You may have heard that football is about striving for glory, trying your best to win whatever the circumstances, and pleasing the fans by giving it your all each and every fixture. If you heard that, the person you heard it from is a liar. Instead, as Aston Villa’s surrender to CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Cup today demonstrates, football is all about devoting your resources to whichever competition proves the most lucrative in television broadcast fees. At the end of the day, that’s what brings all us fans together.
It’s like when my ten year old nephew told me he was playing in the final of Da Silva’s Glass Door and Framing PeeWee Sportsmanship Cup this weekend. I asked him, “What about the lucrative popsicle deal you’ll get if you get top spot in Group C of the Bantam Kickers League? Do you really want to risk all that for some stupid meaningless silverware, Billy? Do you?”
Before he could answer his mother yanked him away to wipe his tears, but I’m certain he would have said playing to win isn’t as important as achieving a strategic league spot in order to maximize sponsorship and broadcast revenue streams. UEFA certainly seems to have gotten into the spirit. Their new Europa League emphases the importance of rights auctions and product tie-ins, and only briefly mentions something about a soccer competition with some sort of cuppie-thing at the end of it.
In all the hustle and bustle of football, it’s easy to get caught up in all the glory and winning and striving to be the best team. But those things can end up distracting you from what’s really important. Like whether to fund January transfers from day-to-day revenue or from the proceeds of player sales. I mean, sure, it’s great, all that stuff about winning and Cup glory and respecting your fans, but don’t forget—at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself: how does stadium equity fit into debt to asset ratios? If you don’t know the answer to that, I suggest you re-examine why you got into football in the first place.