‘I play for the money. Football’s not my passion’
Money has without a doubt shaped football for the past decade at least. The game is full of football players who have turned into millionaires, owners who are billionaires and invest countless amounts of money into clubs as well as fans who spend billions each year in order to see “money ball” at work.
Football was once a game that was based on passion, the players were all about the game – that’s all they cared about. It was a beautiful sight to see, when winning and losing mattered more than the money. When if you weren’t passionate about the game, you weren’t a true footballer and fan of the game.
However, that’s all gone out the window in the past decade. Now, it’s a club’s dream that some billionaire (or millionaire) comes up and wants to invest in the club. He becomes the owner and splashes money left, right and center in order to take a team (no matter how good or bad) to the top.
An almost innumerable amount of money has been put into football since 2003 and it’s that year that Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea Football Club. It is that same Russian billionaire/oligarch who is mostly blamed for the huge change in football. Some would consider Roman a “pioneer of the new football” or “the champion of the football industry”. While I am a Chelsea fan who certainly appreciates everything Roman has done for the club, I do believe that he has ruined football more than he has helped it. It’s created a negative effect, it’s created an image that no longer portrays football as a sport, but as an industry.
Since we’re talking about Roman, let’s look at how much he’s spent on transfers since he took over in summer of 2003:
2003-04: £121.3 million
2004-05: £92.2 million
2005-06: £54.2 million
2006-07: £66 million
2007-08: £50.5 million
2008-09: £24.2 million
2009-10: £21.5 million
2010-11: £95.8 million
2011-12: £71.55 million
2012-13: £86.5 million
Total amount: £683.75 million. (Some other numbers have it at around £700 million.)
Now of course, there are sales involved that have not been counted, but Chelsea rarely make a profit on a player, so the total investment (with sales) is without a doubt above £600 million at the very least. That is an insane amount of money. It wasn’t until the 2011-12 season (Roman’s 9th season at Chelsea) when Chelsea Football Club reported their first profitable year – the amount was £1.4 million. The season before, Chelsea Football Club reported a £67.7 million loss. After adding everything together, at least £600 million spent on transfers and an additional £400 million spent on other things (wages mostly), it is said that the total investment into Chelsea Football Club since 2003 is £1 billion. I wasn’t lying when I told you it was an insane amount.
However, Roman doesn’t stand alone when it comes to spend big money in football. You have the following Presidents/Owners: Florentino Perez (Real Madrid), Sandro Rosell (Barcelona), Sheikh Mansour (Manchester City), Qatar Investment Authority/Nasser Al-Khelaifi (PSG) and Dmitry Rybolovlev (AS Monaco) who have also splashed the cash into their respective football clubs.
Manchester City (since 2008): £930.4 million (at the very least).
AS Monaco (since 2012): £106.1 million
PSG (since 2011): £270 million
Liverpool (since 2007): £317 million
Barcelona (since 2003): £800.35 million
Real Madrid (since 2003): £815.2 million
Bayern Munich (since 2012): £112 million
Anzhi Makhachkala (since 2012): £105 million
All of this together and you have £4,456,050,000 billion among 9 teams. It is absolutely mind blowing how much money has been pumped into football.
Now, some of you are probably looking at those numbers and wondering what I’m trying to get to. Well, what the main points are how football, as a whole, has been ruined by being turned from a sport into an industry/business and how England has suffered from it.
First regarding England: England has disappointed in major tournaments for some time now. Haven’t been to a major tournament final since 1966 World Cup (beat Germany 4-2), failed to qualify for Euro 2008, a quick exit in South Africa 2010 and in Ukraine-Poland 2012. England, especially when compared to Italy, Spain and Germany, has been completely outdone by each country in major tournaments (both club and country). Italian, Spanish and German teams have won the Champions League more than England. Let’s go back in time t0 1992:
“When the League began in 1992-93, 72 percent of the players in the League were English. Over the years this figure has now dropped to 39 percent. When foreign investment came in their was a huge pressure on the clubs to succeed, so the clubs often decided to go with foreign players, because they play at a better standard. We have tried to increase the amount of English players playing in the Premier League by introducing the ‘home-grown’ players rule, which states that you have to include at least 8 home grown players in your squad of 25. But since this rule has been put in place there has only been a 3 percent increase of English footballers in the league, so we really need to do better, maybe make the rule stricter in order to improve the national team. Another reason as to why the national team hasn’t succeeding is because other nations, such as Spain and Germany, have a larger talent pool available to them as lots of their players go abroad, and hardly any English players go abroad.” (footykicks.com)
Due to this, England has failed to succeed as much as aforementioned countries. It’s that simple. We’re growing/developing their talent while they also have other talents producing in their top divisions unlike England. A majority of players in the Serie A are Italian, a majority of the players in La Liga are Spanish and a majority of players in Bundesliga are German while a majority of players in the Premier League are not English.
Football has been turned into an industry – one that has billions pumped into it every year. I’ll use Silvio Berlusconi (AC Milan owner/president) as my prime example. Berlusconi bought the club in 1986 and eight years later, the club won the Scudetto. From there on out, it all kicked off and began. Berlusconi began to manipulate and control public discourse to ensure profits and power that could never be challenged. This, in turn, gave the media a lot more power. Now, these oligarchs/moguls don’t have to compete with state-owned television networks, fight for market shares against state companies (who have been enfeebled by privatization and deregulation. Now people like Berlusconi can operate on a global stage, they’ve developed football into an industry/economy. That was then and that is still a case, but the picture has changed a bit. Now, the new oligarchs can trade the shares of their companies on stock markets and cut deals with multinational corporations. The current generation of oligarchs are “new money”, they flaunt their riches like their inclined to. This shows their conflicts of interests as the difficulty of obscuring wealth and influence increases.
As a result, corruption has increased, look no further than Berlusconi and Agnelli (Juventus). Milan’s president’s bribes, manipulation of government to promote his own interests and other criminals are clear signs of the increase of corruption. Juventus were caught allegedly cheating and setting up matches in the Calciopoli scandal, when they lifted the 2005 and 2006 Scudetto (which was later taken away) and The Old Lady was relegated to Serie B as a punishment. Their current manager, Antonio Conte, isn’t much better himself as he has his own match-fixing allegations and convictions to handle (when he was at Torino).
Here are some interesting statistics for you to read over (found in a study that covered the 2010-11 Premier League):
This all being said and taken in account, we can come to the conclusion that football has clearly made a transition from sport that revolved around love and passion to an industry that revolves around money, no matter the cost. While love and passion for the game still exists, it is gradually deteriorating. Football has changed a lot since 1986, 1992 and 2003. The huge spending and magnanimous influence of money in football isn’t just among Europe’s top 5 leagues, it’s everywhere – The “land of soccer” (United States), Denmark, Saudi Arabia, China, Singapore (where a lot of match-fixing occurs), etc. It has turned into a global epidemic and whoever you blame – Berlusconi, Roman or someone else, it’s evident that what once made football “the beautiful game” has turned into “much more than a game”.
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