Posts Tagged ‘uefa’
It’s not without a sense of irony that the high cost of tickets for Premier League matches was thrust into the spotlight by Manchester City supporters.
The £62 ticket price for a ticket to watch their team play away to Arsenal was no more than Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool or Spurs have had to pay for the equivalent fixture. In fact, when considering that those four clubs have consistently provided Arsenal with their biggest games of the season, visiting fans of that quartet will have had to pay top prices at Arsenal for as long as the Premier League has existed.
Man City will likely be the only one of that group of clubs rated by Arsenal as “Category A” opponents who don’t have 3,000 fans willing to pay such a high price, and for a club whose fans have often boasted about both their numbers and their loyalty – as was often the case whilst averaging 28,000 in League One – it’s surprising that there isn’t high enough demand to sell their full ticket quota for their first visit to the Emirates as Premier League champions.
However, when considering that even a must-win match in the Champions League was played out in front of almost 8,000 vacant sky blue coloured seats, perhaps the club simply don’t have the size of following that has previously been claimed. There could have been no complaints at the £35 cost of a ticket for the clash with Ajax – especially when compared to the 80€ admission cost of the reverse fixture.
The other irony about the issue having been forced by Man City fans is that clubs like Arsenal have been affected more than most by the wealth of cash thrown around firstly by Chelsea, and then, more recently, Man City themselves.
In racking up huge annual losses through the spending of hundreds of millions of pounds directly from the pockets of Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour, both Chelsea and Man City enjoyed the kind of spending power with which no sensibly run club could compete.
In a short space of time, Arsenal went from having consistently been one of best teams in the land, to one which could no longer compete with the best at the league’s summit. Most of the club’s star players have opted to leave due to the lack of silverware, and with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules due to take effect from next year, Arsenal face a huge challenge if they’re to strengthen enough to challenge for a league title in the near future.
Of course, none of that may be enough to justify such a high cost of tickets. But if Arsenal are able to demand up to £126 for a single Premier League match and still see the stadium full for almost all of their games, then why should there be any pressure to lower their matchday prices? Why shouldn’t Arsenal be allowed to maximise their income in such a highly competitive sport? And why should they be condemned for simply trying to compete with clubs who have been fortunate enough to find themselves bankrolled by foreign multi-billionaires?
Last year’s league titles in Spain and England were won by the two costliest football squads in history, and the Champions League won by the next biggest spenders over the last few years.
All three of those successful teams were able to invest heavily before the new financial rules take effect. Man City fans might do well to recognise that they, like Chelsea and Real Madrid, were able to spend vast sums of money in a way that their rivals couldn’t match at the time, and won’t be allowed to in the future.
Arsenal are simply one of a number of clubs doing whatever they can to remain as financially competitive as possible. And in an imperfect footballing world, no one should blame them for that.
This week has seen the credibility of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play again called into question, this time by Arsene Wenger.
When the regulations were originally announced, the intention of UEFA was that clubs would no longer be able to spend recklessly in pursuit of success, and that clubs’ maximum allowed expenditure would be based on the amount of football related revenue generated.
An instant flaw in the system was in its delayed introduction. Clubs were given two years before the rules were due to come into play, allowing astronomical spending sprees from the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City in order to build squads of world-class players before any repercussions could be felt by the ruling.
Another challenge, one which is ongoing, has been to ensure that sponsorship deals are market value, and are not artificially inflated. Man City’s £400m stadium sponsorship deal raised that very issue, given the record-breaking nature of the deal coupled with the fact that the sponsors – Etihad – are a company owned by a relative of the club’s owner.
The deal, for a club yet to compete for a Premiership title or establish itself amongst Europe’s elite, was more than double the value of the existing world record for stadium sponsorship and has therefore attracted questions over whether the inflated cost is an attempt to help Man City balance its books following a colossal investment in players and wages.
Man City’s announcement of almost £200million in losses over the last year has again led to the current Premiership leaders being put in the spotlight, as new concerns are raised over the authority of UEFA to impose sanctions where clubs fail to meet the Financial Fair Play criteria.
Arsene Wenger has suggested that it would be difficult for UEFA to ban clubs from entering the Champions League or Europa League competitions even if they had not managed to meet the financial regulations specified. The Arsenal manager suggested that attempting to enforce such punishments could lead to legal challenges either from clubs or from individual players.
Should his concerns prove to have any foundation, then the reputation of UEFA will surely suffer another blow.
Only by strongly enforcing the guidelines they published when announcing the FFP in 2009 can UEFA hope to retain any credibility in their attempts to create a fairer playing field for clubs competing in European competition.
And there can be no exceptions made.
Ian Ayre took a lot of criticism earlier in the week for suggestions that clubs should be free to negotiate their own foreign TV deal, a move which would help clubs with a larger overseas fanbase maximise their earnings from TV rights.
Most of the criticism has been in the form of comments accusing him and Liverpool of being greedy. Perhaps the critics are unaware of the fact that since the formation of the Premier League, making money has appeared to be at the very top of the agendas of virtually everyone involved.
From the broadcasters, to the clubs and players, few seem to be in the game purely for the fun of it. Television companies pay huge money for the rights to the ‘product’ being sold by the Premier League, and will in turn aim to make money from advertising and customer subscriptions.
Clubs receive colossal sums of money from those TV rights, but that only leads to the players fighting over as much of it as they can possibly take in wages. Some players even have rights deals, believing that they are owed additional payments due to their name/image being used to sell official club merchandise.
There are outrageous sums involved, and as it filters through the sport, everyone is out to take as much of it as they can get, unsatisfied until they’ve explored every possible avenue of income.
The only financial losers are chairmen whose gamble into the big money world of Premier League football fails to pay off. And, of course, the fans who are required to contribute ever increasing amounts of money to attend games, which is needed to offset clubs’ debts caused by ever increasing wage bills.
The comments made by Ayre may not be liked by many, but if anyone thinks Liverpool are the only club wishing to generate extra funds to help compete, then they should look around at all corners of the league.
Man City’s spending spree was hastily conducted in order to earn Champions League football before UEFA’s financial fair play rules came into force. The owners may well be interested in sporting success, but it would be naive not to think that a long term plan is to catapult the club to the very top of European football, and then to reap the commercial success which would inevitably follow.
From a financial perspective, Liverpool cannot compete with Man City, yet have been attacked for looking to maximize their own income, while the fact that Man City have spent upwards of £500m on players since 2008 is overlooked in favour of admiration for the squad which they have put together.
Elsewhere in the league, the likes of QPR and Wigan may not be talked about in the same breath as Chelsea or Man City, but their rise to the Premier League was helped in no small part to the wealth of their owners compared to that of their lower league rivals.
And only across Stanley Park, Everton chairman Bill Kenwright is still trying to attract new owners. Owners with a lot more money than he has. Specifically, he’d like a “billionaire”, in order to help Everton compete with the top clubs.
These days, it’s all about the money. Anyone who thinks Liverpool are worse than any other club needs to open their eyes.
Scotland’s defeat to Spain was hardly a shock. Spain are unbeaten at home in competitive matches since June 2003, and it’s six years since they failed to win a qualifier on home soil.
The result, combined with the Czech Republic winning in Lithuania, confirmed Scotland will be absent from a major tournament once again.
In a group containing the best national team in the world, top spot was never going to be in doubt. But while neither Scotland nor Czech Republic performed particularly convincingly overall, the Scots will feel aggrieved not to have taken the play-off place ahead of Czech Republic, and will recall a series of incidents during the game between the sides on September 3 as the moment when their qualification became near impossible.
Leading 2-1 in the final minute, a hugely controversial penalty was given against Scotland following a clear dive in the area by Jan Rezek. A sense of Scottish injustice was then fuelled by the failure of referee Kevin Blom to award Scotland a penalty of their own, deep into added on time for an alleged foul on Christophe Berra.
It could have been a controversial decision in itself had a penalty been given, with minimal contact. But there was definitely some contact and it was much clearer a penalty decision than that handed to the Czechs. As a final insult to Scottish injury, Berra was cautioned for diving.
It is often margins such as this which make or break an entire qualifying campaign, as the Republic of Ireland found out in their play-off against France when they conceded a goal infamously assisted by the hand of Thierry Henry which sent France to the World Cup.
Calls for the introduction of video replays have become louder as each year goes by. Two more years have passed since the incident involving Ireland.
How much longer do we have to wait before football catches up with the likes of tennis and rugby in making use of technology to ensure accuracy of game or season changing decisions?
Barcelona’s claim for comparison with the greatest club sides in history increased with their Champions League win at Wembley on Saturday.
The manner in which Man United were outplayed in a major final was even more impressive than Barca’s efforts when the sides met in Rome two years ago.
But for all of the plaudits bestowed on Josep Guardiola’s men, it’s easy to forget that much of the work began long before he took over as the club’s coach.
Throughout the side, there are players who’ve been first team regulars for many years. Victor Valdes, Puyol, Iniesta, Xavi and Messi were all a key part of Frank Rijkaard’s 2006 Champions League winning team. An exciting team which at the time was considered the best in the world.
A lean couple of years followed and included off the pitch indiscipline involving some of club’s more senior imports. With success achieved at home and abroad, there was a sense that things were starting to go stale.
Amongst the team’s core, a desire for further success remained as strong as ever. Out went the likes of Deco, Ronaldinho and Eto’o, and in came younger and hungrier players in their place such as Dani Alves, Eric Abidal combined with new recruits from the youth academy. All have fitted seamlessly into the Barcelona system and, under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, have gone on to reach even greater heights.
Despite the talent, that success was far from guaranteed and Guardiola deserves a huge slice of credit for what FC Barcelona have achieved during his time in charge. It remains to be seen as to how long this supremely gifted collection of players can dominate Spanish and European football.
But while we celebrate the players and staff who’ve played a direct role in the achievements of the Guardiola era, let’s not forget those who contributed to laying the foundations, helping to make it all possible.