Sunday, May 15, 2005


Time to mock Manchester United? Or to ponder, "there for the grace of God (or the stock market) go I (or "my" football club)"?

Manchester United and Arsenal's domination of the Premier League has not, to this blogger, been good for the game. You might add that the Premier League itself has been bad, Abramovitch is the latest bad thing. Money has always ruled the professional game. However, the game in England is only as good as the health of its foundations. For me, the foundations are not Arsenal, Man U, Chelsea or even Spurs. The foundations are the smaller clubs which produce much of the English game's talent.

I will give the Premier League some due. It has pumped huge amounts of money into the game. It produces a good product envied around the world. But, those facts are part of its inherent badness. The money has not filtered down the grassroots. Relegation from the top flight is now a one way ticket to financial ruin, because - parachute payments or not - a club in the lower division will never recoup the lost income to fund Premier League wages. That means a relegated club has to either cut wages or sell players. That makes it more difficult to get back to the top flight and even if a club manages to do so the odds are they'll get relegated again in a season or two - see West Brom, Palace this season. One or two clubs - Fulham, Portsmouth and Birmingham - have bucked the trend, but two of those are bankrolled by rich families and the other is connected with organised crime (I'll leave it to you to figure out which is which).

Back to Man U. As most of the serious press have said over the last few days (often with a sense of glee), Glazer's takeover is merely a consequence of stock market flotation. (Ditto Abramovitch and Chelsea, I might add.) So why cry about it?

Spurs went through similar upheavals when the evil Alan Sugar landed at White Hart Lane. True, Sugar never wrested complete control and throughout his reign there were significant minority shareholders. What is it about Sugar, Glazer and their like that makes them so unpopular?

Sugar's main "crime" was defeating Terry Venables in a power struggle. Well, Venables was a good (not great) coach, but an absolutely terrible businessman. Spurs were better off without Venables, though I'm not so sure they were much better off with Sugar.

The problem with Glazer is that he's not a football man. He's only in it for the money. Well, D'uh. Man U is a highly successful business in its own right, even without performances on the pitch. This sticks in the craw of every other supporter in the land, but Man U plc is by far the most profitable sports club in Europe and, possibly, the world.

That brings me to an old quote - "Rooting for the [New York] Yankees is like rooting for US Steel." To bring that quote up to date - "Rooting for Man U is like rooting for Microsoft."

Frankly, I hope Glazer fucks up Man U. The huge debt he's saddling the club with is terrible news...for the club. I hope it's great news (along with the lovely debt Arsenal now have thanks to their new stadium) for the rest of football.

Meanwhile, the most important games today concern the battle for 7th place - Spurs at home to Blackburn; Man City entertaining Middlesbrough. Sad.

:: Posted by pete @ 11:02