The End of Relegation?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record; foreign investment is slowly killing our beautiful game.
Yesterday there was a report on the good ol’ BBC (which you can read here) that mentioned that discussions were taking place between owners of British football clubs about the possibility of removing relegation and promotion from our domestic leagues. What we’re talking about here is the death of football as we know it. No more, no less.
The word on the street is that several of the foreign owners have mooted scrapping relegation as a possible means of protecting their investments here. Now, before I jump into a lengthy bitchfest, let’s get one thing straight; I (and a vast majority of football supporters across the country) couldn’t give the tiniest iota of a shit that a bunch of rich foreign blokes have invested money in our domestic game.
We’ve got one of, if not the, most exciting leagues on the planet. It’s not surprising that some wealthy investors have earmarked it as a potential place to throw some money around. You have to question the wisdom in investing in such a variable sport, but that’s the nature of the beast and that variation is what makes English Football top of the class.
I can’t see this dastardly plan ever coming to fruition. Relegation and promotion are the cornerstones of a division system that has stood the test of time and flourished. Imagining the sport without the competitive carrot of promotion is very hard to do. It would destroy the Championship and League’s One & Two in one fell swoop. Yes, they would continue, but in a much more limited capacity.
Though rather than just trash it as an idea, lets look at it properly for a minute.
For starters, how do we choose which teams get to be in the new Stagnant English Premier League. Is it a case of musical chairs? When the music stops do the teams in the top flight at that moment get to stay? If so that’s good news for Blackburn, Wigan, Norwich, West Brom and Swansea – but it sucks if you support Birmingham, West Ham, Leeds or, god forbid, either of the Sheffield teams.
So how about we have the teams with the highest average attendances? Surely they’re the teams that deserve to sit at football’s top table. That means in with Derby, West Ham, Southampton and Nottingham Forest and out with QPR, Wigan and Swansea. There’s even League One teams with better average attendances than QPR – so surely they shouldn’t be in the new look Zero Relegation EPL?
Ok, what about we go for the most successful clubs from English league history? Sure the usual suspects are still there, but so are Derby, Forest and Sheffield United at the expense of teams like Stoke, Wigan and QPR.
Let’s just presume that the teams currently in the top flight are the ones that would find themselves as permanent residents of the Premier League. Lucky you Wigan, lucky you Blackburn, lucky you Swansea. To the rest of you clubs, notably those from the Championship – you can fuck off. We’d like to thank you for your long and devoted contribution to the English game, but we’ve got some money from America, Russia, the Middle East and the Far East and, frankly, we don’t need you any more.
There’s a collection of quality football clubs that, if the changes were ever to take place, would never again taste the big time: Derby, Forest, both Sheffield teams, Leeds, Middlesborough, West Ham, Birmingham and Palace – all on the scrap heap, each an example of a bygone era when clubs would rise and fall based on individual merit.
So what happens next? Well, the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. We have the major leagues and the minor leagues; a system from which there is no escape. It doesn’t matter how well you play Leeds, you’re stuck where you are. It doesn’t matter if you continue to be perpetually shit, Wigan, you get to keep your seat at the top table.
What’s the big problem (I hear one or two of you calling from the back)? Who gives a shit about a load of old has-been clubs from the lower leagues? Well, I do and I bet so do plenty of other supporters. I seriously doubt that I’m the only one who considers it essential that relegation and promotion remain intact in the modern game. After all, what’s more exciting; the league title that is usually sewn up a week or more before the end of the season and is between two teams rolling in money, or a relegation scrap between five or six teams all fighting for the right to stay in the big time, the final outcome unknown until the end of the last game of the season?!
I’ve got a soft spot for Norwich City, so given the new system, right now they’d be sorted. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Norwich get relegated this year and next season they implement the proposed changes. What happens to Norwich now they’ve slipped back down to the second tier? An eternity of mediocrity, that’s what!
Suddenly there is nothing to play for, no possibility of Premier League football for supporters to hope and dream about and/or to angst over. Yes there is still a migration of players from small to big clubs, that will never stop, but the clubs themselves will never get the chance to compete at the top level again. Don’t worry, the players will be fine; the cream will always rise to the top. So who exactly is it that’s going to feel the effects of these potential changes most acutely? Well, the group that are going to get royally screwed if this nightmare becomes a reality are…… drum roll please….. yes you guessed it; the supporters.
Yes, working man – that means you. Once again you’re being exploited by a handful of billionaires, because you’ve got something that they want – loyalty to your club (or brand as they’d call it). A dozen or so rich individuals have graced the big boys with the presence of their extensive bank accounts and they’d like to say to you, the loyal supporter of the lower league team: fuckyou very much for everything, get your coat on your way out. Grew up in Middlesborough? Fuckyou very much, how about you leave us alone to make some more money. Been a loyal Derby supporter all your life? Fuckyou very much and enjoy the Minor Leagues. Love West Ham? That’s right…. Fuckyou very much and thanks for 1966.
Why the hell is this even being considered? Who’s bright idea is this? Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s coming from those rich bastards coming over here and throwing their cash around our favourite sport. You might have distracted some people with your fancy yachts and your opulent mansions but you can’t pull one over the eyes of this cheeky mofo. Nobody asked you to come here spend millions on OUR football clubs. You did, that’s fine, but don’t try and shift the goal posts know that you’ve got your grubby little mitts onto something that we Brits hold very close to our hearts; our football clubs. Let me repeat the sentiment spelled out earlier; nobody gives a shit about you or your money, so don’t think that having invested in OUR national game it gives you permission to change the things about the sport that don’t benefit you. If you didn’t like our best moves when we first met then why’d you get into bed with us? Could it be that you’re a bunch of greedy, money grabbing whores?! But I digress…..
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely naive. I realise that the foreign investors have brought some good things to the game: The overall quality of teams from all divisions has improved quite a bit, the Premier League is now a global brand with fans across the planet and they’ve added a dash of glamour to proceedings. But, as contributions go, are they enough to justify the wholesale changes being talked about at the moment?
I know these are just preliminary discussions, but the fact that they’re even happening should be worrying enough. I would like to think that the FA has big enough balls to stand up to this potential initiative (though I wouldn’t bet on it). Even if they do, they’re going to need our support to make sure that this never happens. We’re a pubic hair away from completely selling out everything that has made English football the most watched domestic league on the planet? Why? For no better reason than to protect the investments of a few rich wankers who signed up to the format willingly.
If you don’t like the way we run things over here, then don’t spend your money on our game. It really is that simple.

Arsenal : Drowning in Oil Money

Manchester City have thrown an incredible amount of money around in the last couple of years. Even when Thaksin Shinawatra was at the helm of the club, they managed to spunk quite a bit, with Sven Goran Eriksson doing what he does best; spending other people’s money. Mark Hughes was in place when the big money arrived in 2009 (in the guise of mega-rich Sheikh Mansour of the United Arab Emirates) and wasted no time whatsoever in splashing the cash.
The club that has received the largest share of this Arab wonga has been Arsenal. Through a combination of acquiescence and pressure, Arsenal have sold Manchester City a selection of their finest players.
As with all newly super-rich clubs, there is a defined recruitment process that City needed to follow as they tried to establish themselves as a force. The first stage was to recruit players capable of challenging in the league. Mark Hughes built on the work of Sven and recruited capable players such as Santa Cruz, Given, Bellamy, and perennial wage chaser Wayne Bridge. He was also able to sign luxury items such as the cry baby Robinho, the incredible sulk Carlos Tevez and everyones favourite king-fu fighter Nigel De Jong.
Adebayor and Kolo Toure were the first to go up to Manchester from Arsenal and were part of that initial recruitment wave. Nobody at Arsenal gave a monkeys chuff that Adebayor left. As soon as he started likening AC Milan to a beautiful woman (Beyonce, I seem to remember) the Gooners faithful lost interest in him. From that point on it was to prove a rocky relationship between player and supporters (that culminated in the disgraceful chants by Arsenal away fans at White Hart Lane last weekend).
Kolo Toure, on the other hand, was sorely missed. Nobody could work out why Kolo had to go, as he was a firm fans favourite. The reason for his departure had something to do with a personality clash with William Gallas, a fact that mystified supporters when Gallas was allowed to leave for nothing after running his contract down not long after. What made the whole scenario all the more confusing was that nobody really liked the mardy French twat in the first place – sure, Gallas is a quality player, but he’s also a giant numpty.
The second stage of recruitment was to supplement the initial signings with players of increasing stature and quality, until they are purchasing players who can be really considered top class. Chelsea bought Drogba, Essien and Cech (and later Mata and Torres), Manchester City have bought Dzeko, Yaya Toure, Silva and Aguero.
More recently Arsenal have had two of their French internationals leave the fold in search of pastures light-blue (as part of this second wave). Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri both left the club in recent months. Amusingly, Clichy was previously quoted as saying “I really believe if you are a player who thinks only about money then you could end up at Manchester City” back in 2009. In fairness to him, that was then and this is now. Word on the street is that Kolo was his best friend at Arsenal and Manchester City are an altogether more exciting prospect than they were two years ago.
Samir Nasri was a much more frustrating transfer. Arsenal supporters had taken him into their hearts and had supported him through some indifferent form early on in his Arsenal career. Finally, the boy had come good, and when Cesc left it seemed as if it was Nasri who would fill the hole left by the Spaniard. But no, Nasri had other ideas. He took the paychecks when it suited him and left when it suited him. Whilst it’s true that Arsenal didn’t have to sell him, there was significant pressure from the board, the player, and largely via the media, Manchester City. Poor old Arsene Wenger was left pissing in the wind after repeatedly stating his determination to keep the player, only to have the club undermine his wishes and cash in on the French international.
All these transfers are what they are, which is a combination of two things. The first factor is obviously money. Manchester City are able to offer significantly more money than their North London rivals. Considering the falling value of the pound and massive tax rates that the players have to pay, its safe to say that these same players could earn a lot more overseas than they do at Arsenal, but it’s testament to the quality of our league that they want to stay in it. There are only a couple of clubs who can currently match the top continental wages and City are one of those clubs. The second factor is sporting ambition. Two years ago, when Adebayor and co made their way to the (yet to be renamed) Etihad Stadium, the ambition was there for all to see, they were just a few years away from realising it. Now it’s a different matter. Think what you want about them (and believe me – I think they’re just about the most immoral club in football and that along with Chelsea, they’re ruining the sport and making it a complete joke) but they’re here to stay and from now on, they’re going to have a massive say in who wins the cups, the Premier League and the Champions League.
So, with the history briefly explained and all the relevant factors taken into account, it will come as no surprise to hear that the latest Arsenal player to be talked about in the same breath as Manchester City is Robin Van Persie. If I was a betting man I’d say that Theo Walcott is a gnat’s pube behind the same level of concerted rumour mongering. But that’s just speculation on my part.
A 30 million bid for the Dutch international has been mooted as a possibility in January. What is perhaps most concerning for the Gunners is Van P’s recent admission that he doesn’t know where his long term future is BUT he wants to stay in the Premier League. That looks like a very carefully worded green light for City, if you ask me. Whilst it would be a surprise to see Van Persie turn his back on the club that nurtured his prodigious talent, would it really be all that shocking?
Arsenal have, in many respects, done most of this to themselves. By using City as a convenient place to offload their players for high financial returns, they have strengthened a rival considerably at the same time as weakening themselves. Yes, they might be a bit closer to paying off that mortgage, but at what cost to their sporting ambitions in the short-term?
On the other side of the argument, there is something happening to the English game that affects all clubs, not just Arsenal. Manchester City are not breaking new ground, they are merely following the path laid down for them by Chelsea. The West London clubs introduction in the title battle has effectively run Arsenal to ground. Sure, the Gunners have come close in recent years, as have Liverpool, but the only clubs to have actually won the league since Chelsea became major players are Chelsea and Manchester United. Happily (and I never thought I’d say that) Man Utd have resisted admirably and have repeatedly beaten Chelsea on the pitch and in terms of points. But can they continue to prosper in a league with two financial superpowers instead of one, and especially when these clubs can spend with a sense of abandon? My worry is that they can’t, not forever, and with the possible demise of their ability to win titles, over the next two or three seasons we could potentially see a league contested only by City and Chelsea.
Is that a massive problem? I think it is. In my opinion we’re in the midst of the darkest days of the Premier League. Sure, our domestic league is full to bursting with great players and a variety of different teams with different styles, the games are end to end and we’re never far away from a classic match. But at what cost? I think we’re letting the integrity of our domestic game slip away under the strain of foreign investment. Russians, Americans, Arabs and investors from all corners of the planet are flocking to the Premiership to bask in its prestige, but in allowing these billionaires into our sport are we not relinquishing control over something that should remain quintessentially British? It feels like these foreign investors are having a great big game of who’s got the biggest shlong and we, the paying supporters of our respective clubs, are (in the main) having to foot the bill both financially and (more importantly) emotionally.
If the reports are true and Manchester City offer Arsenal 30 million for Van Persie then chances are they are going to accept. It’s sad but true, but Arsenal have always been a selling club. Van P looks like he wants to leave (if the quotes attributed to him are true) and the lure of playing in a competitive team whilst being very well paid may be too much for him to turn down. After all, a player only has a finite amount of time to find success and after that it’s retirement. Who can blame the top players for wanting to go to the clubs who are going to compete, and why should they give a shit where their wages come from?
Perhaps the saddest truth is that with the former Gunners mentioned in this article, Arsenal would be ideally placed to challenge for all major honors (much more so than they are currently capable of doing). Manchester City have rolled into to town, flung some money around, turned some heads and are now using their new found strength to try and tip the scales of power. What is most frustrating is that we knew this would happen, we’ve already seen the same thing at Stamford Bridge, and yet the FA, UEFA and FIFA have done nothing to stop it. Yes, we’ve got Financial Fair Play in the pipeline, but having watched City flaunt it with their £350 million pound joke of a stadium endorsement fund, we all know there are going to be ways around it.
So where does this leave us? Well, if you support City or Chelsea then I imagine things are looking pretty rosy right about now. For supporters of all other clubs the writing is on the wall for all to see. These middling uber-rich clubs are willing and able to not only pay whatever it takes to recruit the players they want, but to also massively inflate the market and make it impossible for other clubs to compete. Remember the days when £100,000.00 a week was a massive wage? There are City players on more than twice that now and the rise in prices don’t look like slowing down. Normal clubs, grown organically on gate receipts, sponsorship and television rights are becoming a relic in our new modern game and this developing trend shows no sign of abating. This may have something to do with the fact that the men who are capable of making the changes needed are amongst those getting rich off of the current regime – but that’s a story for a different day.
Arsenal are the poster boys for ‘how to run your club properly’. They play within the rules, they do things the right way and they try and compete whilst living within their own means. Sadly, they are also the clearest example of how a properly run club can be dismantled by their big-spending fantasy-football inspired rivals using nothing but big fat wads of oil money and a bit of media assisted tapping-up. Whether or not Arsenal have done much of the damage themselves is irrelevant, it is still happening. One of the best run clubs in football, the benchmark that UEFA is holding up for it’s FFP initiative, is having it’s assets picked off by wealthier clubs funded by private investors. Other clubs will see this happening and will wonder whats the point of doing things by the book if, at the end of the day, it’s pointless and clubs like Chelsea, City and Real Madrid just trample over their hard work. The authorities need to start protecting the clubs that try and do business properly, because if something isn’t done to change the path that we’re currently on then we risk losing the most important thing we have in football; the excitement of genuine, honest competition. And once that’s gone, who’s going to give a shit? I know I wont.

Another excruciatingly predictable weekend of football.

What an exciting weekend of Premiership games. Though not too many surprises.
This Saturday I was at a proper football match, watching Bromley scrape past their neighbours Welling into the next qualifying round of the FA cup. For the record; it was two pens and red card that made the difference for the home team. It was nice to get back to basics and watch a proper game of football.
Right, enough of that, lets go back to the big league and talk about what went on at the top, and more importantly, what we learned about the teams playing there.
Aston Villa 2 – 0 Wigan
Well, I think it’s fair to say that Villa are a better team than Wigan. No surprises with the result then. It’s good for England that Bent and Agbonlahor scored. I think (what I always think) that Wigan are going to struggle this season and their survival hopes rest entirely on the quality of the promoted teams. This year might be the year that the perennial over achievers actually do us all a favour and piss off back to a league that they belong in, a league where it matters not that your pitch has huge holes in it and that only ten thousand people bother coming to your home games.
Blackburn 0 – 4 Man City
Man City are, unsurprisingly, still looking awesome. They’ve got such a fantastic array of talent at the club that its difficult not to see them finishing top three. Don’t get me wrong, I still think that off the field they’re a bunch of money-grabbing whores and that they (along with Chelsea) are ruining football, but they’ve got some seriously class players and a good manager in Roberto Mankini. Blackburn are in trouble. Big Trouble. Relegation beckons. Next.
Bolton 1 – 5 Chelsea
Now I didn’t see this one coming to be honest. Not the result, that can always happen against Chelski. Nor the resurgence of the big spending Russian billionaires fantasy football team either, but the collapse of Owen Coyle’s Bolton. I just didn’t see it, I thought they looked good for a mid-table finish and another comfortable season. That’s not how it’s turning out though. Bolton look a mess; perhaps more so than any other team in the Prem. Sure they’ve had some tough games but they’re shipping goals galore and not scoring many, and we all know what that means in the Premier League. Coyle better sort it out soon or he’ll be getting his P45. Chelski on the other hand have turned a corner. They look like real contenders. I fully expect them to be the filling in an end-of-season Manchester sandwich.
Everton 0 – 2 Liverpool
When a Liverpool fan told me that Everton were robbed by the ref then I knew that it must be true. Once again another football match has been ruined by an inept referee. Liverpool are still looking good for 4th place (for my money) and Everton will still finish in the top half. That’s about when this one stops being interesting.
Fulham 6 – 0 QPR
I thought that Fulham were going to struggle this season, but maybe Martin Jol is going to prove me wrong. QPR, on the other hand, will struggle – of that I have no doubt. Though I think they’ll just stay up, it’s going to be tight tight tight. What a goal fest this game was (that’s 5 in 2 for Johnson), lovely stuff.
Man Utd 2 – 0 Norwich
Norwich got the praise for pushing the Mancs hard. It’s good that the Canaries are playing well, they’ll need to if they want to stay up. Don’t think we learned anything from this game; Man Utd are a great shout for the title and Norwich will give anyone a good game, but will often come up short.
Sunderland 2 – 2 West Brom
Bendtner scored for the Black Cats. He will prove an excellent signing I reckon. He was always played horribly out of position at Arsenal and with a good run in a team that plays to his strengths (which Sunderland do) I think he’ll score plenty of goals. Anyway, a score draw between two excellent candidates for 14th and 15th come May. Yawn.
Swansea 2 – 0 Stoke
Proof that a footballing team can beat the formidable Stoke City. It speaks volumes that Pulis and his team are no longer talked about as relegation candidates. Though they’ll have to do better than they are if they want to be serious challengers at the business end of the league. Swansea are also looking like a surprise package and might just stay up. Might.
Tottenham 2 – 1 Arsenal
This was quite a lackluster game. Arsenal proved they don’t have the heart to challenge for the title this season. They’ve got technical skills coming out of their bum-holes, but they just don’t look like they’ve got the minerals anymore. Tottenham didn’t look much better to be honest. Their first was a handball and the second should’ve been saved. Perhaps the most interesting thing that happened was at the end when Wenger refused to shake Clive Allen’s hand after the game (earlier this year Allen shoulder barged Wenger, and like an elephant Wenger didn’t forget). Rather amusingly Allen decided to stroll down from the high-ground he briefly inhabited and retorted to Wenger that he was a see you next tuesday. Classy.
Wolves 1 – 2 Newcastle
It’s only a matter of time before Newcastle come back to earth. Obviously that time is not here yet and fair play to them. They’re not as good as their position suggests and it wont be long before they’re back in mid-table where they belong, but who can begrudge them a taste of days gone by when they would finish near the top as a matter of routine. Expect another survival by the skin of their balls season for Wolves.
So, to sum up: Nothing unexpected happened. Nothing was confirmed that we didn’t already know. The Manchester teams are favourites. Chelsea look like the only viable challengers. Liverpool are, in my opinion, most likely to finish fourth. Arsenal don’t have the stones to win the league and Tottenham aren’t as good as they think they are and wouldn’t have won today were in not for a handball. At the other end of the table; none of the promoted teams look certainties to go down. Once again, it might be more interesting watching the drop than watching the top.
Right, that’s your lot. Now piss off.

Carlos Tevez – I’m a spoilt footballer, get me out of Manchester.

‘Carlos, we need you. We’re two goals down to a quality Bayern Munich team. Get on there and bag us a goal or two. Help us rescue the match’ Is close to something that Mancini might have said to Carlos Tevez last night.
‘I don’t want’ Tevez might have replied, throwing his hypothetical toys out of his hypothetical pram.
‘I don’t care Carlos, get your shirt on, you’re playing’ Mancini didn’t say.
‘No. I’m not playing’ Tevez said, eyes glowing red with fury.
‘I’m not asking Carlos. I’m the manager, your the player. You do the math.’ Said Mancini, possibly crying.
‘But I don’t wanna. And when Carlos doesn’t wanna do something, Carlos doesn’t do it’ You know a footballer means business when he starts talking about himself in the third person. With that last line, Mancini shuddered; he knew his mind was made up. Carlos Tevez wasn’t going to play football for Manchester City tonight.
Given that Carlos Tevez had problems settling into life at Manchester United, you have to wonder what part of that numbskulls brain thought it would be a good idea to move across town and sign for their wealthy neighbours, Manchester City. It’s still Manchester, Carlos. It still rains lots, Carlos. It’s still not Spain/Italy/Argentina/Brazil, Carlos.
Everyones favourite grizzly-necked Einstein picked moving across the city for reasons unknown. Actually, I’m going to stick my neck out on this one and speculate that he went for the £250,000.00 a week wages. So now we’ve established he’s greedy and thick.
And you can add to that list of admirable personality traits; petulant. Apparently the cheeky little twat has decided that he is to good to come on and play from the bench. He’s better than that. He’s a starter. Hmmmmmm.
Whilst I have to agree with him that he is too good to be a sub, it’s his bed and he made it, and so I have no sympathy for him. He’s signed for the hated neighbours of his team for nothing but money. He stayed in Manchester despite his family hating the area and wanting him to play elsewhere. He has constantly tried to engineer a move away from the Etihad Stadium.
The problem that Carlos ‘the brain’ Tevez has come across is that he’s now in a position that not many superstar players find themselves in; his club is too rich to give a shit what he wants.
Manchester City are almost better off making an example of him for current players and other prospective new signings: No matter how big your ego is, nothing is more important than the team. Usually a club, no matter how big, would have to bend to the wishes of a professional player who earns around a million pounds a month, such is his worth and cost. However, one thing that City have in abundance is wealth and they could quite easily absorb the cost of Tevez’s disrespectful behavior into their bottomless pit of oil money.
Since the incident in last nights Champions League game, Tevez has moved to calm matters by suggesting that it is all a ‘misunderstanding’. Not sure that shit’ll stick, Carlos. I think you might have just screwed yourself in an uncomfortable place. I think everybody is right behind Mancini and his decision that Tevez should never play for him again.
I hope Tevez gets chucked in the reserves for the rest of the season. He deserves the indignity of slumming it with youth players. Then I hope City flog him either in January or in the Summer. Either way, I hope they get shot of the little scrote. It’s players like him that are ruining the game. Out of one side of their mouths they preach hard work and integrity, out of the other all we can hear are the words ‘me me me me me me me me’.
So…. Carlos, we’ve all had a chat and we’ve decided it’s about time that you took your arrogant, holier-than-thou, money-grabbing attitude and fucked off. Have a nice career Carlos, you scumbag.

Decision time at the Emirates

It’s time to make a decision at Arsenal. With financial fair play looming on the horizon, the financial playing field that clubs have to play on looks to be leveling out – no longer will smaller, wealthier clubs be able punch well above their weight. Gooners everywhere will breath a sigh of relief. For them, it can’t come too soon. However, it is going to take a little while longer before it makes the impact that Arsenal need it to.
In the mean time Arsene Wenger is staring at the possibility of losing the latest crop of his established stars. Van Persie, Arshavin, Vermaelen, Djourou and Walcott are all now two years off the end of their contracts and the club will be looking to secure them on long-term deals in the very near future. 
Without the long-term contracts, Arsenal will find it hard to fight off offers for their best players next summer. Before the introduction of financial regulation, wealthy clubs will use this last opportunity to pay inflated prices to try and prize the key assets away from other teams. The vultures are already circling the Emirates and the rumours have already started as to who and when. 
So Arsenal have a choice. They can, just this once, break the bank and secure their best players on lucrative, long-term contracts. Or they can sell them and invest this money in youthful replacements and debt management. 
What is most painful for Arsenal fans is knowing that their two majority shareholders are both billionaires. Whilst it looks as though Usmanov (one of the richest men in the world) would happily invest some serious money into the club, majority shareholder Stan Kroenke seems much more interested in seeing a regular profit sliding into the bank.
The danger is that if Arsenal become less competitive on the field, they become significantly less competitive off it. Maybe now is the time that Arsenal takes a step away from the moral high ground, spunks some cash and in doing so, protects its short-term future. The long-term seems to be reasonably assured thanks to the strategy in place at the club, but could sticking to their guns leave Arsenal vulnerable because of financial markets outside of their control?
It’s a tricky dilemma for Arsenal and its supporters. Every fan that I know is incredibly proud of the way that the club is run. It is good to know that the team they support has been built organically. Yes, there are a few dissenters calling for private investment, but by and large they are a small (but vocal) minority. The main problem for many supporters is frustration; they pay the highest prices in the league to see their team play, but they don’t see the same level of investment made on players that the other teams make. This is largely due to debt attached to the new stadium, which many fans seem to have forgotten is still being paid off. Still, it’s undoubtedly frustrating for everyone. 
So what are the possible solutions and outcomes?
1.Arsenal carry on as they are, lose a few players and bring a few new faces in. They stay in or around the top four, financial fair play kicks in, they become more stable and as the stadium is paid off, they are able to offer amongst the highest wages on the planet, attracting quality players and future success.   
2.The club invests money now and pay their established players the wages needed to keep them. They invest heavily in new players such as M’Vila, Hazard and Benzema and continue to be competitive domestically and on the continent. 
3. Kroenke stubbornly refuses to step up and take some responsibility for his team. They don’t respond to the financial market and in doing so they drop away from the top of the league.  They can’t compete financially and lose all their best players and so don’t stay competitive. The loss of additional revenues slows the mortgage repayment and it takes Arsenal many years before they are stable enough to challenge again.
There are many more permutations and possibilities. These are the big three. Carry on as is and succeed, increase short-term investment and succeed or fail to respond to the market and in doing so set the club back as many as five to ten years. 
What makes this such a horrible predicament is the choices that it presents. Does Arsenal abandon its principles – the very principles that make it the envy of every responsibly run club in the world – and throw cash at their problems? Or do they stick to their guns and hope? 
This supporter would like to think that they can weather the storm and turn things around before it gets too bad. Arsenal are a great club and given their ethical approach to the financial side of the game, they should be applauded. FIFA and UEFA should be doing more to make sure that clubs that stick to budget are rewarded on the field. The current suggestion is that UEFA will ban overspending clubs from playing Champions League football. We can’t expect the big clubs to take expulsion from European competition laying down, they’ll just form a new ‘super’ league, fracturing the sport beyond repair. Financial penalties for irresponsible clubs are never going to work; I think points deductions for serious offenders are the only way it’s ever going to change the game. 
Arsenal has some decisions to make. Do they stick or twist? Do they stand by their principles or move with the times? One thing is for sure, the next season is going crucial for the Gunners. Even if they don’t win a trophy, they’ve still got to keep moving the club forward, because without momentum they might just go off the rails. 

Manchester United: Class on the pitch. Shame in the stands.

Manchester United fans are getting a bad reputation.
Not only do the rest of us have to listen to them being insufferably smug because their team is awesome and has won yet another competition, but we have to put up with the fact that most of them are balls-out glory hunters from Berkshire or Shropshire or wherever- the-fuckshire.
They’re not the only ones who have bad attitudes though. Arsenal supporters are widely disliked for being elitist. Liverpool fans can be amongst the most nauseating because of their feeling of entitlement. Tottenham fans are definitely the most deluded. Stoke supporters don’t seem to mind rotational fouling/cheating. Chelsea and Man City fans frustratingly don’t seem to find it objectionable that their teams are corrupt and immoral. The list goes on and I could point out something negative about every single club and their faithful.
All fans enjoy a bit of banter. All fans can be a bunch of morons. All fans can be unforgiving and disrespectful. It’s part of the game after all. We pick our corner and we fight it to the end. Sometimes it leads us up an alley from which there is no turning back: I don’t expect Chelski fans to renounce Abramovich, nor do I expect Tottenham fans to give up hope when they’re always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
The banter, the frank exchanges between supporters is the corner stone of the sport. It provides colour to the game. It gives us something to invest in, to believe in, to revel in. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But there has to be a line.
Earlier this month, a small section of the Manchester United faithful took to the internet and tried to incite violence between their neighbors Manchester City and Napoli during their first Champions League game. They did this by posing as City fans and going on the Napoli forums and trying to pick fights. I don’t think there are many people who would call this acceptable behavior. Click here to see my article about it. To sum up my thoughts on the matter; secretly trying to cause violence against your local rivals, regardless of the acrimonious history, is disgusting and immoral and needs to be met with the full force of the law.
Sadly, it seems that lightening has struck twice. This time United fans decided it would
acceptable to take with them to Elland Road, home of their fierce rivals Leeds, a banner reminding them of the time in Istanbul where two of their supporters were killed. What kind of c u next tuesday thinks that this is fine? Even against one of your old enemies, to revel in the murder of two of their supporters is morally reprehensible behavior.
Let me get one thing straight; all the United fans I know are decent people (smug, but decent). It‘s a tiny minority who are doing the damage to the reputation of the main body of support. But why is it constantly the following of the same club that are having such serious behavioral problems?
I don’t have any answers to this one. What I can tell you is that United fans have much to be proud of, but today (and recently) they should be pretty ashamed. These kind of actions  have no place in the modern game and we need to make examples of these giant f*£kwits so it doesn’t keep happening.

PS. Having spoken with some United fans today I would like to add that Leeds supporters were themselves taunting the away end with chants about the Munich air disaster. Mocking such a incident is shameless behavior, and it apparently it happens all the time. Needless to say I was a bit surprised. There really are some massive bastards out there.  

A win, a win, a four place drop and the striker England forgot.

Engerland just got demoted by those statistical boffins at FIFA to the 8th best team in the world. The shock. The horror. Presumably our national pride will never recover from this insult.
Engerland were, up until recently, ranked the number four footballing country in the solar system. However, I think that even the most optimistic supporter would recognise that this new ranking is a more accurate reflection of our footballing talents. We’re not the best, but we’re a long, long way off of being the worst (much further away than say…. Wales, who themselves, in 90th place, are nestled comfortably between the footballing powerhouses of New Zealand and the Cape Verde Islands).
That’s a four place drop despite winning both of our games since the last rank update.
Much has been written recently about the national team; the manager, the players, the commitment, the pitch at Wembley. It is my goal to consider all of this, ignore it completely, and blither on about something completely different for two hundred or so more words.
I want to talk about Michael Owen. His brace against Dirty Leeds last night reminded me that he’s still alive.
I miss his youthful face in the white of England. Am I the only one? I remember him scoring goals for fun for the Three Lions. Where did it all go wrong for him? Is it Capello, harboring a grudge from the time that Mickey ‘the joker’ Owen stuck a whoopee cushion under his seat on the coach? Is it to do with old Mike ‘the crocked’ Owen’s regular injury problems? Or could it be the lack of game time that Michael ‘the benchwarmer’ Owen gets at Man Utd?
I find it hard to believe that a man who has played for Liverpool, Real Madrid, (ahem Newahemcastle ahem) and Manchester United can’t get into the Engerland team when fit. Now I’m not leading the Owen to Start campaign, I’m not a frickin‘ idiot, but surely there is a place for him with the squad. The man could be an excellent impact sub – if given the chance.
I realise that I’ve already listed some really good reasons not to pick Owen, but I honestly think that he should be in the mix because his international goal scoring record speaks for itself. The man knows there the back of the net is. When he’s fit and he gets games for United, he nearly always scores.
Walcott has the potential to be a starter for Engerland, but he needs to start upfront for Arsenal first. As for the rest; Carroll is ok, Defoe is ok, Crouch is ok-ish, Heskey used to be ok, Agbonlahor has moments of quality and moments of looking like Bambi on ice. In my opinion there is no clear choice on who should partner everyones favourite hair-grafting striker – El Rooneyo.
It is this cheeky hack’s opinion that Michael ‘insert nickname here’ Owen should be, at the very least, in the England squad. He scores goals, he’s dealt with the pressure before and not been found wanting and he scored that goal against Argentina.
Sadly, I can’t ever see him pulling on the famous white jersey again. For Owen to get picked he’d have to play more regularly for the Red Mancs and Capello would have to have a serious change of heart. I can’t see that happening, can you?!

What the hell happened to football?

Football is broken. It’s turning into a joke. I for one am starting to get disillusioned with the sport because it has become so detached from its roots. It used to be a rough and tumble game, played by real men in front of working class crowds who loved the banter, the excitement and the escapism. Now its a millionaires hobby, filled the brim with corrupt money-grabbing whores with nothing but self-interest at heart. I’m not calling for a return to the old days, when players would roll around in mud and kick the shit out of each other, but we need to bring some integrity back to the game – before it disappears up its own arse in a wave of self-congratulatory money-hording back-slapping corruption.
Firstly, if it were up to me, I’d give every member country of FIFA an equal say in decisions. No more of this elitist ‘big country’ crap. If you’re eligible to play in the tournaments and qualifiers and prepared to take your lickings on the field (San Marino, Liechtenstein etc etc), then you should get a vote. No more of this disgusting FIFA ‘decision’ making, where a couple of fat cats, stuffed to bursting point on the money of honest supporters, make decisions that only further line their pockets. It needs to stop. With a redistribution of power we’d see an end to the bribery that is so common in football’s governing bodies – it’d mean no more oil-rich countries buying themselves prestigious international tournaments.
Next I’d turn the headquarters of FIFA into a copy of the Galactic Senate in Starwars. I’d give each of the delegates one of those hovering platforms and they’d all sit around and talk about football every day. No particular reason, I just think it’d look cool.
My next step would be to introduce video refs in all of the top domestic divisions and in all internationals. The haphazard approach to refereeing that we currently have is just not good enough. Lampard’s ‘goal’ against Germany, Henry’s basketball moves against Ireland; I could go on and on and on with this one, this list is comprehensive. The captain of each team would have three chances to call on the ref, and the ref could go to the video as often as he (or she) liked.
Next I’d ban all communication with the ref from players who aren’t captaining their team. You speak to the ref without being talked to first; you’re off. I guarantee that it would take two or three weeks and a couple of 8 v 8 games and then all the problems that we currently have with hassling the ref, gamesmanship, intimidation and harassment; all gone. It does my nut watching grown men, alleged role-models, spitting their dummies every five minutes and acting like spoilt brats (which they are – but that’s a different matter).
Scrap the new offside rule. It’s a confusing pile of wank.
Wage caps need to be introduced. I’m not suggesting that players shouldn’t be handsomely paid, but it’s not fair on supporters of teams like Tottenham or Stoke that other similarly sized teams (like Manchester City and Chelsea) can just blow them out of the water when it comes to offering wages. I’m not suggesting some communistic approach where everybody gets the same, there should be bands that players fall within – Ronaldo and Fabregas need to be paid more than Rory Delap, for example. But it’s not fair when an average sized club like City can offer players/mercenaries like Nasri triple the wages of a bigger club like Arsenal. It creates a false economy and the people who end up paying the difference are the supporters. Besides, the best players will get more money from their sponsorship deals anyway.
There needs to be a more even distribution of television money. Barcelona and Real Madrid currently hold a monopoly over broadcast rights in Spain. It is not conducive to fairness. The Premier League is pretty good at its financial distribution, but this needs to replicated across Europe. All teams should benefit from the sports popularity, not just the elite.
All football agents need to be taken out back and beaten to within an inch of their lives, just for being money grabbing scum. There is no way that so much of supporters money should be lining the pockets of middlemen.
Clubs shouldn’t be allowed to live above their means. Ever. It just ain’t fair. Is it right the supporters of Bolton or Norwich will never get to enjoy the thrill of their club being in the Champions League, just because some diminutive Russian/American/Arab billionaire/swindler/prince has decided he wants a vanity project? How has it come to pass that we’ve let these super-rich individuals trample over our clubs and our dreams? You spend what you make, the end.
It seems to me that football is, without a doubt, the best game on the planet. You put 22 men on a field (who know what they’re doing) and you’re going to be entertained. When played at the highest level it can, at times, be a joy to behold. The honest competition, the banter, the song-singing, the spending all week waiting for Saturday to come – these are the trimmings that, along with the game itself, make football the most exciting and entertaining spectacle in world sport. Surely we owe it to ourselves to make sure that it’s run with integrity, honesty and in the spirit of fairness.
I’m getting disillusioned with football. I know the rules, I recognise the players, but there is something not-quite-right going on at the moment. We’ve let a few entrepreneurs and a handful of flash-monkeys transform it into something grotesque, something unrecognisable. What happened to my football? I want it back please.

When is a penalty not a penalty?

In the debacle that I just witnessed, poor old Arsenal were robbed. If that injury-time ‘tackle’ by Robinson on Walcott had happened anywhere else on the pitch, it’s a free kick. But why not a penalty? Because he had his hands down? Do me a favour. 
Officials have conspired to consign Arsenal to their third defeat of the season. Frankly, this shoddy officiating is becoming a joke. Arsenal were the better team today and any neutral would agree with me – the stats don’t lie. A clearly offside goal and a fortuitous own goal by Song made the difference in a game that the Gunners really should’ve won.
These freak events sometimes happen, and you can’t legislate for them. But today, right at the death, Arsenal should have had a reprieve. Robinson comes charging out, Walcott squeezes his shot off, Walcott is sent crashing to the ground. Apparently a late tackle isn’t a foul when it’s in the box.
Rewind a few weeks to the Newcastle game. Barton assaults Gervinho by yanking him up off the ground by his throat. A foul. In the box no less. The referee has to stop play. But do Arsenal get a penalty and does Barton get a red for his violent play? No, Gervinho gets a red for pawing at Barton, who in turn gets a yellow.
These are two incidents in recent games that have shaped Arsenal’s season so far. Even forgetting the offside goal scored by Blackburn during a crucial passage of the game, the Gunners should’ve got at least a point today. If you were to add three or five points to their tally then things wouldn’t look so bad for Wenger and his men.
There will be inevitable calls from disgruntled Gooners, screaming for Wenger to be sacked. I don’t concur with them though. He’s just not getting the rub of the green at the moment. Hardly a sackable offence.
The problem for me is with the linesmen and the referees. Nowadays, all to often, refs and their officials are affecting results. These officials are supposed to be watching over games, not deciding them. Every season the sport gets faster and faster, and refs can’t keep up. Unless they’re given help they are going to keep making massive mistakes, then the wrong teams are going to keep getting results they don’t deserve.
Last season, in an independent study, it was shown just how much inept decision making cost certain teams. Have a look here to see just how different the league would have looked if referees didn’t make costly mistakes.
Even with video help and a fourth referee, you are never going to erase human error from the game. But in this day and age, with so much riding on results, how can the greatest, most popular sport on the planet still be living in the dark ages when it comes to officiation.
I’m getting bored of it now; bored because more and more often results are being unfairly handed out. How are we, as supporters, supposed to maintain our enthusiasm for a sport that is not only corrupt, but deeply unfair?

Platini behind bars!

The president of Swiss club FC Sion, gob-shite Christian Constantin, wants to throw Michel Platini into jail. That’s just about the funniest thing I’ve ever read. It’s never happening, not a million months of Sundays, but it’s still brilliant that someone is calling for some accountability in the sport. It’s just a proper shame that the man doing the calling is guilty of tapping up players and ignoring UEFA and FIFA directives, but you can’t have everything can you?!
FC Sion tapped up Egypt goalkeeper El-Hadary. They were duly reported to FIFA, who in turn placed a transfer embargo on the club. This next bit is priceless…. FC Sion completely ignored the transfer ban imposed on them by the footballing authorities and carried on signing players.
Some of their shiny new players featured in the Europa League play-off game against Celtic, which the Swiss team went on to win 3-1. UEFA then ruled that they could not play in Europe (because of their flagrant disregard to the transfer ban) and that Celtic would take their place.
Not one to take a beating laying down, FC Sion then took UEFA to a Swiss court, challenged the decision and their appeal was upheld.
Platini has already stated that Swiss law has no jurisdiction over the governance of football. However, the plucky Swiss club have thrown two fingers up at European football’s governing body and called for Platini to be put in shackles. After a lengthy ramble Constantin let loose the dogs of war with this call for justice……
“Then, the police will go and find Mr Platini. Now we’ve given Platini time to fix this – if he doesn’t fix it, then there’s prison.”
He then went on to add…..
“Justice needs to be applicable in football because if not then we find ourselves in the Wild West.”
As I mentioned earlier, I can’t ever see Platini doing time for this, but nevertheless I hope he’s suitably nervous. This might not be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but at long last people are calling for football’s ruling elite to actually be accountable to someone, or something, or anything – nobody really cares who or what, we just want some accountability. They’re such a bunch of corrupt bastards it was about time that something was done to shake things up a little.
Where it might, and I say ‘might’ with a pinch of salt; where it might get sticky for Platini and his evil minions is the fact the UEFA are based in Switzerland and the court ruling came from a Swiss court. So you never know, this story might still have legs.
At the end of the day we’ve got to call this what it is; a load of guff from an irresponsible football club chairman with no respect for the powers that be. Even if the powers that be are a bunch of corrupt bastards, in banning them from European football for tapping up players and then ignoring the punishment, UEFA and FIFA have probably done the right thing.
Watch this space, it might just be about to really kick off. I doubt it will, but we can live in hope. If it’s not going to happen now then maybe, one day soon, a club with a genuine grievance will challenge one of UEFA or FIFA’s bullshit rulings in a court of law and actually have a chance of winning. Maybe then we’ll get some changes made to the way that football is run.
I smell the waft of revolution in the air. Either that or my cat farted.