Something For The Weekend (299)
The wages of sin!
Its perfectly true. The meddlesome Eurocrats of UEFA have set guidelines for the ratio of wages to turnover a club is allowed to spend. That figure is 70% of turnover and clubs have six years to comply with the rules or find themselves excluded from European competition. Villa do not comply, at present, and spent (2009) 76.8% of turnover on wages. Man City spent 94.4% and even Birmingham City spent 98.7%. Burnley spent 119.9%.
And there's the rub and a Catch-22 all in one.
As can be seen, the clubs mentioned above are all clubs in transition, from Championship to Premiership brand for Burnley and from medium sized Premiership brand to world brand for Villa and Man City. Villa had a turnover of £79m (2009), while Man City had a turnover of £87m (2009). While Arsenal's tops £313m.
By strange coincidence debt is not seen as a problem by Platini and his Euromates: Man United (£716m), Arsenal (£206m), Barcelona (£369.5m) and Real Madrid (£300m).
If the costs of servicing United's debt are taken into account (interest rates of 16.5% have been quoted), then you find that the £115m+ it costs to service the debt (£716m) added to United's wage bill of £123m, adds up to a cost to the club of 85% of turnover. Which puts United amongst the sinners of the Premiership.
Excluding debt charges can be no accident and as a result Platini's rules impact on smaller clubs more than the Sky 4: including debt payments would level the playing field.
Platini's Catch-22 is that clubs can only increase their turnover by qualifying for the Champions League but clubs deprived of income from the Champions League are not allowed to spend enough on their team to have a realistic chance of qualifying. So they are permanently excluded. For example: Tottenham are told they must compete with Arsenal for a Champions League place by paying a third of the wages. Arsenal's turnover is three times that of Spurs (£313m versus £113m).
And yet, Arsenal have debts of £206m, while Spurs have only debts of £45.6m.
Now I am not suggesting for a moment that Villa fans should care much about Tottenham but from this it can be seen that Platini's rules unfairly favour a club which has taken on huge debt.
If Tottenham are expected to compete for a Champions League place on a third of Arsenal's wages, then where does it leave Villa who have to compete for a Champions League spot on a quarter of the Arsenal wage-bill?
So what Platini tells us, through his crocodile tears, are a set of rules meant to safeguard the financial stability of our precious clubs, actually turns out to be a protectionist scheme to ensure that the same big brands dominate their domestic leagues and the Champions League, while the rest of the clubs are merely left to play the role of cannon-fodder for the big boys, to perpetuate the status quo and protect the cash cow of the Champions League worldwide media rights.
It also creates the perfect conditions for the formation of a European Super League full of familiar world brands.
So confronted with this reality, it is not much of a wayward conclusion to reach, if we decide that Villa are well and truly stuffed, along with every other club which these rules disadvantage. The only option is to consolidate the brand as mid-table aspirants and be prepared to be trounced every time the big boys turn up and accept that the Premiership as a contest has ended.
Platini has spoken and we must obey.
There is not a lot that a club can do. The owners can invent creative ways of getting the wages of players they don't want, off the books. They can convert wages into debt and debt into shares, or they can just accept that eventually the fans will understand the depth of this nonsense they are being sold and give up.
The six years of transition, also offers the slight hope that, like Man City, it is possible to spend enough dough to break the stranglehold of the big boys, and then once the brand has been grown to the critical-mass which can sustain a Champions League challenge, and with the possibility of inclusion of some future Eldorado of a European Super League, the quantum leap can be made and the rules complied with.
And what of clubs who have invested in expectation of Champions League cash, but fail to qualify; are they expected to sell off players until they meet the criteria, or will Platini provide them with a parachute facility so that they retain the advantage over clubs competing for that lucrative fourth place?
I suspect every advantage will be offered to the favoured brands, to the disadvantage of the brands they are meant to be competing with.
Surely, there must be clauses in the small print to protect the oligopoly from the dangers of outside competition, should they slip up?
And what of the likes of Wolves (turnover £18.3m)? Is it really possible for them to sustain their Premiership status, if they cut their wage bill by 20%? Aren't such clubs being forced, de facto, into giving up any aspiration of ever getting into Europe, as they are forced to hold on to their Premiership status and ignore Platini's threats?
This is irony indeed, considering that Wolves were one of the very first clubs to engage in European competition, with their high-profile games against Real Madrid and the Hungarians in 1950's.
I don't think these issues have been debated properly by the football media, and too many questions have been left unanswered, while we are led by the nose towards the trivia and prurience of a few players' private lives.
As ever it has just been presented as a fait accompli and we are expected to lump it - like all European directives.
But no fan of the game can see this as right. We may all have sympathy for the fans of Portsmouth and such like, but we should not be expected to give up our own dreams, to compensate for what the FA has failed to regulate
It is notable that Villa's first step in the direction of reducing the wage bill, has been to give the manager a rise and Gerard Houllier's £8m over three years, or £50k a week in tabloid-speak, makes him the highest manager in Villa's history.
Now that is what you call an impressive interview.
According to rumour, this is the same amount they have been paying Reo-Coker for his massive contribution since his arrival from West Ham, which I should imagine is a bit more than he was getting at Wimbledon. Obviously, him
punching O'Neill in the mouth, was his way of saying thanks.
As for Houllier, he will be expected to earn his big bucks and I am sure that if he reduces the size of the Villa squad and avoids relegation, then the club will consider him worth every penny. Villa need to save £7m a year to bring the wage bill down to 70% of turnover. If £50k a week (£2.6m a year) is Villa's top rate, then Villa need to get rid of three top-earners to meet their target. Or, pro rata, as many as it takes. Up to five if they are to keep their better players.
I get the feeling that any threat from Platini to ban Villa from Europe, won't be much of a problem.
But I personally will take huge consolation in the fact that Arsenal, Man United and Chelsea, look to be permanent fixtures on the TV over the next few decades and so all's well that ends well. Not!
It has to be admitted that although the week started badly with Villa losing at Stoke (turnover £53.5m), things did get better, as there was a wonderful exhibition on the telly, which turned out to be the Cesc Fabregas show, and even with some key players missing through injury, they had more than enough resources to trounce a team of Brazilians.
This is what they are destroying our dreams for: top brand TV "soccer".
Even better was watching the England women progress to next year's World Cup by beating a team of cheating Swiss bitches over a two leg play-off. The England girls might not be on the same planet as the Arsenal men but it was
actually rather more enjoyable, as the jeopardy was rather more palpable, after England had their goalkeeper sent off, after an act of cheating which only Blatter could be proud of.
So I got my moment of football satisfaction and understood what the real game is about. And you know something? Goal celebrations for the women, look twice as much fun than for the men and you can't help but wishing to join in, no matter which side scores. And there were plenty of goals.
But even I realised that once I had stopped thinking about rolling amongst a load of sweaty young gals, there is no avoiding the fact, of what UEFA are doing to our game and our club(s).
At some point, you have to stop blaming the owner or the manager.
We have been screwed but no one is letting on.
Keep the faith!