It was only as recently as 2008 where Rangers were contesting in a European final. They lost to eventual Uefa Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg, but the great defeat came this year, as the club were literally wiped off the map in Scottish top-flight Football.
Some may be having some fun with it—and it’s understandable considering the rivalries—but the reality is that a major club is no more. A highly decorated and hugely followed club are now being talked about in the past tense. It’s a hammer blow for Scottish football, and it will only take some time before clubs such as Celtic begin to feel the effects of a life without Rangers.
In England, however, are the FA and Premier League doing enough to safeguard English football? The short answer is no. And to expand a little on that, I’m not sure how comfortable most would feel with the FA or the Premier League taking on an even greater seat of power. Incompetence is the first thing that comes to mind.
The Premier League will never lose it’s worldwide interest, that much is almost certain. The money is coming in and the distribution is fair. But as the money flows, so does the interest of outside investors. In 1346 the Europeans thought themselves to be safe and a million miles away from the plague that was sweeping east Asia. Similarly, the Scottish Premier League seems light years away from what we’re dealing with in English football. But it only takes a few short years for the problem to land on the doorstep of the Premier League and FA.
The snide remarks have been circulating ever since Roman Abramovich arrived at Chelsea: What happens when the Russian billionaire decides he’s had enough and packs his bags? Chelsea are on a high following their recent successes, but even the European Champions—who do appear to be sitting comfortably—should not turn a blind eye to what has happened in Scotland.
Are the FA doing enough? They’re doing something, but hardly enough to ensure the safeguarding of English football.
The term “lockout” is the thing every American sports fan fears. The NBA was hit by a labour dispute last season, and the NHL seems destined to have a number of months slashed off the upcoming season. The short-term is horrible—imagine a season without football in this country. But while the league managers in the NHL are seen as the “bad guys” this time around, they are undeniably trying to take steps to ensure hockey clubs are not spending recklessly and over a long period of time.
The off-season in the NHL has seen the Minnesota Wild—by no means a heavyweight team in the league—sign two highly coveted free agents to contracts combining to a total of close to $200 million over 13-years. This was a club who recently said they were in no position to spend heavily, and yet here they are committing to the next 13-years. Neither player is what you’d call young, either.
To stamp this out, the NHL are proposing a maximum of five-years on a contract. The players hate it, but the safeguarding of the league is what comes first. There are, of course, hints of greed on the part of the owners, but we’ve already seen one franchise move due to financial problems in the last year. The 17-year contract offered to a free agent last summer was beyond ridiculous, so you can understand their actions.
In terms of the Premier League, where exactly are similar actions coming from? Ok, the idea of a nine-year contract or upwards is foreign to the football world, but equal money being thrown around isn’t. Yaya Toure is one major injury away from becoming a colossal waste of money. But no one thinks like that—at least there’s no hint of safe steps in acquiring players in that manner. Manchester City are enjoying themselves, as are Chelsea, but where does the line get drawn to prevent clubs going into liquidation?
Of course, the Premier League is earning huge sums of income compared to what the Scottish league can draw, and clubs are taking advantage of oversees attention via summer tours. But it’s just a small slice of action that doesn’t cater to the bigger picture.
Even at this stage, we don’t know how successful Financial Fair Play will be. It’s all on paper at the moment and the majority of clubs are in favour of it. But there will be loopholes, and those who are at the top of the mountain in football will have no problem finding avenues around it. Uefa are looking out for the safekeeping of all of European football, but very few steps are being taken by the English football association.
Germany seemed to have nailed it, and there can be no outside investment of German clubs in the same manner that Manchester City have. There is an excellent infrastructure in German football. Clubs are not spending beyond their means and fans are given the opportunity to attend matches through extremely affordable ticket prices. Nothing in the German league seems over the top in terms of the money being spent. As an example, Mats Hummels—now one of Germany’s best and one of the leading centre-backs in European football—cost Borussia Dortmund less than £3 million.
This culture in the Premier League of English players being worth two or three times more than their real market value needs to stop. At this stage, the epidemic is much closer and much more real than many would like to imagine.