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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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  1. Huh

    September 3, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Platini is a sycophant his plans are nothing to do with salary caps, Man City or any sense of fair play they won’t do anything but good for teams like Man Utd, Chelsea, Real Madrid and AC Milan (and many more) but they are extremely bad for everyone else out side of their countries little clicks. How I hear you ask? Well quite simply his master plan is to move closer to a European super league. He does this by saying you can only live within your means (super accelerated the rich get richer). Its ok if you owe close to a billion pounds (as most of the big clubs do) or have developed a new ground as long as you can repay your crippling interest rates with your profits (and of course having a big fat slice for yourself), with more TV rights money and the Euro cup ££££s(not to mention the league placing money) your laughing all the way to the bank. Of course the others don’t get this money their incomes are much lower which means they can’t afford the top players, and they can’t afford the high wages for players. In turn these ‘big’ teams can then cherry pick the best players from the ‘inferior’ teams as they are not allowed to pay high wages because they will go above their means! Therefore keeping them where they are on UEFA’s shity little boring merry go round year after year the same old crap no more Nottingham Forest’s winning in Europe or Leeds/Everton/Villas etc winning the league how exciting its one of two. GREAT.
    Platini’s number one objective though is to stop the premiership (EPL) becoming any stronger. Other top 4, or whatever in other countries owners would agree with Platini because its good for their pockets. New investors are not interested in Spain, Italy, Germany or France, all the investors want the EPL because that’s where the big profits are, but I feel Platini’s desperation will be in vain any way because these ‘inferior’ clubs would sue his big dumb French ass along with UEFA.

  2. man99utd

    September 3, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Or Roman knew he was about to be banned from the transfer market for a year.

  3. NewtonHeath

    September 3, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    My first thoughts upon reading that story were hypocrisy as well. But I think he sees this as no problem since he has already spent a lot of money and built up a squad. Now that he’s been in the transfer market already he’s happy to clamp down and make weaker teams suffer even more and to stop people copycatting what he’s already done.

    Either that or he wants to target debt laden clubs like liverpool and united because he sees himself as exempt from that category since his club don’t have debts, just large losses for their owner.


  4. winstongator

    September 3, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    The issue is not watching Barca or ‘fair’ football, the issue is who is Barca playing? You don’t necessarily need salary caps – major league baseball doesn’t have one, but still has seen more changes in its top 4 teams than the epl has – you need better distribution of revenues. Allowing unfettered spending can concentrate talent in the top few teams…or it can somewhat distribute it. Is it better to see Tevez on the bench for united or on the field for city?

    I understand it’s not really revenue that is driving this though. The idea that a team needs to break a profit to compete in uefa is ludicrous and kills the idea of investing in a team one year to reap future profits.

  5. hank

    September 3, 2009 at 10:34 am

    I don’t know how I feel about putting a cap on spending. It’s not like there would be less talent if there was a cap, only that it would be distributed more evenly. So, on one hand, unlimited spending allows a select set of teams with large financial backing to put together all-star teams. I always enjoy watching these team play, and watching them play each other is what makes a competition like the Champions League as exciting as it is. But, on the other hand, I think it detracts from domestic league competition generally, having results so closely tied by the bank roll of the team owner.

  6. Lyle

    September 3, 2009 at 10:01 am

    I agree, owners should be able to invest in a club as much as the want to.

  7. oliver

    September 3, 2009 at 9:37 am

    “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…”

    This implies it was all Roman Abramovich’s idea and Michel Platini is just going along with it.

    How many actual quotes come from anyone outside of UEFA? Any actual quotes from Roman Abramovich or do we just take UEFAs spin on things as 100% honest?

  8. Dave Trotter

    September 3, 2009 at 9:21 am

    When it is the top 4 spending that is totally fine. But when one team bucks that trend, then it is bad! Amazing!

  9. man99utd

    September 3, 2009 at 7:16 am

    Salary caps work ok in American sport because there is no real competition for talent in leagues around the world. If you want to play Basketball at the highest level and make a little dosh you come to America. Football is a world sport and if UEFA limits spending the talent will go elsewhere. The only way a salary cap has a chance is if FIFA implements it worldwide and I don’t see that happening.

    If UEFA wants a salary cap are they also ready to implement a meaningful league minimum salary? This isn’t about too much money, it’s about neutering the EPL and La Liga. If the other leagues, i.e. France, etc… were attracting world class talent they wouldn’t be whinging about too much money in the sport.

  10. Mike

    September 3, 2009 at 5:49 am

    I just cant get past the fact that Roman Abramovich, of all people, is the one calling for a halt to spending….

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

    • Tyson

      September 3, 2009 at 8:37 am

      Actually that isn’t accurate. Abramovich paid a lot for Chelsea and to build the team up but they actually won things too.

      Compare that to the shiny turd Manchester City that has won nothing.

      It’s only a matter of time before these caps become implemented.

      These rich idiots buy a team and buy a lot of expensive players with a high salary and when and if they don’t get the results they wanted or get bored of their pet project they leave it to die.

      When Manchester City don’t win any trophies next year the terrorists will lose interest in it and then a club that generates a few thousand a year will be paying salaries several dozen times more than the club is bringing in.

      It’s a recipe for disaster and to make matters worse these arab turds are on the verge of collapse with their little oil monoply on its deathbed.

      • Huh

        September 3, 2009 at 5:15 pm

        Oh no its this major f*+king football know nothing agian. So Abramovich won somthing in his first year did he? You total tool!!!! You are to stupid for words.

      • Freddy

        September 3, 2009 at 5:58 pm

        Tyson you leave the most idiotic comments.

  11. Laurence

    September 3, 2009 at 4:37 am

    Hi Sebastian,

    A really interesting theory. And I certainly enjoyed reading the article; I see it differently. I am acutely aware that it is always going to be difficult to control spending in football, especially after we have let this price-hike go on for so long. However, to continue letting big clubs spend and spend is dangerous for the game because it means that smaller clubs will continue to struggle to compete. A price cap could be a healthy option and rules can always be tweaked to perfect this avenue of control.

    I don’t agree that money = attractive football. It is achievable without a massive bank account. Arsenal, Barca and United have all cultivated young and exciting talent and whilst they have put heavy investment into their academies I still think that a transfer cap would encourage more clubs to spend less and teach more to their young hopefuls.

    Granted these teams have also bought big but that is missing the point; without big spending we could make football much more pure in it’s form and encourage managers to get back to their scouting roots and really challenge them tactically; as they have to work with the squad they have and not the millions of their investors.

    It may also encourage more swap deals in football which would traumatize some fans and make others dance around with glee at the prospect of an NBA style balance of power where a team can go from title contender, down, back to title contender. (I’m not saying this is a good thing, or that it would happen, I just think it would be interesting to see some clubs make good switches and do well from them.) It may also give smaller clubs more power in the transfer market.

    I know some of this could sound like crazy-talk, but I’d be interested to hear what you think.

    “If music be the food of love, play on” – well, at the moment only a few people are playing and they are not good at wooing me…
    (That is a metaphor for football-spending and not a comment on my love life.)

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