Saturday, June 10, 2023

Agreement over new Saka contract + Govt paper on football

Morning. Some quick Friday waffle for you.

Let’s start with good news, because who doesn’t like a bit of good news to kickstart their day? Anyway, it’s being reported that Arsenal and Bukayo Saka have come to an agreement over a new long-term contract.

It is funny how the depth of football reporting these days means everything feels like it’s being done in stages. ‘Agreement in principle’ is obviously good progress but not a done deal yet. The thing is, this is always how it happened, it’s simply that the media landscape and how granular things are means this bit is public when in the past it might not have made it that far.

Which isn’t to complain, it’s just an observation. Objectively this is fantastic news, because we all know how good Bukayo Saka is at 21. How good he might be in a few years time is a very exciting prospect, and to have those years in red and white in North London is brilliant for the club.

Saka is a Hale End lad, he came through the Academy all the way to the first team, and has become one of our most important players. As such, you’d think it would be relatively simple to do the deal, but that kind of stature – at club and international level – makes it a bit more complicated. He’s in a strong position to benchmark his salary against the best in the Premier League because … well … he’s one of the best in the Premier League.

I’m sure the negotiations have been tough. This is the same agent who got Eddie Nketiah a big new deal after contributing for a much shorter time than Saka, but whatever we’re paying him, and however we’re structuring it, I’m not too worried. Consider the cost of finding a Saka replacement. How much would you have to pay? Then wages and signing on fees and agents fees on top of that? Ooof.

Here’s the thing though: there are very few players like him, and the ones that exist are out of our price range. We are absolutely blessed that a talent of this level emerged from our Academy. There isn’t a club in the world that wouldn’t want him in their team, and it now looks like his long-term future will be with us. That is something to celebrate.

As soon as it’s signed, of course!

Elsewhere, the British government yesterday published its paper which it calls a ‘Bold plan to protect long-term future of English football‘ – you can read it here.

This would give the game an independent regulator, as well as powers which include strengthening tests around ownership and directors; the ability to prevent clubs joining breakaway competitions like the Super League; and giving fans a greater say over big decisions regarding their clubs like stadiums, badges, name changes, kit colours and so on.

The FSA says:

We warmly welcome the historic commitment from the Government to introduce an independent regulator of English football.

The football governance white paper clearly addresses our key concerns around ownership, rogue competitions and sustainability and of course we support any proposals that offer fans a greater voice in the running of their clubs.

It is going to be fascinating to see how this pans out. There are clearly things in this to welcome, and it’s easy to forget the fury with which the whole Super League thing played out. Clubs and fans are intertwined in a way which clubs and owners rarely are, so giving the most important people more say or at least some protection has to be seen as positive.

Some of it feels a bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted though. There are already questionable owners, with more circling. Are these tests retroactive, or even ongoing? Because you might find a club seeking similar investment to a Newcastle or Man City and then being prevented in doing so, who then feel they’re being restricted when others had free reign. Which isn’t a defence of that kind of ownership, far from it, but you have to wonder what the implications might be from a legal standpoint.

If you read the Premier League’s statement in response to this, you don’t have to read too far between the lines to understand they would not be particularly welcoming to an independent regulator. Given its wealth and power, and the fact that the objections will come from club owners who will have spent billions in securing ‘their’ clubs, I don’t think this will be plain sailing.

They might make the case that they have invested in businesses, like many other outside investors, so why should they be singled out for special oversight? And look, I think greater scrutiny should be applied, not just to football but to all kinds of industry. Look at the shameless profiteering of energy companies while prices go up and people can’t afford to heat their homes. It’s scandalous, their profits should be taxed to kingdom come because their deleterious influence on society is off the charts, but that’s how the market works sadly.

I’m also slightly dubious that a government that has …how shall I put this? … not exactly demonstrated its ability or willingness to do the right thing on extremely important matters for a very long time, will make a success of something so niche. Maybe its easier to manage football than a health service, but if you can’t/won’t do the latter, why would anyone have any faith in you to do anything about something that’s basically entertainment?

Anyway, let’s see what happens. I think this could be a long road.

Right, let’s leave it there. Mikel Arteta will meet the press this morning, and we’ll have coverage of that – as well as the Europa League Round of 16 draw – over on Arseblog News throughout the day.

I’ll leave you with a new Arsecast, chatting to Simon Collings of the Evening Standard about Saka, Vieira, Smith Rowe, Europe, and lots more.

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