Arsenal: A Beacon of Hope in a Sea of Financial Uncertainty
I think it was Rahm Emmanuel, the White House Chief of Staff, who said (I paraphrase of course), ”There’s nothing as tragic as letting a good crisis go to waste.”
He was talking about what can be done to learn from the economic turmoil of the last few years. Such a lament is not out of place in today’s footballing environment, and if there’s anything football needs right now, it’s a reality check of the highest order.
For a while now, there has been this misguided optimism and arrogance within footballing circles and in particular the Premier League.
It’s the sort of arrogance and vanity that suggests that football is immune to the economic turmoil that was eating away at every sphere of life in every corner of the globe.
Not more than a year ago, news reports and analysis from CNN to local gazettes, from pundits to self-declared football experts lauded the ability of the EPL to withstand the hurricane that was the world economic crisis.
I guess when you have filthy rich protagonists like Roman Abramovich and the Abu Dhabi Investment corporation defying the very notion of economic turmoil with their profligacy, then matters can get a bit skewed.
In truth, a culture has been building in the footballing establishment for a while now. The implied suggestion has been that the brazen ’cheque book’ management that we’ve seen in the last eight years or so is a normal state of affairs.
Any finance rookie disembarking off the milk train will tell you about the shocking state of football finance in England. Clubs are really living on borrowed time, giving credence to the adage that we should watch football, not invest in it.
Three clubs last week received winding up orders from Aunt Liz’s tax collectors, and let’s face it, the revenue and customs folks don’t take prisoners when it comes to collecting their dues.
There’s a lot of discussion and debate about what the Premier League should do in the case of Portsmouth.
In any other industry I know, the hierarchy at Portsmouth could have been lynched by now, not least by shareholders, for their breath-taking incompetence and recklessness in getting the club to the stage it is in now. And for what, a day out in Wembley?
In the same period, Arsenal in general and Arsene Wenger in particular has been castigated by all and sundry. From the pundits and hacks, to disgruntled fans and groundsmen at rival clubs, it seems everyone has something to say about what ails Arsenal.
Top of that list is the perceived need for Arsenal to spend money. A notion compounded by the belief that those providing this opinion have firsthand knowledge of Arsenal’s financial matters and Wenger’s transfer budget.
Very few rarely pause to think that firstly, of this supposed transfer budget available to Wenger, is it possible that part of it has to go to financing current player contract extensions?
Secondly, does it occur to those who insist that there’s money to spend that in any new signing, the player acquisition budget must also take into account the salary of the player for the duration of a contract?
My point here is that contrary to popular belief that what is said in the papers is gospel, club finances and player acquisitions are never straight forward.
However, if any individual manager and any club should be given credit for how it manages its finances, then it's Arsenal.
I think we’ve gotten to the stage in this circus that any modicum of common sense is quickly swept out of the equation by sensationalism and falsehoods about the state of football financing.
The media have to shoulder a lot of the blame for the irresponsibility and recklessness when it comes to their role in spreading the falsehoods about football and finance. They can’t do any worse than getting rid of the current crop of pundits en masse.
Punditry is one of the unfortunate aspects of football that is responsible for the highest concentration of male bovine faecal matter that you’ll find in any individual entity.
The least the pundits or the media houses that employ them can do is make sure that they have a level of education and understanding that gives them the credibility to communicate with people with a bit more respect.
They should certainly keep well away from pontificating on financial matters, for they have no clue, and their hollow and misguided opinions are taken as gospel.
The Premier League is in crisis, and the sooner the establishment wakes up, the better. Personally, I feel that Portsmouth should be allowed to go to the wall. It’s the only way the football establishment will wake up and smell the coffee.
It will also give Arsenal fans who can’t see the wood for the trees a reality check and make them realise they are lucky to be supporting a club that hasn’t taken leave of its senses.
Much is made about a perceived doom-and-gloom scenario if Arsenal doesn’t spend more money to short cut its way to glory. The real doom-and-gloom scenario is if Arsenal become reckless and operate gung-ho off the pitch for the sake of saving battered egos.
The long term stability of the club is of more importance than the bragging rights despondent fans want to buy to save face.
Arsenal should be lauded for their courage to set a vision and see it through despite the challenges set in its path.
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