Is This Football?
by Brian Kennedy
(first published in the September 2010 Derry City match programme)
A recent UEFA report on the wellbeing of European football revealed that the Premier League is responsible for 56% of the continent’s total footballing debt. Now think about that. There are 54 leagues in Europe yet the English Premier League is culpable for over half that debt alone!
The report analyzes the 2009/10 annual accounts and estimates the combined debts of just 19 Premier League clubs at just under €4bn, around 4 times the figure for the next more indebted, Spain’s La Liga.
I say 19 as Portsmouth were left out, as in 2009 they weren’t granted a UEFA licence because of their financial problems! And people thought the League of Ireland had problems! At least football is not the number 1 sport in this country.
People will blame a foreign influx to a League rich with sheikhs, consortiums and businessmen with more money than sense. You will find the odd multi-millionaire who cares about his club (Madjeski, Hayward), but do you think Gillett & Hicks are bothered about Liverpool’s last title-winning side whilst Abramovich shopped around before stopping at Stamford Bridge?
People may complain about the quality of our football and the fact some clubs try to survive full-time in what is clearly a part-time situation but some club’s money problems are the proverbial drop in the ocean compared to our friends across the water.
The Premiership and its players are product now owned by television. Have things really gone this ludicrous that a government attempted to buy Liverpool Football Club recently? Is the League so alien that Premiership fans have to fork out £3,000 on a season ticket after a 2 year waiting list just to secure a seat in a stadium where 25% of the allocated seats go to corporate sponsors whose interest revolves around the minibar rather than the players on the pitch. How nauseated where you when Chelsea Chief Exec Peter Kenyon received a medal at the Champions League final in 2008?
In 2009 the Premiership made much more money from television and other commercial income than its rivals, €127m on average at the 19 clubs; the next wealthiest was the German Bundesliga, whose clubs made an average €79m. Yet despite that advantage, the 19 English clubs were more reliant on borrowed money from banks and club owners than the 714 other clubs across Europe combined. Liverpool & Manchester United hold a combined debt of over 1 billion.
Think about that. Kilkenny City went out of business for a mere 40,000 euro. An entire club and its history erased for 40,000 euro.
Premiership footballers’ wages combined in 2009 to £1,095 billion, whilst worryingly 15 of the 20 Premiership clubs this season are subsidised by owners. Abramovich being the highest, whilst Al Fayed’s interest-free loans to Fulham increased to 174 million last season.
But it’s not just at football clubs where money is insane. Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the PFA maintained his status as Britain’s highest paid trade union official in 2010, with a salary package of £972,000.
UEFA General Secretary David Taylor this week said some clubs now face being thrown out of the Champions League because of their excessive debts.
I think Reebok, Nike and Adidas will have something to say about that David. When it looked as if France & Portugal might not make it to South Africa, FIFA went back on a promise to leave the World Cup play-offs unseeded so that both countries would have favourable draws. Nike has a multi-million pound contract with Ronaldo. Reebok sponsored Henry. Nike sponsored the French National Team. This would have been a disaster. Thierry took it into his own hand anyway!
And everyone remembers empty seats and the vuvuzealas from South Africa. Local workers and security staff that weren’t paid, whilst FIFA announced an 80 million pound profit (a mere trifle to the 196 million made in 2009) and who’s financial report announced they now have 1.061 billion dollars in reserves.
Last week I was staying in Birmingham so thought I’d pop along to see local club Bromsgrove Rovers play at their Victoria Ground. Bromsgrove’s population is similar to Waterford’s. They drew crowds of 500 each week. They too were part-time. Only it turned out the club have been wound up after 125 years last week because they couldn’t afford the lease on their ground.
$1.06 billion. A club that folds for a lease.
Is this football?