Are Billionaire Takeovers Really Good For Fans?

Benni WatsonCorrespondent IJanuary 25, 2009

I was browsing a few articles regarding the Man City-Kaka transfer debacle recently, and I read an article defending Man City's actions.

A rarity, I know.

I enjoyed the article, but could not agree with the writer's stance. I felt that the writer seemed to be out of touch with the average young football fan, like many top flight clubs seem to be these days.

To summarize, the article claimed that because Man City hadn't made an illegal approach, and were not "tapping up" Kaka, they had done nothing wrong. The argument was based on the notion that making a big offer which they felt a club would accept, regardless of the value, is how transfer business should be done.

In theory, I agree. Yes, making a large bid is the way to do it, and they were right in their method of approach. However, the moral implications are outrageous.

Consider that the English economy is in a crisis of sorts.

Consider that the sum offered was twice the current record.

Consider that some younger fans don't have the £100 they need for their football subs at their local team this season.

In fact, many of those would struggle to afford the £35 ticket prices to go and see that £100m signing.

Now, bear in mind these people are the ones who will inevitably end up footing the bill, for that kind of transfer fee, and the wages that follow.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this kind of action is going to anger people. And rightly so. They scrape together their pennies to support the team, only for the team to spend extravagantly, and then most likely raise ticket prices to fund it.

Yet for some reason, it seems to baffle Premier League supremos why less young people go to games, and prefer to stream the matches illegally online for free, or watch on TV or even in their local pubs.

Some will argue that such large transfer fees are not unheard of in football. Yes, I agree.

These figures have been MENTIONED in the past. But the bids never materialised. Did any of us really take them seriously? Surely, we all knew it was just talk. It was bluffing. It was a ploy to unsettle players if you ask me.

Similar facilities are even built into manager games now. If you have played Football Manager, for example, you know that when you declare your interest in a player, it sometimes unsettles them.

Of course, I am not suggesting that this is necessarily the reality, but consider it. Now consider putting a huge price, that you are willing to pay, next to it. It merely adds to the perceived seriousness.

In the case of Kaka, bluffs were called, and I believe it threatened to cause hyperinflation in the global football transfer market.

Consider it. If Kaka HAD sold for £100m, just imagine the price Man Utd could reasonably demand for Cristiano Ronaldo, considering he is supposedly the best player in the world at the moment.

Now consider the sums that managers would start demanding for English players—prices that are already inflated. Internationals from major nations like Italy, Spain, France, Germany and England wouldn't sell for less than £15m a time, pricing them out of reach for the average club, and many bigger clubs even.

All that such a massive fee would have done, on a grand scale, is widen the gap between the rich and everyone else, and alienate even more of the younger generation of fans, who struggle to pay for tickets as it is.

At least until more rich foreigners decide to buy more football clubs, anyway. And even then, they would have to be footing a large part the bill if they still wanted fans to show up.

I don't mean to be singling out Man City here, but they are the most recent example of a mid-sized club doing this. Chelsea were the same.

A mid-sized club, who are now massive, yes, but how expensive are their match tickets? How much did they used to be? I'm willing to bet my salary—the prices are higher and  some fans were forced to give up their season tickets because they could no longer afford them.

Nobody complains when Real Madrid—for example—offer ludicrous sums for players. And the reasoning is simple.

They are such a huge club, that the revenue they turn over in a year is probably incredible, so they can afford to make that kind of bid. For a smaller club, like Man City, or Aston Villa, it would require massive losses - initially at least - from the owner.

These billionaire investors rarely see buying a football club as a case of "I'm going to buy this club and make it a long term project because I want to reward its loyal fan base." They are businessmen. They are out to make money. Our money.

My point being that, having a billionaire owner, taking your beloved medium-sized club to the upper echelons of the top flight, and making audacious bids for world class players might not be all its cracked up to be.

That said, there are positive examples. I just hope we have more of them than we do the Glazers, Gillett/Hicks duos, and Mansours of the football world. For the sake of not only our own chances to experience live football, but for the next generation too.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I fear the day that I can no longer afford to take my cousins, or later my sons/daughters to a football match as a treat. Why? Because I remember how magical it was for me as a kid.

Why should they be deprived of that, because rich people want to get richer?


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