Sunday, December 4, 2022

Financial Fair Play and the doubters

Good morning and welcome to Thursday. See how I know it’s Thursday? Because it was Wednesday yesterday, and it’s Friday tomorrow. I’m nobody’s fool, me.

Last night saw Ivan Gazidis speak to the Arsenal Supporters Trust, and while I was far, far away, it seems there was a lot of talk about Financial Fair Play, and interestingly, the wage structure at the club. The Goonerholic has a nice summary of what was said, and reported by people on Twitter who were actually at the meeting, but it seems it essentially boils down to: “we can do better, but we’re not as bad people think” (from @10akhil via The Goonerholic).

Nothing terribly controversial then, but it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens with Financial Fair Play. Many people think that clubs with the most money can also afford the most creative accountants to get around the regulations, but while that may be true to a certain extent, it’s impossible to deny that it’s perfectly possible the regulations will end up being changed to specifically target these clubs, and if that happens, there will be no get out clause for them; to make up a fairly rubbish analogy on the spot, just because I’m rich (I’m not) and can afford it (I can’t), doesn’t mean my Ferrari (I wish) means I can avoid speeding tickets (I can’t). My vague and ill-defined point is that the rules are the rules and if they’re enforced properly clubs won’t be able to avoid them however much money they have.

I’m also slightly circumspect about the ability of the nouveau riche clubs to threaten UEFA. It’s all very well saying that they’ll bugger off and host their own tournament, or European Super League, but that’s going to require a lot of negotiation with firmly established super clubs that aren’t owned by Russian oligarchs, or middle-eastern sheikhs, who have no desire to see these clubs usurp them as Europe’s biggest; while the likes of Barcelona and United for example, have never been shy of spending big when they’ve wanted to, they’re no longer in the same league financially as the likes of City, PSG, and Chelsea. But no European competition could claim to be the continent’s most prestigious unless it includes teams like Barcelona and United, and at some stage I think those clubs are going to recognise that FFP offers their best hope of remaining competitive with the big monied clubs without also selling out.

Now, some people say this is exactly what we should do. They say there’s a big, fat, Uzbeki billionaire that owns almost 30% of our club; why not let him be our Abramovich, our Sheikh Mansour? Okay, they don’t quite say that, but you get the idea. Setting aside my personal distaste for Usmanov, his business dealings, and let’s be honest, his hideous, fat face, I just don’t understand people that want someone that’s not going to be around forever to come in and finance a spending spree just to sate their desire for immediate success. What happens if he does give us a billion quid to spend, Arsene spends it, we get an entirely new team, and then Usmanov has a heart attack and dies and his family decide they don’t want to remain invested in Arsenal (a simplistic scenario, but hopefully it makes the point)? What happens if the Uzbeki authorities decide that Usmanov’s assets were obtained illegally, or he ends up involved in some court case to do with his other business dealings, and he loses everything? Someone else will buy, I hear the doubters say, but that just leaves us open to the same never-ending cycle of uncertainty. Arsenal is an institution that’s been around since long before you or I were born – it’d be nice if it were still around long after we’re gone, and while I take the point that we need to remain competitive for that to happen, I’d rather we did it in a stable, structured way, than take the potentially ill-gotten gains of someone of questionable moral character.

I dunno. I just don’t like the idea of being owned by any one individual (and that includes Kroenke). I’d like to say the board agree with me, but it seems to be Usmanov with whom they particularly have a problem. And I can understand that – he had Han Solo encased in carbonite, after all, and kept Princess Leia on a leash.

Regardless, this is all speculation (which I do realise is part of the lifeblood of this and every other blog), and we’re just going to have to see how it pans out. As Arseblogger has pointed out on numerous occasions, all we can do is invest wisely, and use the resources we do have while not worrying about what other clubs are doing. The point being: we do have to use the resources we do have.

The Daily Mail report some interesting comments from the chief executive about the wage structure at the club:

Our wage structure has been based around a flatter salary structure – that is part of a team ethos the manager develops, it’s about interaction between players – not superstars.

But we have looked at this carefully and we have to make adjustments for top talent. They are earning a lot of money and I don’t think that will slow down. We have to adjust our model.

I wish I had the opportunity to work somewhere with a ‘flatter salary structure’! What’s interesting about that quote though, is the quite candid admission that the wage structure at the club isn’t working and needs to be looked at. The mind still boggles when you’re talking about players earning £60k, £70k, £80k a week, but the reality is now that the very richest clubs are paying three times those figures, and if we want to compete to get the top talent, we’re going to have to do something about the fact that we don’t pay those wages. I don’t think we’ll start doing so, because I believe our wage bill as a percentage of turnover (one of the FFP key indicators) is already quite high, but clearly the club recognise something needs to be done.

On the eve of Euro 2012, The Guardian has published what I thought was a rather odd article by Sol Campbell about potential racism within the FA, suggesting that’s the reason they still haven’t called up Rio Ferdinand. While I find the fact that John Terry was picked quite despicable in itself (people resign from, or are suspended from their jobs all the time while they clear their name in court proceedings), and suspect it would’ve been difficult to have both Terry and Ferdinand in the same squad, never mind the same team, I just don’t believe Ferdinand’s omission is down to racism at the FA and it seems odd to hear Sol suggesting otherwise.

Finally for today, it seems that Warsaw is being terrorised by “giant Polish players”, who have been “emblazoned” on the side of buildings in the Polish capital, and that’s a thought that ought to strike fear into the hearts of all comers. A giant Wojciech Szczesny outside your window at night? Open your curtains to see his huge, unblinking eye staring into your bedroom – into your soul? *shudder*.

Have a good one folks. Just one more day of work (after this one, of course), and then football’s back. Rubbish international not-Arsenal football, but football nonetheless.

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