UEFA Square Up To The Premier League. Again.

By on Aug 4, 2009 in English League Football, European Club Football, Latest | 6 comments

It’s all in the timing. The BBC couldn’t have chosen a better time to run a special report on the state of finances in English football. The eve of the new English season is a time of optimism at most clubs, but in an interview with Radio5′s Dan Road, the UEFA general secretary David Taylor expressed concerns about many aspects of the way that Premier League clubs in particular are running themselves, singling out the saddling of clubs with debt and the transfer activity of some (hello, Manchester City) as having a destabilising effect on the health of the transfer market.

We don’t need to go into the extent to which Taylor is correct yet again, of course. That much is self-evident. The more curious question is the one of why so few people seem to take any notice fo what these people. After all, UEFA aren’t the only ones to have expressed concerns over the finances of football clubs. The All-Party Parliamentary Football Group said the same thing earlier this year. The FA’s Lord Triesman said the same thing last year. And then we have organistations such as Supporters Direct (who often find themselves drawn into the most severe of the crises). Yet it all seems to fall upon deaf ears.

The most likely explanation is the “it’ll never happen to me” syndrome. It’s the same thing that keeps smokers smoking when we know that it is fifty per cent certain that their habit will kill them. They look at that figure – that fifty per cent – and think, “I like those odds” rather than, “My God, that’s awful”. Just as no-one thought it would happen to them when it happened to Leeds United, and no-one thought that it would happen to them when it happened to Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton Athletic or any of a sizeable number of other clubs, so it is that most football supporters are still thinking that it will never happen to them.

The reports coming from St James Park have been so stark this summer that Newcastle United supporters seem to finally be waking up from the disaster area into which they seem to have stumbled. Who, though, will be next? It’s a question that is worth asking, because somebody will almost certainly be next. Will it be Manchester City? They’re the ones that are spending frankly insane amounts of money at the moment, and the only guarantees that their supporters have that the owners won’t get bored and ship out leaving the club with a colossal wage budget and enormous debts are… well, the truth is that they haven’t got any, apart from a few unconvincing mutterings about “commitment”.

Will it be West Ham United? After all, they’re owned by Straumur, an Icelandic investment bank believed to be on the brink of collapse. Will it be Spurs? They’ve spent something like £50m on players over the last few months.Spurs and West Ham United are just two examples picked more or less at random. At this stage in time, there are very few clubs whose supporters can say with their hands on their hearts that their long-term survival is absolutely guaranteed, beyond any doubt whatsoever. The Premier League itself sends out the occasional message telling the world that everything is fine, though, and everything trundles on as per normal.

There is, of course, no telling some people. Perhaps it’s for the best that we should just all shake our heads, exhale deeply and exclaim that, “It’s madness”. Because that is precisely what it is. There are difficult questions that need to be asked about the condition of our national game, but the likelihood of coming up against anything other than glib references to “The Biggest League In The World” (a phrase which, if it hasn’t been copyrighted yet, surely will be soon) seems slim. All the while, though, a large number of football supporters – supporters of all clubs, from the biggest to the smallest – will spend the next nine months wondering who will be next, all the time assuming that it won’t be them.

Dan Roan’s special report on debt in English football on BBC Radio 5 Live Sport tonight at 9.00 BST.

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  1. The thing is, it’s really hard to even discuss the problem without coming up against people invoking the right of people with money to spend their money as they see fit, and therefore to incur as much debt as they see fit (and the auditors are prepared to accept) at football clubs they own. That’s the ruling ideology and of course it’s always possible to paint UEFA as a bunch of interfering foreigners if they have anything to say on the subject.


    August 4, 2009

  2. When will UEFA realise that they themselves are the biggest problem of all? The obscene amount of money they have handed out to Champions League clubs over the years means now that unless clubs outside the “big 4″ gamble financially they will never have a chance of competing at the top table. The sad thing is not that Man City are spending 200 million on transfers but that clubs like City have to spend that much just to attempt to catch up.


    August 4, 2009

  3. Indeed UEFA are the main culprits. They should call the bluff of the superclubs by allowing them to form their super league as an unsanctioned tournament. No league games against local opposition will soon put them off as in Italy, Spain and England the supporters value the domestic league title as the main honour, even if the club owners may not.

    If we must have a Champions League, entry should go to the league champions, cup winners and fair play league winners. The presence of the cup winners and fair play league winners, adds a greater degree of unpredictability to the likely Champions League qualifiers, which makes it more risky for clubs to factor champions league income into their budgets (and player transfers).

    As mentioned above if the ‘top clubs’ don’t like it their bluff should be called and really the sooner that happens the better.


    August 5, 2009

  4. DK;

    Spot on in your comments. Call the bluff of the big clubs and let them form their own super league. By not being sanctioned players wouldn’t be able to represent their country, so the stark choice would be there for all players, the mercenaries following the short term riches of the European league, those with some sort of pride staying eligible to play for their country by playing for “lesser” clubs.

    Wyre Forest Red

    August 7, 2009

  5. UEFA are only one of a number of reasons for the problem. The clubs at the top behaving like spoilt children, being one reason. A complient, and at times subserviant, media attending to the Premier League’s whim being another.

    Having said that, i think the Premier League is just another symptom of the greed is good society which we live in now. We seem to have an slack jawed unquestioning attitude to rich teams and rich footballers. Witness the Gerard verdict, and Mihir Bose’s sycophantic interview with the Real Madrid president about 3 weeks ago.

    Fan With A Laptop

    August 7, 2009

  6. barcelona is my club and i ill never go to another club even when my players go out


    August 13, 2009


  1. UEFA Square Up To The Premier League. Again. « Scissors Kick - [...] UEFA Square Up To The Premier League. Again. “It’s all in the timing. The BBC couldn’t have chosen a …

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