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Will the FFPR’s work? You decide?

February 6, 2012

Right, straight from the off, cards on the table, I am no @SwissRamble type geezer, my accounting genius can be summed up in that when younger I used to iron my scrunched up notes when going out at night.

The question is can football afford for the FFPR’s not to work? Can the ordinary fan afford to see them fail? Following on from the January 2012 transfer window closing and the lack of spending by clubs across Europe, not just England, maybe the  FFPR’s are beginning to have an early effect?…

Today I give you just a few thoughts on what the man from Harlow thinks. Maybe hopes will happen. You may have other thoughts. Please feel free to comment and join the debate

So! How did we get to a stage where we needed the Financial Fair Play Rules? Well if you don’t mind I will take you back, to a long, long time ago in another football world…………………….. Maybe somewhere along the line we might find the answer.

Having started going to Arsenal in the early 60’s it was dirt cheap to go football, mainly due to the fact that Dad paid 🙂 . Around 1970, I was earning a few bob from paper rounds and a little bit of woo little bit of whey. Now I could pay at the door of Highbury with my own hard-earned, mainly the schoolboys. We would from there try to bunk into the North Bank, through the green door, or sometimes jumping onto the area round the pitch and making a dart for the North Bank, right where they used to have the Old letter HT scoreboard.

Moving on a few years me and a few of the lads used to go to away matches together, I also used to go away at times with my two older brothers, where it was still pay on the door and still cheap at the time.

Then when I started work in 1972 the gloves were off, I could go anywhere I wanted to watch “The Arsenal” with my own hard-earned. I worked for the Post Office in Mornington Crescent and some of the lads their supported Arsenal, so we used to go home and away. One of the managers Dave used to support Chelsea and rather than work on Saturday afternoon we used to go over Chelsea if Arsenal were not playing and stand on the Shed. You could do this as it was pay on the door; football was relatively cheap for the ordinary supporter.

Thing is back in days of long, long ago, the players would earn say 3-4 times the average salary. Many players would open pubs, many would go to pubs  an clubs for nights out… Frank McLintock’s pub “The Sutton Arms” in Caledonian Road was one such pub and Frank would be there. Bobby Moore had a pub on the corner of Bethnal Green Road. Tony Adams used to drink in the Squirrels in Gidea Park and go to Hollywood’s in Romford … You could go to these venues and see the players you were watching from the stands. Nowadays players are earning 50/100/200 times the average wage and they are well over the hill and far away and most of the venues they go to enjoy themselves the ordinary fan is not going to frequent, all touch has been lost with footballers. We’re customers now.

1989 a great year for Arsenal, but was it the beginning of the end for football as we know it? Hillsborough 1989. What happened was a tragedy for the 95 that lost their lives and their families.

After much criticism of the Police and authorities an enquiry was to take place to find out what happened on the day “The Taylor report”.  Many things were looked into and one was to be the introduction of all seated stadiums.

This would mean in most cases clubs would have to reduce the capacity of their stadiums to fit in seats. Highbury was reduced from 57k to 38k by 1993 with the new Clock End in 1989 and North Stand 1993. To compensate for the loss of 19k fans, seats could be charged at a higher rate than standing. The Clock End was built with Executive boxes where the club could charge premiums. Over the years the price went up and up.

My first season ticket was priced around the £250 mark in 1988. Then in 1993 I paid £1500 for a bond in the new North Stand, where the club kept ticket prices for bond holders down to a reasonable level in a 10 year deal.  I think by the time Arsenal left Highbury in 2006, I was paying about £700 and this was only dues to it going up from £300 after the 10 year deal on buying a bond run out. I ended up having to buy two binds for £7k so I could be sure of getting two season tickets for me and my yet to be born Son. (I was taking a punt as he was not born till 2001)

On moving to “The Emirates” in 2006, we were informed by Arsenal that when buying our season tickets, we could only go back one step, stay the same or go above. I choose to stay the same and got two seats almost on the half way line in the upper tier, East Stand at around a £1000 a pop. This is now £1390.

I think people can tell by the atmosphere in the Emirates stadium and to be fair, many other football stadiums around the country, that many ordinary fans were priced out. A cynic might say that this was a good way for clubs to rid themselves of the mindless supporters that attended football (well they did not get rid of me ;-)). This has led to fans like me not being able to go with mates who were split up due to cost or mates that just could not afford to go anymore.

A dip back to 1992 now and  Sky TV introduced themselves to the world of football, with Richard Keys and his many coloured jackets, Andy (take a boo son) Gray and Monday night football with fireworks and cheer-leaders. Money was pumped into the game like never before and Sky had brought the rights to football for around £302m. The last two contracts signed by Sky TV were for £1.3b running from 2007-2010 and 2010-2013, football awash with money.

One could have believed this would be good for the supporters. Clubs getting richer so surely the prices would steady or even drop. No! What happened for me were football agents and players salaries rocketing? Maybe this was a vicious circle. Supporters craving all types of success and this could only be achieved by getting the best on offer for what level your club was aiming for.  The more the supporters wanted success, the more the club spent the Sky TV  money on offer. This now meant the only other way to get money was to increase ticket prices and put a lot more into creating a consumer base for club merchandise.

Today even with huge sums being paid to clubs from the Sky TV contract, ESPN, Radio coverage, Internet & mobile feeds, many clubs are still running at a huge loss. Even the billions of Roman of the Bridge and the Sheik from MiddleEastlands their clubs still run at huge losses.

Many other clubs have to spend to keep up and the bar has been raised over the years in transfer fee’s and salaries.  See below:-

Transfer Fees since Arsenal signed Alan Ball.

Dec 71 – Alan Ball £220.000 Everton to Arsenal

Jan 79 – David Mills £516.ooo Middlesborough to West Brom

Feb 79 – Trevor Francis £1,180.000 Birmingham to Notts Fst

May 86 – Mark Hughes Man Utd to Barcelona

June 87 – Ian Rush £3,200.000 Liverpool to Juventus

July 89 – Chris Waddle £4,250.000 Tottenham – Marseille

July 91 – David Platt £5,500.000 Aston Villa to Bari

Jan 96 – Andy Cole £7,000.000 Newcastle – Man Utd

June 95 – Stan Collymore £8,500.000 Notts Fst to Liverpool

July 96 – Alan Shearer £15,000.000 Blackburn to Newcastle

July 2001 – Veron £28,100.000 Lazio to Man Utd

July 02 – Rio Ferdinhand £29,100.000 Leeds – Man Utd

Sept 08 – Robinho £32,000.000 Madrid to Man City

July 09 – Ronaldo £80,000.000 Man Utd to Madrid

Jan 11 – Andy Carroll £35,000.000 Newcastle to Liverpool

Jan 11 – Torres £50,000.000 Liverpool to Chelsea

Clubs can now demand huge transfer fees for players within contract and in turn players demand huge salaries. With salaries and transfer fees a top player could cost a club £80m over five years with transfer fee factored in…

This could mean a club would have to sell 80k season tickets at £1000 over the five years just to account for this. Who pays, yep! We do the fans/supporters. It all comes back to us. Season tickets, match day tickets, programmes, food at ground, club kits and merchandise. Sky TV or ESPN subscriptions, oh yes! We pay alright.

Players today arrive at games in coaches with blacked out windows, kept from the fans. They are driven under the Emirates and you’re lucky if they wave when getting out of the coach, to the fans looking through the fence by the car park under the Emirates.

Footballers are millionaires and live accordingly. Unless you own an executive box or a membership of the Diamond Club, no way Jose are you going to mix with the players. You can’t get then to sign your programme for fear that you might put it on eBay. No! Only official autographs for the signing of balls, shirts etc, this goes out to charity. A good thing, but leaves the ordinary fan out in the cold. There is no real love for many players anymore. Who can you feel close too? There seems to be little loyalty, Ade£ayor, £lichy, £asri all spring to mind

Maybe loyalty it’s a two-way street? However, agents don’t exactly help; always trying to punt their clients around, of course they get their 10% cut. Back in the days of long, long time ago, it would be said a  footballer’s career is short, they have to make as much as they can for their future. That may have been fair 15 years ago. Today however, one five-year contract for a top player can make them £20M and much more from the wearing of football boots, clothes, bonuses and much more… This is like winning the lottery 10 times over. Most play for 15 years. Top players today would be crazy not to finish his career with £100m stashed under the floorboards. Even average players are earning £m a year.

What can be done to stop this rise in prices? Well hopefully the FFPR’s. Make clubs live within their means and budgets. This would hopefully stem the rise in ticket prices and bring the ordinary fan back to the game.

Of course there will be clubs that will rise to the top, there always will be. Clubs in big Cities have always been bigger than clubs in small towns and the sticks. It’s the football hierarchy. Wigan are never going to fill a 75k Old Trafford. Hartlepool are never going to fill 52k St James’s Park and Orient are never going to fill a 60k Emirates stadium.

In the days of long, long time ago, the trophies were shared around a bit more than today. When I went during the 70’s and 80’s bar Liverpool football seemed more competitive. If clubs today do win the Carling Cup or FA Cup, it’s mainly due to the bigger club taking little or no interest. Man Utd even skipped the FA Cup one season.

Back in 1993 it was Jack Walker and his millions with Blackburn, Today its Man City, following Chelsea and their owners billions. A very good and wealthy friend once said to me, “did I know the quickest way to become a millionaire”? “No” I said, Become a billionaire and purchase a football club, was his reply.

Clubs that have benefactors with bottomless pockets, which no matter what people say, they are buying success. Over in Spain, Barca and Madrid have cornered the market with TV money and while this is removed from what Man City and Chelsea are doing, it is still taking two clubs well out of reach of the rest of the teams in Spain. Anzhi in Russia are now looking to make waves and you could add PSG in France.

These clubs with super rich owners do not have to worry about losses like other clubs. As a Gooner I do not like this unbalance, and seeing my club trying to do it the right way and become a self-sustaining football club is a good thing for the game I feel. Other clubs are trying to follow the Arsenal model.  We support a club surviving on the money they bring in through various ways, such as Gate money, TV Money, sponsorship, merchandise etc, spending only what they can afford so the club is there for not only me today, but when my son (now 10) is 55 as well and hopefully his Sons.

The FFPR does therefore need to be brought in and used to its full force. I understand there will be varied sanctions put into place before the ultimate sanction of being banned for European competition kicks in. Clubs which fail to comply with UEFA’s new FFPR’s could face player bans and points deductions. Other sanctions could include clubs being forced to cut their squads if they continue to buy players while recording such losses.

Figures show that European clubs lost more than 1.6bn euros (£1.33bn) in 2010 – the worst on record.

This is the last wake-up call,” said Gianni Infantino, general secretary of European football’s governing body.

If you have any comments please feel free to take part below. Maybe you would like to subscribe? I am just an ordinary fan, trying to tell it from an ordinary fans view.

Please comment before 29th February, if you comment after this date your comment may not get seen and you may still be charged.

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