announced, so to say it only affects you if you get into Europe is incorrect.
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09/07/2012 09:02:00

Lol Bruno. I said, "don't expect " not " don't think we can" or any of the derivatives that you suggest. Referring to our dismal season last year unless you were happy with it?!?!
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09/07/2012 10:41:00

Ok. After all, like the old boxing phrase (or business or yankee football phrase) goes, "the guy whose willing to die, whose gonna win that...". No risk no life.
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11/07/2012 13:07:00


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