No Arsenal this weekend :: Football continues down a worrying path

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Good morning all, it’s a Saturday but a Saturday without Arsenal, so not really a good Saturday. A Saturday without Arsenal when Arsenal are going to be on Sunday is bearable, but an Arsenal-free Saturday when there’s no Arsenal until Monday is a different proposition altogether.

It is Laurel without Hardy; it’s a burger without a bun; it’s famed superhero the Silver Surfer without his surfboard, thus rendering him just a very muscular, shiny man who looks like he’s made out of some kind of shiny metal, but at least he won’t surf at full speed into the force field that keeps him trapped on earth.

Anyway, we’ll just have to get on with. Arsene Wenger, reportedly, wants to extend the contracts of Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey, but has again warned that players may well go into the final 12 months, or right to the end, of their contracts.

Speaking about two players, he says:

It is something we want to address. Both of them are in a good moment for us. But with the level of transfers and the amounts that players expect on their contracts, you will have more and more players going into the final year of their contracts. You will be in a position where you either extend for money you cannot afford or you go into the final year of their contract.

I can see why players would want to let their contracts run out. You can leave on a Bosman, that lovely signing-on fee extended over the course of your contract to give you a wage at the end of every week that is, perhaps, more substantial than the club could generally offer. You know, the way we did it with Sol Campbell, back in 2001 …

This is not a new thing. What’s new is the level of the transfer fee, the top end of the market has become ridiculously inflated and that has had a knock-on effect for every other deal you see. With increased fees come increased wages, and that’s definitely an issue. It feels like football is inflating its own bubble rather too quickly, but I don’t share the manager’s confidence when he says something will happen to address that:

Something will happen. For the first time, on the political front, the German prime minister has come out and, also, the president of Uefa has come out. I think, politically, something will happen in the next 12 months to regulate and limit the transfer amounts.

There was this idea called Financial Fair Play which was, in theory, a good one, but seeing as nobody could be arsed to implement and enforce it properly, we’ve got to a stage where countries own football clubs and countries pay transfer fees and the whole thing is ludicrous by any objective measure. Can it continue? You’d like to think not, but as with most things in life those with the most money get their way in the end, and there’s very little right-thinking people without that kind of money can do about it.

Especially when those tasked with the safe-guarding of the sport and running the game seem much more concerned with feathering their own nests, and moving in the circles of these billionaires and trillionaires and oil-rich nation states.

Every bubble has to burst at some point. It’s inevitable, but I don’t think football’s is going to burst any time soon. You read about the likes of Amazon and Facebook readying bids for the Premier League TV rights and your heart sinks a little. Of course the way people consume media has changed and will continue to change, so using those platforms makes a lot of sense from a technological point of view, but ultimately what does it mean for fans?

It means we have to pay more.

Sky’s monopoly on the Premier League rights was deemed unfair to consumers, so we got secondary players like Setanta and BT but all it meant was that we had to pay another subscription fee on top of what we were already paying. The idea that Amazon or Facebook might view football in any philanthropic way is crazy – these are profit hungry behemoths who will want to extract value from their presence in the market, whether that’s your money, your data and personal information, or all of the above (it will be all of the above, just to be clear).

The people that run the Premier League won’t care that they’re selling their rights to companies whose behaviour, in how they operate, treat staff, pay taxes (hahaha) is basically horrendous, because they’ll have done their job. And the clubs won’t care because they’ll get more money. And the companies won’t care because they’ll take their pound of flesh from fans who will be enthralled that they can stream their games on Facebook while Facebook mines every bit of information it can from them to sell to advertisers, and shady corporations who will use algorithms to influence people’s day to day lives for their own benefit – generally at the expense of the people themselves.

Man, this got a bit Dystopian or something, but one of the reasons I’ve always admired Arsene Wenger is his optimism and his belief that doing things the right way will ultimately be rewarded. Sadly, there has been little or no evidence that this is actually the case, and in the end the dark side tends to win out. Whether that’s cash rich oligarchs or corrupt officialdom or whatever.

In short, I think football is heading down a very dangerous path and at some point we’ll want to go back but there won’t be any way of doing that. We’ll be like the Silver Surfer, trapped in this world we have allowed be created because that’s just what happens. However, they’re counting on people not to lose interest, to not to be pushed too far, and that would be a very, very foolish thing to do because I do think we’re seeing signs of that already.

Finally, I’m curious as to whether or not we’ll see a lot of players going into the final 12 months of their contracts, or a lot of Arsenal players doing that.

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