Proposed Caps to Halt Spending Are Bad for Football


The inexplicable is often the standard in football.  The £14 million pounds Man City paid for Wayne Bridge is inexplicable.  Florent Malouda’s protean hairstyles are inexplicable.  Arsene Wenger’s ability to see zero penalties against Arsenal is inexplicable.  Yet even bearing this in mind, I could not help but rubbing my eyes to make sure I had read the headline correctly:

Abramovich keen to stop big-spending City

The gist of the article is that Abramovich feels that Manchester City have spent too much and need to be reigned in.  Michel Platini agrees and suggests that clubs only should spend what they earn in revenue and failure to break even would result in a banning from European competition.

Yes, the hypocrisy is obvious.  Yes, the irony is wonderful.  Beyond this, the proposal has some positives, namely that the astronomical fees of this summer might return to earth.  Real Madrid has a revenue of about 350 million euro, but even they would not splash out 250 million of it per season like they have most recently, given that operating costs would surely put them in the red.

It’s also not as if this would be disastrous for the Real Madrids of the world, given that large clubs already have large revenues, world-class players, and the ability to attract top talent.  It would just promote smart business, in theory.  It might even allow a well managed smaller club to break into European football more easily.

Despite these boons, Platini’s idea should not be taken seriously.

Whether one likes it or not, it usually takes money to assemble a side capable of playing attractive football, and almost always takes considerable money to create a side capable of competing for trophies.  Even in competitions taken much less seriously than others, such as the Carling Cup, cash seems to be the key to success.  In the past 5 years, only large spending teams (Tottenham, Chelsea, and Manchester United) have won the trophy.

While single-elimination tournaments like the FA Cup can always produce the shock of a Portsmouth, Millwall, or Cardiff in the final, the long term trend is once again teams that spend money win.

Results aside, big money also tends to lead to better football visually.  Let us look to the example of Liverpool.  Two seasons ago, Torres arrived for £20 million.  Gerrard and the Spaniard linked up wonderfully, often with eye-pleasing results.  Glen Johnson arrives this season for  £18 millon and the added quality on the right is even more entertaining.

While I don’t believe that money always buys attractive football, or that attractive football requires money, there does appear to be some connection between the two.  Even if Chelsea are criticized for playing “negative” football, it would be difficult to watch an entire Blues match without some excellent play.  The same cannot be said of some lesser spending teams, particularly the recently promoted ones.  This is not a criticism, however.  I accept they do not have the money to spend on players of that calibre.

When it comes down to it however, I would rather watch FC Barcelona (with the 40 million euro right back Dani Alves and 65 million euro Ibrahimovic) and their fantasy football over a more “fair” version of the sport any day.

So if money is the food of football, spend on.

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