Sunday, September 25, 2022

Saturday round-up: Angry billionaires, Ramsdale, Inaki Williams

Morning. A quick Saturday round-up for you.

The Newcastle stuff rumbles on, as you would expect to be fair. When something this seismic happens, it doesn’t just go away in a few hours. Of course the true impact won’t be seen for some time, until they start spending all of that money, but right now there appears to be a bit of panic among other Premier League clubs.

The Guardian report that ‘The 19 other top-flight clubs are understood to be united in opposition to a Saudi-led consortium being allowed to buy out Mike Ashley and are demanding to know what changed for it to be waved through and why they received so little notice.’

You have to laugh really, don’t you? Can you imagine a meeting where Man City’s owners try to take the moral high ground, with Roman Abramovich giving them the ‘Go on my son!’ as support.

Stan and Josh Kroenke (net worth $8bn) sitting next to Aston Villa’s owners ($10bn), the Glazer family ($6bn), Fenway Sports who own Liverpool ($3bn) Wolves ($9bn), Everton ($3bn – but some access to Umsanov’s $17bn), with the billionaire owners of Southampton, Leicester and others, all tut-tutting about how they don’t approve of this kind of thing.

It’s pathetic.

Again, it’s not that I don’t understand why there would be objections to it, and that the whole issue appears to have been based around piracy of the Premier League’s TV coverage than any genuine concern about the potential owners makes me think that some wheels have been greased to make it happen. It’ll be a bit like Goodfellas, see whose wife turns up in a new fur coat. Nevertheless, it’s a bit rich coming from some of them. Especially as I bet there’s a significant portion who would present like a cat in heat if that same Saudi investment group had expressed interest in buying them.

Football has had so much time to put in place new structures, rules, and guidelines on ownership mechanisms, as well as financial mechanisms to at least try and make the sport more competitive, but it just followed the money the whole time. Then something comes along as a consequence of that and now there’s some outrage. Give me a break.

I suppose the bigger point is that it isn’t just football, is it? This is the way it goes and how money’s influence on society sees this kind of thing happen in business, finance, property and government. When you can get away with using a pandemic to line the pockets of your mates – to the tune of billions and billions of taxpayers money, tens of thousands of whom have died gasping for air – why would anyone think a football club is the thing to get angry about, or expect people who benefit from deals like this to do any different? But this is where we are.

It feels like we need a bit of antidote to all this stuff, so here are a couple of things I liked.

Aaron Ramsdale, speaking this week:

“My character is to be loud, be a leader and show passion. I also knew that I might have to shake things up in a positive way and my own way.”

I have no idea how his Arsenal career is going to go, but I have to say really like the way he’s come into this club – knowing there was huge scrutiny over the deal – and just connected with everyone. It’s rare that you see people online eat some humble pie and say ‘I was wrong’, but I’ve seen quite a bit of that with him. I really hope he continues to perform, and it’s nice to have a player whose personality and attitude makes him easy to get behind.

Also, this is a wonderful interview by Sid Lowe with Inaki Williams, the Athletic Bilbao striker who set a new La Liga record by making 203 appearances in a row. It’s an incredible record, and his is an incredible story, his parents risking so much to make their way to Spain:

I didn’t know they had crossed the desert by foot. I knew my dad had problems with the soles of his feet but not that it was because he had walked barefooted across the Sahara sand at 40, 50 degrees.

“They did part in a truck, one of those with the open back, 40 people packed in, then walked days. People fell, left along the way, people they buried. It’s dangerous: there are thieves waiting, rapes, suffering. Some are tricked into it. Traffickers get paid and then halfway say: ‘The journey ends here.’ Chuck you out, leave you with nothing: no water, no food. Kids, old people, women. People go not knowing what’s ahead, if they’ll make it. My mum said: ‘If I knew, I would have stayed.’ She was pregnant with me but didn’t know.

It’s well worth your time this morning, hopefully it’s the kind of story that opens peoples eyes. People don’t take that kind of risk to sponge off benefits in another country, they come because they are desperate for a better life – not even for themselves, as much as for their kids. What an inspiration.

I’ll leave it there for now. Have a good Saturday folks, and mind yourselves.

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